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SLFS Staff: A Closer Look at Diversity Tropes in The Horror Genre

As Allhallows Eve fast approaches, SLFS and it’s staff are proud to embrace the festivities of spooky season, through horror classics we screen every weekend for Tower of Terror, and of course our upcoming Rocky Horror Picture Show. In our blog this week, we hear from Patrick Charles, Theater Manager at Broadway Centre Cinemas and mastermind behind numerous giveaways and decorations for Summer Showdown and Tower of Terror, as he takes a closer look at the diversity tropes associated with horror films.


As the world has slowly become more conscientious of antidiscrimination and diverse representation in the 21st century, the diversity of characters in film has become a welcome priority. However, in the horror genre, because of its intense and often socially taboo content, there are some discriminatory tropes and stereotypes of minority characters that continue to be unfairly associated with the genre.

A still of Regina Hall and Ghost Face in the horror movie spoof, Scary Movie
The Scary Movie franchise, known for spoofing horror films and their tropes, has likely reinforced the perception of these tropes and their frequency

Two of the most common of these tropes include the role of BIPOC characters, and the role of women, and their treatment and depiction in horror films. For BIPOC characters, the trope is that their presence in a horror film is usually tokenistic, and they will likely be an early victim of the killer, if not the first victim. In the case of female characters, the assumption is that horror films are misogynistic, because women are often represented through sexual and violent objectification of their bodies. However, we rarely take the time to consider how common or accurate these tropes and assumptions really are.

In the genre of horror, the role and depiction of BIPOC and women characters has been more favorable than one is led to believe. This brief blog post will take a look at some of the misconceptions regarding these tropes, the reality of their representation in the current and past worlds of horror, and how many horror films have been ahead of the times in regards to representation and respect of diversity. 

The BIPOC Character Dies First

“Brothers don’t last long in situations like this”

Joel (Duane Martin), Scream 2

Variations of this saying have permeated popular culture surrounding horror films for years. The black character dies first, we hear it time and time again, more recently echoed in horror spoofs such as Scary Movie (2000) and its subsequent sequels. This trope that has permeated both the horror world and transferred over to popular culture has become a long running joke; if a person of color is in any type of horror film, they will likely be killed off first. The perception is that horror films use these characters to further their diversity quotas and body counts. 

Now while this trope has existed in some horror movies, the reality is that in many of the genre’s most well-known and acclaimed films, BIPOC characters have not only survived, but thrived. We see important BIPOC characters in numerous George Romero movies, whose films and presence are iconic for the genre. Dawn of the Dead (1978), arguably the most popular of Romero’s original “Dead Trilogy”, brought the world Ken Foree playing the character of Peter.

a still of Ken Foree in the horror film Dawn of the Dead
Ken Foree, who plays Peter in Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Foree gives an amazing performance and plays a character who triumphs in the world of horror. Peter makes smart choices, is level headed when others are not, and is one of the few characters who survives the whole film (a rarity for any horror film character). Duane Jones, who portrays Ben in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) is another smart and capable character who survives almost until the very end, and Tony Todd, who played Ben in Tom Savini’s 1990 remake, furthered the depth of the iconic character even more.

John Carpenter is another director who has cast BIPOC characters in his iconic films, characters who last much longer than the common tropes would have us believe. Keith David stars in Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), playing the character of Childs, and while David is not the main star, Childs is a nuanced and well-developed character, untrusting of every other character, yet ambiguously surviving to the very end. 

BIPOC characters are obviously not stand-out characters in every horror film, but importantly, the trope of their early death is a bit of a misconception. In fact, one can argue that the most iconic films and directors in the cinematic world of horror have been at the forefront of BIPOC representation. Their casting and storylines for BIPOC characters, especially in a mid-to-late 20th century which had yet to prioritize respectful representation, were impressively ahead of the curve.

Objectification of Women Through Sex and Violence

Another consistent character trope that horror film is often associated with is the sexual and violent objectification of women. Unfortunately, aspects of this stereotype are still prevalent in the genre, whether it’s the ridiculous, skimpy outfits or nude scenes that frequent most of the Friday the 13th films, or the excessively gory and brutal killing of female characters in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. 

However, there is another trope, one that is arguably even more prevalent in the genre, that challenges this objectification. “Final Girls” are typically the sole female character that survives the entire movie before eventually besting or killing the main antagonist, and horror films from the ‘80’s are filled with them, including some genre juggernauts like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, Friday the 13th, and so on. The “Final Girl” has been a staple of horror films for decades, and through the emphasis of female empowerment and the conquering of often-male killers, offers an important contrast against the misogynistic label often placed on horror films.

a still of Jamie Lee Curtis from the horror film Halloween
Jamie Lee Curtis, the original “Final Girl”, in Halloween (1978)

Jamie Lee Curtis, as the character of Laurie Strode in Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), is the original “Final Girl”. Laurie is a shy and reserved babysitter who ultimately puts up a valiant fight against Michael Myers, protecting the children she is watching, and Curtis went on to reprise the character several more times, most recently as 2018. While Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Clark’s Black Christmas (1974) were popular preludes to the slasher era, Halloween is considered by many to be the first true slasher film, ushering in a golden era of slasher movies and “Final Girls” in the 1980’s. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is another example of an iconic film with an iconic “Final Girl”. Heather Langenkamp plays the role of Nancy Thompson, who faces off against the nightmare-stalking maniac Freddy Kruger. Nancy does her research, makes a plan, and takes Freddy down, and although her survival is left rather ambiguous, she does return in Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3 (1987). While Nightmare came a little later in the ‘80’s than the vast majority of iconic slashers, it still embraced the power of the female protagonist that Halloween had laid the groundwork for.

