For my final 31 Films of Halloween: Women in Horror Edition post, I decided to show appreciation for the Black women in horror! The first Black women who began appearing in horror films were in the 1930’s, and they held roles that strongly represented the social values of America at the time. Films like Chloe, Love is Calling You (1934) and Ouanga (1936) showed Black women as the villain White people (mostly White women) had convinced themselves that they were- thieves of their babies and their men. As the film industry progressed and the horror genre pressed on making more films, the role of Black women in these films didn’t increase in number nor in value. They were pigeon-holed into roles that further stigmatized the ideas around Black people and their culture. They were voodoo priestess’s, gyrating natives, and loyal mammies who served the only purpose of furthering a plot or storyline.
For my next 31 Films of Halloween, I want to honor the Underworld series. Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale) is my favorite badass, leather-wearing vampire woman in a 5-film series. The Underworld series definitely gets a bad rep, and sometimes it’s understandably why. It’s the only film series (besides Star Wars) where bullets never seem to land. And there is more emphasis placed on the aesthetics (hotness) of the film rather than the actually story-telling. Nonetheless, I love this film franchise!
It is said that the first noted “woman in horror” was Jehanne D’Alcy. After leaving the theatrical stage in 1896, she went on to participate in a number of “horror” films directed by her husband- George Melies. His work on The House of the Devil (1896), A Terrible Night (1896), and A Nightmare (1896) makes him the first technical horror director. Although his works were meant to instill wonder and amazement- not fear- his technical style, use of practical effects, and thematic stories of devils, giant spiders, and men turning into bats, made them what they are considered today. They helped establish a role for women in film that made them seductresses, damsels, and mystifying creatures from an unknown world.
Black is King feels like something new. As a longtime fan, it feels like a transcendental step in Beyoncé’s career. From her early albums and early acting projects, to “Beychella”, Lemonade, and now Black is King, Beyoncé has continuously stepped more into herself, more into her own creativity and vision in a way that shows her growth, the growth of her fans, and Black pride overall. She steeps herself and her art in Black culture. She has always been a standout, an idol, for many in the Black community.
There are many memorable moments in Spike Lee’s 2020 film Da 5 Bloods. From Delroy Lindo’s performance- hell, the entire cast’s performance- to the cinematography and the story line, the film held me awestruck, tearful, and contemplative through its entirety. But perhaps the most compelling aspect of this film for me was Lee’s incorporation of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album What’s Going On. It was such a minor, yet monumentally, moving choice that etched this film into my brain and sent my thoughts soaring.
I wanted to use For My Culture 1 this month to highlight these works, not only because they deserve it- they are amazing works of art- but because I want to support Black women. I want their films to be a part of our discourse, our top 10 lists, our reviews, and daily conversations. These are all films directed by Black women that you can stream RIGHT NOW. The future of the film industry is slowly looking brighter when it comes to opening up diversity and opportunities for Black women, as well as other minorities, but the progress is too slow. We have to do our part with support and recognition, and I for one am more than happy to do so. Watching these films over the past few years and weeks was a blast for me. They are strong pieces. They evoked so much emotion, made me laugh, and filled me in places I didn’t know were empty. I hope you all enjoy this list as much as I did!
Starring Nicole Beharie, Alexis Chikaeze, and Kendrick Sampson, Miss Juneteenth is a generational story of Black motherhood and womanhood. It is also a film about liberation in one of its most intimate forms. Turquoise “Turq” Jones (played by Beharie) is a dedicated mother who is preparing her daughter, Kai (Chikaeze), for the Miss Juneteenth pageant- a pageant that she won back in her own time. The film follows them through this journey, but it is also follows Turq through her own.
May 31 marked the end of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month, but that doesn’t mean the conversation should end. Mental health effects all of us, positively and negatively, so it shouldn’t be the taboo conversation that it is. It’s important that we talk about our bad days. It’s important that we mourn. It’s important that we cry. It’s important to mourn, to feel, to reach out, to talk it out…
Anyways, now that I’m back to my computer screen, I’ve got some tea to share. Some streaming tea. Now, I’ve watched a lot of shows and movies over the past month…like a lot, but I don’t want to bore you with all the gory details, so I’ll just give you some of the highlights of the past month. Here is a list of my favorite watches for May quarantine:
25 years ago, Disney’s underrated gem, A Goofy Movie (1995), was released. Most of us grew up watching this classic animated film, including myself, but it wasn’t until adulthood that I could appreciate and understand it for all it truly has to offer. From the tender story-line between a father and son, to the themes of self-acceptance, Powerline’s “Stand Out” and “I2I” bops, and finally to the overall Blackness that the film exudes- A Goofy Movie is a critical film in Disney’s Renaissance era repertoire.