by Lavern Merriweather
With Halloween fast approaching, I thought I’d focus on a few posts. The one Hollywood genre that seems to pretty much go hand in hand with that holiday are horror movies. The title acronym stands for ‘Brother Always Dies First’ which basically sums up what you can expect to happen anytime you watch a Hollywood horror film with a black man in the cast, or any movie really where the cast lives are in some form of mortal danger, and I say ‘man’ because I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen a black female in a mainstream [re: white] horror film.
There are some films that aren’t necessarily horror, but the black person in the movie still won’t make it to the final credits none the less. It’s not only a given, but it’s gotten to the point where you can almost set a countdown from the time you see their non-white face on screen until the time they bite the big one. It’s never even just an injury when you have black folks in a horror/suspense/action film. No, they have to be completely eradicated before the next line is uttered, and usually making some magic negro ‘sacrifice’ that no sane rational person would ever dream of making. It would be one thing if the white cast members asked them to risk their lives for the good of everyone else, but most of the time, these dumba**es will actually volunteer for it. What the FRACK?!!
Case in point, the idiotic plot holes in the craptastic 2003 flick The Core starring Aaron Eckhart and two time Oscar winner Hillary Swank are so big you could fly a Cessna plane through them. The mature black man, who has no reason whatsoever to put his life in harm’s way, raises his hand when someone has to go ride a shitty, little, extremely, vulnerable machine into 3,000 degrees of molten golden goo. Yeah, and I’m going to be BFFs with new royal Kate Middleton when I marry William’s uncle Andrew next weekend and you are all invited wheeeee! Are they kidding?!!
Worse than that are those by-the-numbers cast B movies with the obligatory minority who one would think should at least have the sense at the start of a movie to file a life insurance policy. You know the ones I’m talking about with the brave, strong, good looking, square jawed captain, his always trusty sidekick the very old, brilliant, uptight scientist and his pretty clueless daughter or niece with the unrivaled lung capacity. And the sleazy wussy annoying ‘bad guy’ who at some point will either get b**ch slapped or get his a## whooped by the captain and will of course make all the wrong choices and eventually get himself killed. But even that guy has a better shot than the black man like the one in that Saturday afternoon cult classic The Killer Shrews.
It’s bad enough that the brother dies five minutes into the film, but he is a 300 pound man that scrambles up a 50 pound tree thinking it will support him and keep him from getting killed. As bad as I feel for the guy, especially since he is outside screaming for help at the top of his lungs while his boss, the captain and everyone else are safe inside sipping on drinks by a fire, I can’t help LMAO at that moment. What’s not funny though is the fact that said scene reinforces how white people in these movies treat their black co-stars and how white filmmakers in general treat black actors and their characters, namely, that we are expendable and that we can’t even be around long enough for the audience to get a chance to identify with us and therefore be pissed when we foolishly go into that dark creepy room after we hear a strange noise while they holler at us not to.
Black men still don’t survive even if there are two of them in a film, like the movie Legion starring Dennis Quaid, Charles Dutton, and sometime singing star Tyrese Gibson, neither of whom make it until the end. At least Deep Blue Sea with Samuel Jackson and LL Cool J let one of the black stars live. Then again, Samuel dies in dang near every movie he’s in. So, there is that. Still, LL not only survives but outlives almost all of his white co-stars and is the one responsible for the main monster’s ultimate demise.
And that’s another thing. Most of the black people you do see in a horror film are never the hero and the lead, meaning they won’t be the one getting cheered on when the shark/grizzly/alien/masked boogeyman/werewolf/hairy beast finally has their backside handed to them in the most devastating way possible. Yes, I know for every rule there is that one exception, and in this case it’s George Romero’s ode to zombies everywhere, the unforgettable 60’s masterpiece that started it all Night of the Living Dead starring Duane Jones who was the lead hero and made it until the end of the movie while all the white people met a very grisly fate at the hands of the undead. Talk about your ironic twist however that film came out over 40 years ago and for an industry that prides itself on ‘progress’ they haven’t been able to come up with a similar role for another black actor since 1968? Or maybe when it comes to horror films they just don’t like being ‘first’.