From Sigourney Weaver in Ridley Scott’s Alien to Mia Goth in Ti West’s X, “Finals Girls” have been an inherent presence in any film over the last five decades that incorporates horror elements. While there are unfortunately plenty of examples of misogynistic attitudes toward women in some horror movies, “Final Girls” have continuously offered an important juxtaposition to those examples.

The “Final Girl” is a role that fights against forms of evil or otherworldly threats, a role that is seen as a protector, as well as a betterment to the world of horror movies. Ultimately, it is a role which has established an important trope that counteracts and may eventually prevail against the more misogynistic trends of the genre.

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SLFS is spooky on Letterboxd! Find curated lists of horror films from SLFS Staff, including the films mentioned in this post, here.

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Rocky Horror Picture Show

Let’s Do The Time Warp Again… Rocky Is Back

Rocky Horror Picture Show returns to SLFS! We are bringing our live performance event to the Broadway Centre Cinemas with four unique opportunities to experience this cult classic. Starting 10/27, 10/28 and 10/31, we will be hosting different screenings so you can choose how you want to spend your evening celebrating this cult classic.

The Out Of The Shadows cast is back for all screenings with live performances that occur with the movie. There are different performances with two separate emcees and one with a shadow cast. We will also be providing a screening of the film that is the movie only if you’d rather.

Screenings with live performers will have the doors open and a live pre-show that starts 30 minutes prior to the movie. Prop bags are included in your ticket price and will be handed out at entry. No outside props will be accepted into the theater.   

Mature Audiences Only. 18+.

The following production includes language and themes that may be triggering to certain individuals. This event includes graphic language, sexual content as permitted within Utah law, blood, assault, and uses language that some viewers may find offensive and/or dehumanizing. In addition the event is loud, cast members will be wandering the auditorium, and props will be tossed in the air, and audience members may move, stand, yell, and behave generally raucous. SLFS encourages viewers to consider their own personal mental health before purchasing a ticket or attending any Salt Lake Film Society Rocky Horror Picture Show event.

Here is the Rocky Horror Picture Show parental guide via IMDB.

The event is a live show and the SLFS disclaimer will apply. As live-shows are unpredictable, we encourage all ticket buyers to know the disclaimer below.

UPDATE: We will have a waitlist going. You’ll need to come in at least 1 hr prior to showtime and we’ll sell tickets if seats are available.

FULL LIVE CAST + GUEST EMCEE SUSAN STEFFEE 
10/27 (SOLD OUT), 10/28 (SOLD OUT), 10/31 (SOLD OUT) at 10:30 pm ; $25/person includes prop bag
 
 
 
Due to the graphic nature of this show no one under 18 will be admitted 
 
Photo ID will be required at time of entry at security entrance.
 
Admission includes Prop Kit
 
No bags, outside props, or cosplay weapons permitted 
Not intended for all viewers, audience discretion advised.
Closed Caption devices available for live shows 
 
Join us for our most raucous, wild, and very unruly screening of the motion picture film Rocky Horror Picture Show, accompanied by a live shadow-cast. This show includes a full-cast (all key characters) provided by Latter Day Transvestites/Out of the Shadows Theater Company as well as local, infamous emcee Susan Steffee.  Susan has been emcee for Rocky Horror Picture Shows at the Tower Theater for over 40 years – and counting! 
 
She’s time warped so much, you will hear lines never-heard-in-other-states or at other shows. 
 
This irreverent show will include shadow-cast reenactments of scenes, costumes to feast the eyes upon, and Susan’s mad-libs throughout the entire show. 
 

Rocky Horror emcees traditionally talk over the entire film with a microphone, so if you have interest in hearing or seeing the film in it’s pure form, without an emcee, look for the film-only screening times. 

This show is adult in nature, includes language and themes that are not for all individuals, SLFS recommends individuals do their own research to determine if an event is appropriate for them. The SLFS Rocky Horror event disclaimer is below, please view before purchasing a ticket or attending this event. 

 
 
More about the Shadow Cast: 
The Latter Day Transvestites (LDT) have been feeding your Rocky addiction since 1995 (officially). From the Blue Mouse to the Tower Theatre, and possibly before, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been playing in the Salt Lake City area. The cast started officially in 1995 and dubbed “The Little Cast of Horrors”, LDT has been through personnel changes, personal disasters, and near prosecution by the local vice squad. In 1997 we changed the name to the Latter Day Transvestites to reflect our heritage and our personal fashion preferences.
 
Come join us as we take a step to the right into our version of reality.
 
