Blacula An American Horror Film English Literature Essay

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The use of fantasy creatures in movies has become increasingly common in order to characterize a particular race or ethnicity as monstrous. The wide-spread and very successful effect continues to motivate filmmakers and directors even to this day. The audience attracted to these movies can vary from the youthful to the elderly. While there is a wide array of films which depict race as a monstrous feature, certainly there are a few that epitomize the technique. The use of this discriminating technique has become more subtle from earlier periods and this can be illustrated by the three films Blacula, Candyman, and the Twilight Saga created with the progression of time.

Blacula, an American horror film directed by William Crane, tells the narrative of Mamuwalde, an African prince. After asking for assistance in order to end the slave trade Mamuwalde transforms into a vampire by the old Count Dracula, as we know him. "The racial and gender dynamics of Blacula permit for a twofold interpretation of Mamuwalde as a heroic monster fighting against a domineering racist patriarchal system and a misogynistic villain enslaving black women in effort to regain his masculine power" (Melikab, par.1). Throughout history, people have developed different fears. "Monsters are our children" because of their creation due to a projection of inner desires or fears. (Cohen 28). During the period when racism was vastly increasing, the character, Blacula, represented the whites' need to exemplify the African American race as monstrous. According to Halberstam, "the racism that becomes a mark of nineteenth-century Gothic arises out of the attempt within horror fiction to give form to what terrifies the national community" (132). In this case, Blacula is depicted as a violent male who murders white cops and regains his deprived masculinity from black women which horrifies the people. When Count Dracula attacks the Prince, he takes the role of the white American slave master because he seals him in a coffin and enchants him to live for eternity. Since the African American Prince is enslaved as a vampire by a white male it takes away his masculinity, power, and black identity (Melikab, par.1). After Blacula ended up in America, he undergoes an internal struggle of his suppressed black heritage, shown in the film by a young black woman who reminds him of his dead wife, and his unnatural white heritage, shown by his vampirism and name. He continuously attacks black women attempting to enhance his masculinity, as well as white cops who perpetuate racism (Melikab, par.1). The bold racism in the 1972 Blacula proves the filmmaker's intent to portray the suppressed African Americans as monstrous due to the whites' hatred of the Civil Rights Movement continuing at the time.

Candyman, a 1992 horror film, focuses on a black male named Daniel Robitaille who was chosen to paint a portrayal of a landowner's daughter Caroline. The intimacy of the setting caused a torrid affair between Daniel and Caroline which led to a very misfortunate end. The story of the monster Candyman brought up questions concerning America's racist past. Candyman, being a slave accused of raping a white woman, was lynched for his crime despite the fact that it was a consensual relationship. The mirror in the movie holds the tortured, hateful soul of Candyman, the only remainder of Caroline's lover. It grants Candyman his spiritual medium, and instills his soul with the power to kill when called upon. "The alleged need to protect white women from rape at the hands of black men helped to justify the written and unwritten laws known as "Jim Crow" that segregated African American people and helped to keep generations from being able to climb out of poverty " (Cooper 174). The film signifies the black male sexuality because of Candyman's torments of Helen. The impoverished African American community in the Cabrini Green area believed the legend of Candyman, but Helen figured out that a leader of a gang was using the legend to cover up his illegal deeds. Candyman began to hunt her because she interfered with the faith in him by his followers. The film reflects the injustices involving the hyper sexualized Candyman who enforces fear among the whites. In the movie, Helen comes across candy that uses hidden razor blades. According to Cooper, the association of pleasure and danger resonates with the specter of black sexuality in Candyman (175). The movie could be considered racist by some because it continues the stereotypes of black males as violent, hyper sexualized peoples and provokes attention and fear towards them. During this point in the timeline, filmmakers begin to seem more delicate with racism because of strong equality rights against discrimination. The movie claims the story as a historic event rather than a secretive reminder of these negative stereotypes.

