Horror in the 90s: Wait! There's A Black Girl?!

Life for a time was my primarily white high school and my primarily white group of friends because of my "oreo" tendencies and my primarily white neighborhood because Philadelphia didn't get its act together with charter/specialty schools until long after I graduated. I'm not complaining (...that much), but I can't say my teenage years were much different from my theater experiences since I was seeing all the new "teen scream" films. I ate them up in a zealous manner and executives knew obviously my age group was the prime market for this kind of gluttony.

I enjoyed many of these films. And as nostalgia usually dictates, I still do. Simultaneously, looking back makes me cringe at how these absurdly alternate universes were created where Black female (and at times male) characters did not exist or were oftentimes pod people (they had no parents, no other Black friends, family, etc.).

Remember that Tommy Hilfiger promotion with The Faculty? It was the only time you ever saw who I thought was to be a significant character in the film played by actress(?) Kadidah Jones (daughter of Quincy Jones, lesser-known sister of Rashida Jones, former girlfriend of Tupac Shakur) for a significant amount of time: in a promo! Blink and you probably don't remember her from the actual film at all.

As a bitter, cynical adult, this irks me. Because I roamed these same settings and went to these same high schools and knew the characters, almost carbon copy of the ones in these films. I was even close friends with some of them! But I guess their Black girl or two got lost on the way to the set... or school, or weekly house party. And this pretty much can be noted for almost all other non-white teenaged girls and women.

But there's no use in crying over scuffed, white shoes if you aren't going to point out, using the overused phrase, the token Black girl in these movies. For better or worse, we had our few. I thought about maybe saying a few things about the few that I found but they can almost all be summed up as the comic relief, the one-dimensional best friend whose purpose is to simply balance out the somewhat one-dimensional white female lead. With the exception of maybe one.

This particular market had a mass appeal and visually spoke volumes about the diversity conversation in the 90s. Subjectively, diversity when I was coming of age was in fact about quotas: one was enough. Maybe two to be really radical. Even in horror movies.

Reese (Loretta Divine) in Urban Legend (1998)

Karla (Brandy) in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)

Hallie (Elise Neal) in Scream 2 (1997)

Rochelle (Rachel True) in The Craft (1996)

Rochelle had notable scenes that demonstrated both her confrontation with overt racism and the affects of those encounters in her reasoning for becoming a witch as well as passing comments that could easily be missed if one is not looking. Remember, "Make me blonde!"? That was hard to overlook when remembering her confrontation in the bathroom with Laura when she demanded to know why she was being verbally harrassed. Rochelle simply wanted to blend in instead of just being who she was. The Craft did a better job out of this group of giving all four central female roles more depth regardless and in mind of race. Our friends at The Whorer podcast did a fantastic job of examining all aspects of The Craft from a critical sociocultural perspective. Listen here

Who did I miss?

Popular Posts