The performance by the Latter Day Transvestites is brought to you by the Out of the Shadows Theater Group (OSTG). OSTG provides an alternative aspect to the performing arts and cinema. Catering to cult film followers and encouraging audience participation. OSTG is an ongoing presence in Salt Lake City through local media, live performances and community events. Our shadow casts are known for their improvisations and witty call backs while performing to well known and loved cult films.
LIVE CAST + GUEST EMCEE AMANDA DUSOE
10/27 (SOLD OUT), 10/28 (SOLD OUT), 10/31 (SOLD OUT) at 10:30 pm ; $25/person includes prop bag
 
 
Due to the graphic nature of this show no one under 18 will be admitted 
 
Photo ID will be required at time of entry at security entrance.
 
Admission includes prop-kit 
 
No bags, outside props, or cosplay weapons permitted 
Not intended for all viewers, audience discretion advised 
 Closed Caption devices available for live shows
Join us for a gender swapped, informal and raucous screening of the motion picture film Rocky Horror Picture Show, accompanied by a live shadow-cast. This show includes a full-cast (all key characters) playing roles of a differing gender than the on-screen characters, provided by Latter Day Transvestites/Out of the Shadows Theater Company as well as local, emcee Amanda Dusoe. 
 
This irreverent show will include shadow-cast reenactments of scenes, costumes to feast the eyes upon, and Amanda’s mad-libs throughout the entire show.
 
Rocky Horror emcees traditionally talk over the entire film with a microphone, so if you have interest in hearing or seeing the film in it’s pure form, without an emcee, look for the film-only screening times. The price of admission includes Prop Kits to interact with the movie and cast.  This show is adult in nature, includes language and themes that are not for all individuals, SLFS recommends individuals do their own research to determine if an event is appropriate for them. The SLFS Rocky Horror event disclaimer is below, please view before purchasing a ticket or attending this event. 
 
More about the Shadow Cast: 
The Latter Day Transvestites (LDT) have been feeding your Rocky addiction since 1995 (officially). From the Blue Mouse to the Tower Theatre, and possibly before, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been playing in the Salt Lake City area. The cast started officially in 1995 and dubbed “The Little Cast of Horrors”, LDT has been through personnel changes, personal disasters, and near prosecution by the local vice squad. In 1997 we changed the name to the Latter Day Transvestites to reflect our heritage and our personal fashion preferences. Come join us as we take a step to the right into our version of reality.
 
The performance by the Latter Day Transvestites is brought to you by the Out of the Shadows Theater Group (OSTG). OSTG provides an alternative aspect to the performing arts and cinema. Catering to cult film followers and encouraging audience participation. OSTG is an ongoing presence in Salt Lake City through local media, live performances and community events. Our shadow casts are known for their improvisations and witty call backs while performing to well known and loved cult films.
 
 
ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW 
10/27, 10/28, 10/31 at 10:30 pm ; $20/person + prop bag
 

ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE

No shadow cast or emcee

Due to the graphic nature of this show no one under 18 will be admitted Photo ID will be required at time of entry at security entrance. No bags, outside props, or cosplay weapons permitted. Not intended for all viewers, audience discretion advised.

 


All ticket proceeds benefit SLFS.   

DISCLAIMER: 

By purchasing a ticket for or participating in any Rocky Horror Picture Show event planned and controlled by Salt Lake Film Society, you agree to the following:

  1. Salt Lake Film Society Rocky Horror Picture Show events are provided with no warranty either express or implied. The Organizers, including but not limited to the Staff, Board,  Advisory, Volunteers, Cast, and Sponsors, of Salt Lake Film Society Rocky Horror Picture Show events assume no liability for any loss, theft, damage, trauma, triggering complaints or injury to property or persons, including death, whether arising in contract, negligence, equity, or otherwise.
  2. You assume all risks when participating in Salt Lake Film Society Rocky Horror Picture Show events. All participants must use care and good judgment and must obey all rules and regulations and code of conduct of Salt Lake Film Society. You will comply with all requests made by employees or volunteers or contracted staff of Salt Lake Film Society and its representatives. You must obey all laws of the State of Utah. Salt Lake Film Society reserves the right to eject any participant who does not comply with the terms of this section. Ejected participants will not be entitled to a refund or any further recourse.
  3. You will defend, indemnify and hold harmless Salt Lake Film Society and its organizers, directors, employees, consultants, agents, affiliates for any and all legal actions arising out of participation in Salt Lake Film Society Rocky Horror Picture Show events. You further agree to pay all legal fees incurred by Salt Lake Film Society that arise due to this agreement.
  4. You give Salt Lake Film Society authorization to use and post any photographs, videotapes, recordings or any other record of our events, before during or after the event for promotional use, at any area of our event venues, reporting to the media and to publish on our website or blog. You will not be entitled to any compensation for Salt Lake Film Society’s use of your name or image.
  5. Refunds for any reason will be at the discretion of Salt Lake Film Society.
  6. Salt Lake Film Society reserves the right to exclude anyone from becoming a Salt Lake Film Society participant should they choose not to accept this Agreement.