Candyman has always been about race

Candyman has always been about race and politics. The original was about a Black man who was murdered and tortured during the Reformation because he had an affair with a white woman and got her pregnant. It’s also about a white woman who goes stomping through a Black housing project, Cabrini Green, and reawakens some old horrors that put its residents at risk.

Jordan Peele has now updated the story, and has the title character murdered by law enforcement. Apparently, some white horror writers are bitching about the police brutality storyline. How dare they – Black people have the right to create horror where we are not othered.

Horror, for more than a hundred years, has been filled with tropes about scary minorities. W.W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey Paw” used the same formula 120 years ago as you see repeatedly in modern horror – strange artifact from a colonized culture has a curse. Oppressed people curse or haunt the oppressors. This formula relies on white guilt / white fear of the Other for its punch.

The original Candyman (written by Bernard Rose, based on Clive Barker’s “Forbidden”) was no different – the wronged Other coming back to kill off the oppressor. In it, Candyman’s interest in dating white women becomes an obsession with white women in his bloodline and a need to kill them off. The horror of Jim Crow and the terror that caused the death of Emmett Till is distilled into Candyman’s origin story, which is then flipped around into Daniel Robitaille (the original Candyman) becoming an actual danger to white women.

When Black writers create horror, we write about what scares us. Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” is based on the true story of Margaret Garner, who killed her own child rather than allow her to be returned to slavery. The house was haunted in “Beloved.” The child haunted her mother.

Black folks have the right to write stories about how slavery, Jim Crow, police brutality and other issues affect us. We should not only be the object of stories other people tell about us. We are allowed to write stories about contemporary horrors like the police murder of Black people, and railroading of innocent people. No one should be coming at us for “politicizing” horror – horror is already a political genre.

It has been for more than 100 years. But nowadays, we get to tell our side of the story.

~ by Sumiko Saulson on June 25, 2021.

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