I didn't watch the first season of VH1's horror-themed, acting competition Scream Queens when it first aired in 2008, and I am utterly elated that I didn't. If I had to watch ten hopefuls, one of which being Black, talented and likeable without any of the acting training that the other competitors had, plus confront blatant racism and obnoxious micro-aggressions, all for a shot in one of the Saw sequels, all without knowing who came out of the mud victorious until the finale, it would've literally drove me insane. I'm not exaggerating. I love horror that much and want to see more Black people involved, that much more.
But that budding actress, Inglewood, Calfornia's Tanedra Howard managed to beat out all the other haters with very little (if any) petty grievances and a lot of raw ability. She consistently won challenges, stayed out of unproductive house cliques, and maintained a reasonable level of cool when she was being reduced to a stereotype by some of the other contestants. Not surprising.
What Tanedra's win signified was a defiance of that type of opposition. If she's nothing but a "strong Black woman from the projects," how could she possibly be 'scream queen' material? Read: Black women can't be scream queens, because they're Black. The historical trend of women of color's minimized roles in horror is only a topping on this rancid sundae of social and structural discriminatory attitudes towards them in the entertainment industry and in general.
For all its staged antics and ridiculous practices just to garner ratings, "reality" television, like many other branches in popular culture present a window for understanding its existence within our larger society.
|Tanedra in Saw 6|
While Scream Queens did not have the full-on quality and drama-free consistency of Face/Off, it didn't quite stoop to Flavor Of Love level either. Scream Queens made an honest effort at not crudely exploiting its participants, but rather offered them a window for their professional opportunities to prosper.
Tanedra's Cinderella story should not be discounted or overlooked. Although being in an artistic field is the very definition of fickle, I'm hoping Tanedra's obscurity doesn't remain permanent.