What is it about the Black woman that evokes so much anger, annoyance, and bitterness?
I recently saw ‘The Purge: Election Year’ and while we all know the franchise to be hokey, it held a significant perspective within me. (Potential Spoiler Alert) I was completely in awe of a character – a dark skinned, Afro-puffed out, modern day ‘Sapphire’ who graced the screen with glorious villainy. She was a ring leader of murder, sparkling in tulle and blood, armed with a solid gold automatic rifle. I was mind blown – I could not believe that a horror movie would give such a powerful platform to such a character. In the end however, as to be expected, she received the ‘money shot’ kill – having her face blown off with a shotgun, much to the delight of the audience.
There was also a Black radical group (in the image of BLM) who plan to overthrow the government, by any means. There is the charismatic leader, a Black man who legitimately dies an ‘honorable’ death in order to save a pretty, thin white woman running for President. This narrative plays upon the psyche of those who would be more comfortable with white saviors versus Black revolutionaries attempting to overthrow a corrupt system as a whole. With a screenplay like this, my favorite character didn’t stand a chance!
Needless to say, I couldn’t help but think about reality versus our representation within film. Our deaths, our stories, our characters, our typecasts. More specifically, Black women who reject respectability politics, subjugation and silence. I found myself wondering about Black woman’s worth within horror.
Not too long after seeing this film, Korryn Gaines, the 23 year old mother, warrior and activist was recently killed by Baltimore police. A Black woman armed, protecting herself against a Police State entrenched in white supremacy. With the Black Lives Matter movement gaining ground, and the spotlight fixed on reforming Policing, I expected for her to be revered in the limelight of recent martyrs. Instead, I found that most people were saying that she brought it upon herself, that she deserved it, that she had willingly put herself in harms’ way. Never mind the fact that other Black males who were killed by police, were also armed, legally and illegally. Misogynoir leached it’s way on my news feed every second her story was shared. I found myself wondering about Black woman’s worth.
Art imitates life after all, so in regards to my first feature short, titled ‘FLESH’, I began to make parallels. The film revolves around a Black, queer woman who has lived her life trying to lead a care free artists’ life, all while striving for social equality. Equality, meaning the aversion of the anti-Black eye, the violence we face because of who we are, VISIBLY. In a moment of anger, dissatisfaction and apathy – she decides that the cure to eradicating her pain is to kill. ‘Destroy what destroys you’ becomes her mantra, something that is frowned upon when felt and conveyed by Black women. Respectability politics don’t fly with her – she grew up resisting every facet of it. Whether the expectation came from Black traditionalism or the white, Hipster/artist realm she willingly navigates – she actively tries to destroy every aggressor. Psychologically and physically.
This is not your average horror film with a Black lead.
The film explores eurocentric beauty standards, PTSD and covert Anti-Blackness. Anti-Blackness is a misunderstood when it comes to recognizing it as it’s own form of oppression. While racism is known as a systemic institution, anti-blackness is exclusive to any Black person who embraces the culture, and choose not to assimilate It is a learned behavior, and has it’s roots in the normalization and eventual justification of enslavement of Africans. It subjugates, and can be passive or blatant. It can be in the form of being served last in a restaurant, or having the cops called on you for being suspicious. It’s not a figment of our imaginations. It is transparent in the media we absorb everyday, including film and music. With this film, I hope to create a niche for the exact opposite, as intellectual and socially conscious media becomes less obscure.
Representation and visibility that flip the stereotypical roles and cliché storytelling are on a rise in many forms of popular media. Audre’s Revenge Film was created in order to carve out a space for Black women, and Queer and Trans folks who want to see genre specific films catered to our own life experiences. Of course, we love the 80’s classic horror films, the cult and C grade films that resonate DIY culture and exaggerated fears. We also love the idea of seeing a film where queer coding, tokenism and misogynoir are left out.
With Ashlee of Graveyard Shift Sisters documenting Women of Color in horror, and multiple films starring lead Black women and Black themed science fiction/fantasy taking a turn, Audre’s Revenge and ‘FLESH’ are just in time to claim space for every one else who lives on the margins. Everything is inter-sectional, and these worlds must remain relevant in our creativity. Even the tiniest mark, can have an upstanding effect on those who are told ‘they cannot’.
We need Rae and Korryn to become valid expressions of the many facts of Black womanhood, in horror, fantasy, and the like.
Monika Estrella Negra is a horror fanatic and appreciates all things gory, ridiculous and macabre. She is also the founder of Black and Brown Punk Show Chicago and Audre’s Revenge Film Production. A true nerd at heart, she also dedicates her time to uplifting and celebrating radical queer black womyn in all areas of the diaspora. In her spare time she enjoys creating special FX makeup, reading and watching B grade horror flicks.