Saturday, October 29, 2011

Black Characters in Horror Movies: Do They Survive?

Last night at a Halloween party, I made many new friends, two of which were a couple of African American gentlemen. One was dressed as an undead Tupac and the other as the leader of a white power movement. Strangely, that made me a little uncomfortable but in a fun way...I think. I, on the other hand, went as a hillbilly, which wasn't too far of a stretch for me.

Our obvious affinity for Halloween was just the icebreaker we needed, and so we all started to share Halloween stories. Eventually, we ended up discussing black characters in horror movies and how they never survived the movie. A couple of us disagreed, and so they challenged us to name five horror movies where the black actor makes it to the end.

Talk about fun! As a fanatical horror movie buff, this is just the thing I love to talk about.

I rattled off three pretty quickly.

(1) The Thing
(original) : Childs (Keith David) survives.

(2) Dawn of the Dead (original) : Peter (Ken Foree) indeed escapes. Note, they wouldn't let us use the remake where Kenneth (Ving Rhames) makes it.
(3) 28 Days Later : Selena (the stunning Naomie Harris) not only makes it but kicks serious ass.

We tried Candyman, played by Tony Todd, but were not allowed that one because he was a villain. We got a good chuckle when Vampire in Brooklyn with Eddie Murphy was brought up, but we couldn't really count that one either.

BAM, (4) Blade with Wesley Snipes. And then, sadly, we got stuck for awhile. Keep in mind, the actor needed to survive the movie. I pulled out my trusty iPhone and discovered the website which gave us some ideas.

We chose (5) Gothika with Halle Berry.

Notable mentions should include Queen of the Damned where actress Aaliyah played Akasha. Although she dies at the end, it was a great role. Danny Glover in Predator II, Scatman Crothers in The Shining (although he didn't survive the movie, he does survive in the book) and Charles S. Dutton in Cat's Eye.

While still not as represented as they should be, it does appear that black actors are getting an increasing number of great roles in horror movies. I hope this is a sign that we can continue to embrace the horror genre as a way to bring people together.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My car is a sword.

It occurred to me that writing in the traditional fantasy genre is the best vehicle for expressing my thoughts and feelings about the world. Or, at least it should be. After all, I am well-read in the genre, and I enjoy taking the simple idea of swords and sorcery and broadening it, filling it up with robust characters and new takes on magic and action sequences. It seems comfortable to me.

I imagine a lot of writers come to this realization about their genre sooner or later, but it actually dawned on me just a few days ago.

The reason I thought about this (I suspect) was because a friend recently told me they missed my "goth" stuff, which usually reflected my dry, pretentious sense of humor. When I was in "goth" mode, my characters could afford to hate the world for no apparent reason. I could develop cute, nerdy, pretentious goth girl characters. Not that I didn't write with feeling, but my writing supported the genre's stereotypes a little too much. In a sense, it was a bit like mental masturbation. Like the drum solo that never ends or the guitar player who overplays.

I've written more in the traditional fantasy genre this past year than in all the previous years put together, and I wasn't sure what drove me to it until now. When I write traditional fantasy, I worry less about the technologies involved, less about how to get my characters from here to there. Life is simpler.

Ironically, this leaves the door open for me to make things as complicated as I'd like. To me, fantasy is a more comfortable place to develop atmosphere and motivation, plot and pace. In fantasy, I seem to be able to create characters that pop and stories with layers. It all goes back to writing what you know and being comfortable expressing a full range of emotions and feelings within that realm.

Are you in the right genre?

Swords and sorcery. I'm happy to be back.