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Scream Sista Scream !


Scream Sista Scream!

Black Women,stereotypes and survivial in the Horror genre


© 2009-2012 Lary Love Dolley


“He was full of plans. Have you got any plans, Jim? Do you want us to find a cure and save the world or just fall in love and fuck? Plans are pointless. Staying alive’s as good as it gets.”

Selena (Naomie Harris)

28 Days Later


“You’re not even scary. And let’s talk about the butter knives. What is with the butter knives? You trying to compensate for something? Maybe coming up a little short there between the legs, Mr. Krueger?”

Kia (Kelly Rowland)

Freddy vs Jason


I remember being a girl and seeing Vamp with Grace Jones and being delighted and terrified all at once; here was a Black Vampire who was stylish,

scary and to top it off,Black like me!

As a Feminist Black female whose preferred film genre is rife with

scream queens,blood and guts I felt it totally

befitting that I should write an essay on Black women in horror films.

I see black women in horror films more so than any other mainstream genre.

An online search for “Black women in horror films”

resulted in less than a handful of websites.

Even a search through google books of the phrase “Black women in horror

films” turned up zero results.

Despite the less than booming presence on the net and veritable absence

in common critiques of women and horror,

the Black Woman does exist in the realm of horror.

Monique Gata Dupree,sibling of horror icon Tony Todd, has been

called the First Black Scream Queen.

She had parts in many horror films such as Satan Hates You, Heavy Mental and Pot Zombies.

Other examples of black females in horror include; Teresa Graves in Vampira,

Jada Pinkett & Elise Neal in Scream 2, Lisa Bonet in Angel Heart, Grace Jones in Vamp,

Vanessa Williams and Kasi Lemmons in Candyman,Aaliyah in Queen of the Damned, Teresa Farley in Breeders,Naomie Harris in 28 Days Later, Halle Berry in Gothika, Cathy Tyson in Serpent and

the Rainbow,Kelly Jo Minter in The People Under the Stairs, Nightmare on Elm Street 5 and The Lost Boys,Jada Pinkett (again) in Demon Knight, Brandy in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Loretta Devine in Urban Legend, Kelly Rowland in Freddy vs. Jason,Meagan Good in Venom,One Missed Call , Saw V , and The Unborn. Pam Grier and Bianca Lawson in Bones,Ashanti in Resident Evil:Extinction, Sanaa Lathan in Alien vs. Predator,Angela Basset in Critters 4 and Vampire in Brooklyn.

The horror film’s main theme is often that of “otherness”.

Black Women are all too familiar with the reality

of “otherness”; being a Woman and being Black in America has been at times an alienating

and horrifying experience (e.g.,slavery,Jim Crow,colonialist mindsets,racism,sexism,etc).

Compared to those horrors dealing with a Freddy or Jason does not seem so scary.

Perhaps that is why the Black Woman in horror, more so than in any other genre,

has been given a presence.

Black Women have been appearing in horror films since the 1930s.

From the Voodoo vixens of the 30s (e.g.,Chloe,Love is calling you,Ouanga)

to the man eaters of the 80s (e.g.,Vamp,Def By Temptation)

to present day fearless femmes ( e.g.,28 Days Later,Freddy Vs. Jason).

the appearances and roles of Black Women in horror films

have been as varied throughout the years as the actresses that have played them.

Unlike other genres where the black female character merely acts as

human filler, in scary movies she is often given an actual presence,and not just as a simpering victim.

The first starring role given to a black woman in the horror genre was in the 1986 horror/sci fi film Breeders with Teresa Farley as Dr. Gamble Pace. Even though the film was given limited theatrical

release it is interesting to note that the black female lead was a doctor and not a hooker or junkie.

That is not to say that stereotyping does not exist in the horror genre,

because it does, a perfect example of this is urban horror films

geared towards Black markets in which the title is often

intentionally misspelled in some kind of attempt to be

hip and urbane but comes across as looking silly.

(e.g.,Def By Temptation– which, despite the goofy spelling,

is actually a good horror film.)

The stereotypical perception of the black woman is either set in extremes of sass.

or sexiness. One stereotypical role for Black Women in horror is

that of Mystic. The Mystic (e.g.,Angel Heart,Bones)

has been around since the 1930s and can usually

be found presiding over a Voodoo ceremony or fortune

telling. The main character may look to her for answers.

In the realm of horror the Black heroine is usually tough talking, strong willed and ass-kicker.

In some regards her behavior coming off like a play on the Sapphire stereotype (sassy,mouthy,neck swiveling,hip wiggling,angry Black Woman)

Not content with sitting and weeping idly whilst

awaiting certain doom, the black heroine can often be found talking tough,assembling

weapons, or engaging in combat with the villain.

Unlike the token black male in horror films (notable exception: Night of the Living Dead)

who is usually content to follow, the black female horror heroine is poised to lead.

The horror genre is one in which being a sassy strong-willed Black Woman can be a lifesaver

(e.g.,Loretta Divine in Urban Legend).

In perilous scenarios this female is no shrinking violet

and often goes head to head with the villain verbally and physically attacking him.

The Black villainess often uses her sexuality (Jezebel stereotype) to ensnare and devour

hapless male victims (e.g.,Queen of the Damned,Vamp,Def by Temptation).

An example of a well rounded Black Woman character who comes across as more

of a person and less of a stereotype can be seen in Selena (Played by actress Naomie Harris)

from 28 Days Later. Naomie Harris plays one of the lone survivors of

an outbreak of Zombies. She was strong and fearless in the face of peril but

without resorting to stereotypical behavioral patterns and “sassy” (trite) one liners.

Other well thought out roles include Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) in Alien vs. Predator

and Dr. Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) in Gothika.

Sanaa Lathan plays a tenacious environmentalist researching in Antarctica whose fight

or flight response pushes her to fight when pitted against two super-villains.

In an interview about Alien vs. Predator, Sanaa Lathan expounded upon

her character and the inevitable Ripley (Aliens) comparison;

” I mean, as different as me and Sigourney [Weaver] look is as different as these two characters are. It really is this character that Paul has created. She’s her own woman. She’s smart; she discovers things about herself and rises to the occasion in very scary situations.

She’s pretty fierce.”

Halle Berry starring in Gothika is a brilliant psychiatrist who awakens to find herself facing the

same horror as patients she has treated. Dr. Miranda Grey alone struggles to clear her

name when accused of a horrendous murder whilst dealing with a malicious ghost.


While horror films have provided an opportunity for Black actresses to shine,

a good role is one in which the Black actress comes across as a person

and not as a caricature of Black Womanhood.

Therein the solution lies; better writers, better material and actual

Black Women being a part of the production process.

The rise of the web series in the past few years is also a good way to grab the reigns

and steer perceptions in a particular direction like Sabine Mondestin has done with her Fantasy Horror

web series, 13 Witches.which stars and is directed by Ms.Mondestin.

Stereotypes in horror films will continue to suffice no doubt but they should by no means

be the bulk of roles offered to Black actresses.

As a fan of horror films, a Black Feminist female and Scream Queen-to-be

I look forward to the day when well thought out roles in horror offered to Black

Actresses are the norm and not the exception.



Sources Cited


Interview with Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan:


Scary Sistas:A Brief History of Black Women in Horror Films




Image- Teresa Graves in Vampira

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