Every horror film fanatic knows before getting into a horror film that couples that fuck are doomed to die and that black guy (sometimes girl) is most likely going to be first to die. The trope is so pervasive that one doesn’t even need to be a horror fanatic to know of it. But why is it that it’s the black blood that’s spilt first?
Is horror racist? After all, one would be hard press to find at least a dozen of horror films where black person survives to the end, and even harder to double that with a black lead role.
To honestly tackle this question, we first need to understand why white people dominate the horror scene. Writers work best when they write from what they know, from experience, and in the event they do not know, then from the research that they’ve done. Even the writers featured on this site rarely write about something that they have no clue about, or don’t feel comfortable tackling. As a white male and as a writer, I’m wouldn’t feel comfortable writing from a black man’s perspective, because I don’t honestly know the nuance of his life to really flesh out a compelling and believable narrative.
Though not exclusive to the horror genre, one could argue that the writers are simply stemming from what they know and understand. Most of the writers in horror are white, which explains why most horror films feature white lead roles. And let’s face it, if you’re not a lead role in a horror film, you’re probably going to die, which explains why the black man is often one of the firsts to go, and is hardly ever standing in one piece at the end. If the order in which the characters die is racist, then well, we’re talking about the order in which fictional characters die in a story that was most likely written by a white male without much of any thought of “is this racist”.
Perhaps there are the exceptional few, the few writers that get off on killing the black man first, but to believe that writers have some sort cabal against blacks in horror is insane, right? It’s not like there is some grand conspiracy to keep the black man out from horror, and to make that assumption without evidence of secret backroom meetings where whites secretly vow to systematically ban the black man would be insane.
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead has a black lead role. Se7en has a black lead role. Halloween H20 has a black lead role. Blade has a black lead role. Event Horizon has a black lead role. Candyman has a black lead role. The white man is not systematically keeping the black man from entering horror.
So back to the question, is horror racist? No. White lead roles out number black lead roles, sure. But, that’s not a product of racism, not on face value alone. A studio would be engaging in racist behavior if they wrote OUT black characters or black lead roles because of racial preference alone.
The kill order in horror is not even racist. That’s right. I’ll even go as far as to say that the black guy dies first stereotype isn’t even racist. Jason and Michael Myers aren’t going out of their way to ONLY kill black people. These two murderous psychos kill everything that crosses their path: black, white, gay, lesbian, Jew, Muslim. These two iconic psychos are equal opportunity killing machines.
But, perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps, I’m missing something. Maybe Jason and Michael are the result of deep seeded racism, but that allegation would need some evidence other than they killed off a black character.