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.
About 6 months ago, I was working front desk at a hair removal clinic. What seemed, at the time, to be the height of the pandemic was really taking its toll on my overall health. I have my mom who works in the hospital. Her and my sister live 1,500 miles away from me. My father lives 1,800 miles away from me. I was sitting in what now did not feel like home at all, away from my family, while a tiny number on my phone (that I checked every single day) climbed higher and higher. 10,000 cases in my dad’s area, 4,000 in my mom’s, and 5,000 in my own area. Are we going to be okay? I remember my mom told me once that they took all of the masks from her floor, because the hospital as a whole was short, and the emergency had priority on them. I just about had a panic attack then. Thinking about every single person I cared about driving to work, being in close proximity to so many people on a daily basis. We can’t afford not to work, so we just have to be “careful.”
Written by Misha Green, the television show creates an immovable life force with its story and pacing as it takes our main characters through the terrifying mazes Jim Crow-era America and a secret, witch cult called the Sons of Adam. What really elevates the show to new, heightened levels is the incorporation of symbolic references that add on to an already linguistically and thematically nuanced storyline. It makes you think. It keeps you on your toes, finding new information and Easter eggs with each re-watch.
I just started I May Destroy You yesterday. I also just got caught up with I May Destroy You yesterday. Written by and starring Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You is a new, HBO show that chronicles a young writer named Arabella (Coel) as she deals with the aftermath of being sexually assaulted at a bar one night. I May Destroy You explores the “perfect victim,” linear healing, and different forms of sexual abuse all in one. One line that really stuck out to me was, “The problem is when people don’t know what is a crime and what isn’t a crime, they don’t report it and people get away with it.”
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!
The murder of George Floyd indeed started a conversation- or rather it magnified the conversation already being had. It ignited a movement, and it unearthed so many other people who were buried beneath the system of silence and oppression. Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Kendrick Johnson, and so many more stories were brought forward to light, reopened, and given the proper recognition for push for justice. With the increase of recognition, calls for abolition, and catalysts of action, there has also been an influx in pandering and performative activism to the point that the deaths of Black people have been twisted into a meme-procuring, internet fad for some.