The Twilight Saga, a sequence of five romance fantasy films, has been centered on the four Twilight novels by the American author Stephenie Meyer. These films depict the Native American werewolves as a dangerous and unreliable race, while the white vampires are shown as a god-like, safe culture. Both factions dislike the other for being simply a different breed. The white privilege, or the white superiority, involves civility, beauty, and intellect. The minority, in this case the Indians, relates with "animality and primitivism". Natalie Wilson dramatizes how "the indigenous culture [is] associated with irrationality, nature, savagery, and the past," contrasting from the whites who were "associated with culture, rationality and progress" (160). The Natives obtain qualities of an inferior race, therefore being portrayed as monstrous and uncivilized while the whites have superior and righteous qualities. The qualities expressed can be seen most clearly through the physical traits shared by members of the group. For example, the indigenous people have russet-colored skin, black hair, and dark eyes which represent danger and savagery. The vampire whites have pale skin and light eyes, as well as having their skin sparkle in the sunlight making them seem as angelic figures. In society, white privilege is considered as a Western culture norm and "at the level of representation…whites are not of a certain race, they're just the human ace" (Dyer 11). In Twilight, Bella Swan neglects race, as well as her own. She fails to recognize it due to her entrapment of white privilege. The diversity and acceptance of others sets aside the encouragement of the audience to "examine the racial power dynamics that shape their own lives; rather they are given the facile message that race does not really matter" (Wilson 158). Jacob Black, the werewolf, is continuously associated with a lack of light and irrationality. When he becomes angry his body turns hot and he transforms into the huge, dangerous beast. He often allows himself to be overcome with emotion rather than waiting until a course of action is planned and established The wife of Sam, the leader of the wolf pack, proves to be another walking example of the Natives' savageness. Her life-long, deeply scarred face became the result of Sam's anger as he began his transformation while she was too close to him. Edward's calmness, on the other hand, suggests his nobility and rationality. He displays a clear representation of these traits through the use of his mind-reading skills as a protective power over Bella. The 2009-2012 Twilight Saga films roughly imply the racism using Native Americans as a scapegoat instead of African Americans. "Perhaps because race has been so successfully Gothicized within recent history, filmmakers and screenplay writers tend not to want to make a monster who is defined by a deviant racial identity" (Halberstam 126). Due to peoples' ignorance of monstrous races depicted in the movies the tensions are vague nowadays. Twilight is the perfect example of these subtle tensions over time.

The use of monsters in order to portray a certain race as monstrous is a common and widespread factor of continuing various stereotypes. These stereotypes allow white superiority to remain in control. Films can be some of the best sources for that achievement. The Twilight Saga films reinforce the negativity towards Native Americans and all other minority groups and the blindness of the whites' own race. The indigenous people are perceived s uncivilized and irrational savages while the white people are perceived as righteous and civilized. Blacula and Candyman focused on the African American culture and the push to represent them as a monstrous race. The white Americans portrayed them as incredibly violent and hyper sexualized, superstitious monsters that kill for revenge or pure entertainment. The film industry has utilized this technique for many years and in many films. While the group of people being characterized as monstrous may change, the act of depicting someone this way will always be used.

Work Cited

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. "Monsters Culture (Seven Theses)." Monster Theory. Minneapolis, MN:

U of Minnesota Press, 1996. 3-25. Print.

Gillam, Kenneth. Monsters. Ed. Brandy B. Blake and Andrew Cooper. 1st ed. Southlake, TX:

Fountainhead, 2012. Print.

Halberstam , Judith. Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters. Durham, NC:

Duke University Press, 1995. Print.

Melikab. ""Blacula": A Commentary on Vampirism, Slavery and Black Male Identity."

Kinkedwords. N.p., 27 Oct. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012.

Wilson, Natalie. "Civilized Vampires Versus Savage Werewolves: Race and Ethnicity in the

Twilight Series." Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, & the Vampire Franchise.

Ed. Melissa A. Click, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey, and Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz. New

York: Peter Lang, 2010. 55-70. Print.

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