When Our Bodies Are Not Our Homes: Annihilation & The Haunting of Hill House

A few years ago, a group of scientists published a study on screaming: the effects it has on those who hear it, and the type of screams that sound most fearful. “Scream science,” they called it. “A new kind of science.” The scientists had subjects listen to various screams and then judge them based on how afraid the screamer sounded. The rougher the scream, they found, the quicker that scream went straight to the listener’s amygdala, the brain’s fear center, and triggered fear responses––a boost in adrenaline and endorphins, sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, tense muscles. A primal and ancient reaction. In this way, a scream serves as both a release and a warning: I’m afraid and you should be too.

Which is to say: this past year has felt like one long scream.

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Gender Bashing: ANNIHILATION and The Higher Bar of Representation

NOTE: In the official Equality For Her summary of The Kent Test, Kent refers to “…women of color, be they Black, Brown, Asian, or Native.” As such, for the purposes of this piece, I am counting both Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez as women of color.

Outside of films made by POC filmmakers (I see you, Ganja and Hess), you’d be hard-pressed to find a horror movie that does right by its characters of color onscreen. Most of the time, the black character dies first. If they don’t die first, and if they’re not LL Cool J, then they often get the “honorable” role of sacrificing themselves so that the lighter-skinned protagonist can survive. Alien 3 was released in 1992 and I’m still incensed that Charles S. Dutton’s Dillon went out like he did. Black and Asian women are often reduced to the role of the sassy friend with little to no bearing on the plot. With all of this in mind, it seems silly to use a metric like the Bechdel Test to measure representation for women onscreen. The test only requires that the film (1) has at least two women in it, who (2) talk to each other about (3) something besides a man. It can be a good conversation starter, sure enough, but Hellraiser passes the test without having a single woman of color show up. The Bechdel-friendly thriller The Descent does a bit better with Natalie Mendoza’s Juno among its female cast that rolls six deep. I adore both films, they’re fantastic stories that still creep me out to this day. However, it’s clear that amid #OscarsSoWhite call-outs and phenomenal community and commercial support in the wake of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, conversations about representation need to take into account ethnic tropes and stereotypes. These discussions can go a long way in ensuring that, especially in the horror movies we love, women of color are more than a mild (and/or culturally cringey) presence onscreen.

Read More – Gender Bashing: ANNIHILATION and The Higher Bar of Representation – DreadCentral

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