The ‘Scream’ TV series is coming back, and this time, it’s Black
This new direction for Scream could be perfect for highlighting racial prejudices persistent in the slasher genre.
by Andrew Keahey
There are a lot of slasher movies to choose from. After the release of Halloween in 1987, horror was never really the same. The masked murderer picking off unwitting teenagers and twenty-somethings ended up becoming a cultural staple. People that don’t even watch horror movies know what names to say when they see a hockey mask or when they hear an iconic piano tune. It’s been a classic formula for decades, and for good reason: Because it works.
People like being scared, and while giant monsters, aliens, and ghosts are scary, they’ll never be as scary as a slasher, because slashers are real. It’s just a man, walking toward you very calmly, with intent to do you harm.
When something has such a huge following and impact on pop culture, it’s only a matter of time before the genre has to look inward and examine itself. That is what the Scream (1996-2011) franchise does. The four film series essentially seeks to subvert the numerous recognizable tropes of the slasher film genre, and it succeeds with flying colors. In the process, it has also become a shining gem in the genre.
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In 2015, MTV released Scream: The TV Series, which has run for two seasons so far. It’s only one of a few attempts to bring the slasher genre to the small screen. While entertaining, it doesn’t quite measure up to the film series. It’s not able to successfully draw from all of the same tropes that the films do, but it is sometimes able to modify them enough to make it work for a modern audience.
As per most slasher narratives, the series doesn’t feature many actors of color. They are peppered in here and there, but not in any kind of role of significance. I find this to be especially unfortunate because the show is able to achieve an amount of character building that is usually unaddressed in slasher films. It would be nice to see more Black people in slasher narratives acting as more than just a diversity hire, and as more than fodder for merciless killers, getting in the way just long enough for the white characters to figure out a solution and save the day. You know, the usual.
After Scream’s second season, the show went on hiatus. There was speculation about whether or not the show would be returning, and suggestions that it might even get picked up by a streaming service. Then, almost out of nowhere, we learned it was coming back and that it would not return as the same Scream we saw before.
This year, Scream returns with R&B and Rap super-legend and history-making Oscar nominee Mary J. Blige. Scream is Black now, people. Set in Atlanta, the new season is like looking to be a melanated affair, with RJ Cyler of Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl fame playing the lead role, and Blige playing his mother.
But it doesn’t stop there. The show will also feature rapper Tyga as well as CJ Wallace, the son of singer Faith Evans and the late rapper Christopher Wallace, AKA Notorious BIG. I’m still not done though, because the whole thing is being executive produced by Flavor Unit Entertainment, Queen Latifah’s production company.
The body of work, and years of Black excellence represented here is inspiring. Whatever the show was before is absolutely done, and a brand new vision is going to take center stage here. This ship is being helmed by Black royalty now, and hopefully they will go the way of thoughtful Black horror.
This marks the second notable horror project that Blige has signed onto recently, with Body Cam slated to begin filming in New Orleans very soon. In this upcoming film, she will play a police officer plagued by visions after an unarmed Black man who is killed by police and the body camera footage is destroyed.
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My hope is that both projects will subvert racial horror tropes. There have been plenty of pieces of media and bits of stand up comedy sets about how Black people always die in scary movies, but pointing that out and applying nuance to that observation is rare. This new direction for Scream could be perfect for highlighting those prejudices persistent in the slasher genre.
There is no official premiere date as of yet, so keep an eye out for announcements about the new season. With this much Black excellence behind it, it will at the very least be interesting, and potentially open the door for more and more Black horror.
Andrew Keahey is a horror enthusiast and writer currently based in Austin, Texas. He’s been watching horror movies since he was far too young, and primarily writes essays, short fiction, and poetry