White Fragility in Horror

 

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From wikiHow*. According to the haunted house sub-genre, hauntings happen to white families 100% more than black families

If you’re a horror fan and have been paying attention, you probably noticed that Jordon Peele’s debut film Get Out is absolutely slaughtering it at the box office right now; this 4 million dollar film has raked in over 100 million dollars in its opening weekend alone. That’s almost unheard of for Blumhouse and it sends a strong message that horror fans are ready for films with more meat (no pun intended).

Of course, humanity’s soul-crushing stupidity is on point as usual, so OF COURSE there are people coming out in droves screaming about “reverse racism” (not a thing) and “white hate” (not a thing in this movie) and generally just being huge dicks about a brilliant movie that, donuts to dollars they have not read about let alone seen for themselves (and for the record, I think MOST of these people are not horror fans). You don’t really have to look hard for these dumb opinions; you can go into literally any comments thread on any page about Get Out and it will not take you long to find the “movies should entertain not address political issues. They’re separate for a reason,” and “society is blinded with being politically correct.” (both of these comments are real, word-for-word comments taken from a post on Bloody Disgusting’s FB page. No joke). There are a whole LOT of (white) people who claim superficially that politics (issues that do not effect white men) should stay out of movies because movies, especially horror, are for escapism. Unless of course we’re talking about any movie of any genre that has white men saving the day from non-white men. Then it’s a-ok!

As a person who loves the horror with all my heart, it makes me frothy with rage that the  genre as a whole is very white and very male. Racial diversity in horror is very limited; many times, there’s a weird colorblind thing that happens in mainstream horror movies that don’t have all white casts; there are black/brown character, there are even prominent black/brown characters, but race is usually not mentioned in any way (and they die, of course). As noted on Black Horror Movies, if there’s more than one non-white person in a cast it runs the risk of being considered a “black movie” (with the exception of some ensemble casts, but even then the black character must die).

I don’t understand these dynamics when I think about horror as a subversive and divergent from the mainstream; so many horror fans and people who make horror consider themselves or at least their interests to be outside the norm yet here we are embracing white supremacy, the most mainstream concept known to man (even if it’s subconscious or unintentional; being idle about troubling racial troupes and the startling lack of diversity in the genre is upholding white supremacy).

But why? Why can’t the genre bring itself  to break away from the narrative of the “all-American family” as white (this topic is explored on Black Horror Movies. Seriously, you need to visit this blog, it’s amazing)? Why can’t a final girl be black on a regular basis? Why are white people so freaked out by seeing the blatant, in-you-face racism onscreen in Get Out yet have no trouble watching the black-people-die-first trope over and over and over again?

I feel like horror is making some strides in the right direction; we’ve got a much wider range of directors, producers, and writers and some of what we are seeing onscreen is changing. Clearly the financial success of Get Out is signaling a change in what horror fans want, but I don’t feel like it’s enough. I’ve mentioned before but as a horror fan that does not meet the straight, white, male demographic I am always beyond excited when I see a movie that overcomes desperately overused tropes around gender and race, excitement that is followed by a mini brain explosion when I read the chorus of “this movie is dumb! Keep (insert any identity that falls outside of cishet, white, maleness) out of it! It’s just a movie blah blah blah PC bullshit blah!” from too many fellow horror fans.

So horror fans, let’s regularly support filmmakers of all races, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities ect by actively seeking out their films and paying for them at the box office. Let’s stop whining about movies with a social message as if it’s a totally new thing that the “PC police” are pushing onto filmmakers (it’s not). Let’s call out lazy sexist, racist, transphobic tropes with such regularity that filmmakers stop using them. White horror fans: if you feel something that looks like guilt when watching a movie like Get Out, that’s an opportunity for you to reflect on your own experiences and maybe learn something about someone who is not you. Possibly even change any problematic aspects of your behavior (because we do or say problematic things at some point in our lives). Sometimes we have to admit our favorite gems are racist/sexist/ableist/transphobic, and that’s hard; I still love the movie High Tension but I can’t ignore the ableism in it. We can make some space for everyone at the horror table; it’ll make the genre we love better. But we have to first acknowledge that some people are missing and make an effort to correct that.

*Link to the wikiHow page, because WordPress is testing me today and won’t let me add this in the actual caption.

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