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How Black Actors Became the Joke of Horror Movies

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Horror films have steadily climbed their way up in Amerian cinematography to become a vital aspect in nearly every trip to the movies. As horror films have developed, feeling their way through the interests of the public, trying their luck with found footage films and the infamous line “based on a true story”, they have also developed their own stereotypes. Strangely enough, these stereotypes came with their own set of race barriers. Viewers expect the white female lead to follow the strange noise that went bump in the night or to bring out her grandmother’s old ouija board, yet we still watch with the stubborn anticipation that something bad will happen, and when it does we scream at our TVs.

It’s through these stereotypes that the role of black men and women has been shaped throughout horror movies. It’s an accepted fact that we die first in scary movies, yet we are ironically also the voice of reason, urging Becky not to return to the house that we have already established was haunted. Despite our wisdom, black people continue to be the first to go in horror movies, and if the one black character has survived past Act I, well they’re sure to be a goner before the end credits roll. No matter how fast we run or how well we hide, the antagonist is always willing to overlook the white girl hiding in plain site and go straight for us. On the off chance that we do survive, it’s questioned, the very abnormality of the situation making it hard to believe. It’s not a matter of if but when the black character dies, even if we already know their predetermined fate, we still silently root for our brothers and sisters. But as soon as they venture out into the stormy night alone or reluctantly turn down that dark hallway, we know that we won’t be seeing Tyrone anymore.

As the horror genre has matured throughout the years, it has given birth to a new hybrid- the self-aware black guy. Horror writers have exploited this stereotype to get a joke or two in where the one black guy reflects on his safety. This, of course, doesn’t stop him from dying first, it merely allows him a chuckle before he’s offed.

We get it, horror movies just aren’t for us. The genre was built on the naivety and sometimes just plain ignorance of white people. The demographic of horror movies don’t want to see black people outsmart their killer and spend the duration of the film living their perfectly normal life. They want to see stupid decisions that make you groan and yell “Just turn around, Susan”. Predominantly white casts keep the momentum of stupid decisions going, creating the kind of suspense that only occurs when you already know what’s going to happen. So, perhaps the black community is shut out of or eagerly removed from horror films because our sensible intuition wouldn’t make for a good show. And if sensible is what’s keeping me from the gates of Paranormal Activity and The Conjuring, well I’ve been called worst things in life.

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Nyah Hardmon
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Nyah lives in Miami, FL where she studies journalism and creative writing - any questions, comments, or concerns can be sent to nhardmon@affinitymagazine.us.

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