restricted access 1. The Importance of Neglected Intersections: Characterizations of Black Women in Mainstream Horror Texts
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  The Importance of Neglected Intersections Characterizations of Black Women in Mainstream Horror Texts All the women are white, all the blacks are men, but some of us are brave. —Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith Not only will I stare. I want my look to change reality. —bell hooks In June 2005,black feminist critics Yolanda Hood and Gwendolyn D. Pough edited an issue of the Femspec journal dedicated to black women and speculative fiction in which they questioned the “surge in fantastic representations of Black womanhood.”1 The critics were the first to make a scholarly note of how black women appeared to be integral characters in the resurgent popularity of genre texts in popular culture. A cursory perusal of postmillennial characterizations in horror reveals a fruitful presence of significant black women in Hollywood—from Angela Basset’s protagonist in Supernova (2000), to Naomie Harris in 28 Days Later (2002), to Sanaa Lathan in AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004), to Jessica Lucas The Importance of Neglected Intersections  in Evil Dead (2013). The numbers expand when black women are counted beyond the central role, as seen in the supporting performances of Kelly Rowland in Freddy vs. Jason (2003) and Elise Neal and Jada Pinkett Smith in Scream 2 (1997). Television has quickly followed suit with its sudden realization that serialized horror— when done well—results in astronomical advertising revenues and also features several black women actors, such as Gina Torres as Jasmine in season four of Angel (1999–2004) and Bella Crawford in Hannibal (2013–2015), Rutina Wesley’s Tara Thornton in True Blood (2008–2014), Kat Graham as Bonnie Bennett in The Vampire Diaries (2009–), Danai Gurira as Michonne and Sonequa MartinGreen as Sasha in The Walking Dead (2010–), Necole Beharie as Lt. Abbie Mills in Sleepy Hollow (2013–2017), and Halle Berry as Molly Woods in Extant (2014–2015). Comic books prove to be light years ahead of sustained characterizations of black women, most popularly Michonne from Robert Kirkman’s ongoing comic opus The Walking Dead (2003–), Mira Nygus in Atsushi Ōkubo’s manga Soul Eaters (2004–2013), as well as Yoruichi Shihōin of Tite Kubo’s manga Bleach series (2001–).2 Still, the growing number of black women characters in popular horror culture fails to account for the problematic nature of their constructions. This chapter exposes mainstream horror’s simplistic characterizations of black women by examining their presence in one of horror’s most celebrated subgenres, the postapocalyptic zombie text.The zombie text works as an entrance to black women’s characterizations in horror for multiple reasons. It is an easily definable horror genre in which there are multiple iterations of black womanhood to explore. Even as the number of black women characters in horror has steadily increased, the manifestations have been incredibly disparate, from entering previously established horror franchises—Aliens, Predator, and Scream—to science fiction horror such as Supernova and a television series centered on cannibalistic serial killers, Hannibal.This is a good problem to have, but in clearing a space for black women horror characterizations outside of the monstrous, the postapocalyptic zombie text proves the most cohesive as well as the most fruitful. Exposing horror’s historically  Searching for Sycorax unbridled themes of Gynophobia and Negrophobia reveals the dangerously simplistic notion that the presence of black women is enough. My intervention operates within the black feminist framework of the “oppositional gaze” that demands more complex characterizations and grounds my later arguments for the self-articulation of black women in horror.The power of the oppositional gaze acts as a powerful framework in horror by analyzing the black women characters in Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic book series (2003–) and Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002). All the Women Are White Fascinating work concerning gender continues within critical studies of horror, but even after thirty years this work has often proven inattentive to the intersections of race, failing to examine its own Fig. 3. Clockwise from top left: Angela Bassett as Dr. Kaela Evers, Supernova (2000); Kelly Rowland as Kia Waterson, Freddy vs. Jason (2003); Sanaa Lathan as Alexa Woods, AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004); Jada Pinkett Smith as Maureen, Scream 2 (1997); Jessica Lucas as Olivia, Evil Dead (2013); and Rutina Wesley as Tara Thornton, True Blood (2008). The Importance of Neglected Intersections  privileging of whiteness. In Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (1992), horror critic Carol Clover insists that the anxieties surrounding...


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