Skip to main content

Scream Queens Season 1: A Love Shout Out To Tanedra

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.

Regardless of the platform for this role being up for grabs, Tanedra managed to impress long time industry professionals enough to defy the odds. This win was a seed for this "radical" concept that Black women can (and continue) to make an impression within the genre.

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.

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.

Watch the first half of the first episode here:

Popular posts from this blog

How MIDSOMMAR Utilizes and Subverts Horror Movie Tropes of People of Color

By Mary Kay McBrayer (@mkmcbrayer)

For a film that could have been easily white-washed, Ari Aster’s Midsommar does have an inclusive cast. Before our characters are even taken to Sweden where most of the film's dread fueled action takes place, we meet them in their college town. Dani (Florence Pugh) stresses about her sister’s scary email while her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor) drinks at a bar with his buddies, only one of whom is black named Josh (The Good Place's William Jackson Harper).
I have watched enough horror movies to know—and I’ve been brown enough long enough to know—that this setting does not bode well for a person of color. The token minority, say it with me, tends to die first. Because of this ratio, I expected a few other established tropes of the horror genre in Josh’s character, too, and I have to admit, I was delighted and surprised that nothing played out the way I expected.

DARKLY: At The Heart Of Goth, Is Blackness

"Horror has always been used to illuminate cultural anxieties and gives a voice to our collective fears. So, what to make of the gothic in America, a place which by the very nature of its founding is predisposed to a culture of anxiety? The dread knowing the enemy at the gate is understandable, but in America the enemy has already passed through it, and has been brought inside. The call is coming from inside the house."
-words by Leila Taylor