Intersectionality in Horror Movies

Erasing Rochelle – Importance of Black Female Representation in The Craft

I remember the first time I saw The Craft. It was a Saturday and I was either nine or ten, flipping through channels looking for something good and scary to watch. I paused when I realized the movie was about witches, but I stayed when I realized that one of the witches was a black girl. Up until then, I was used to black female characters in horror, suspense, and thrillers being the best friend with barely any lines if they were present at all. And though Rochelle, played by the amazing Rachel True, could still fit into that trope being that she is the sole black character in The Craft and has the smallest screen time out of the four main characters, her presence was invaluable.

 

Rochelle the only Black Character in The Craft
Rachel True as Rochelle

What Part of ‘We Need a FOURTH’ Don’t You Understand?

Over the weekend, I came across some Tweets by Rachel True where she talked about not being booked for conventions that are inviting her Craft co-stars. She ended one of the Tweets saying, “Sounds about white,” and it did. I was outraged to see that Rachel, and thus Rochelle, was excluded from celebrating the significance of The Craft. Outraged but not surprised. All facets of nerd-dom have always been racists and sexist. Horror is no different. Part of the reason I started this blog was that everything in horror, from the movies right down to the reviews of the movies, have been predominantly white and male. Not only that, but no one ever talked about why. What was most distressing for me about the exclusion of Rachel from these panels was that it was erasing a character who was one of the few examples of representation in 90s horror movies.

Rochelle is one of the few black female characters in a predominantly white film to have her own arc and storyline relatively independent of her white counterparts. It’s an important character and one not to be glossed over. Seeing this black girl with real issues take control of her situation was empowering. We watched Rochelle take her own power and take her own revenge. It is one of the many reasons why The Craft was ahead of its time.

 

Sounds About White

I mentioned before in this post and in other articles about the lack of black women in horror movies.  Very rarely does a black female character get her own monster to defeat or even survive until the last act. Just as we are often erased from social and political conversations in the real world, we are erased from the conversation in horror.

ALL four girls chanting
All FOUR girls chanting

A few years ago, there was an article where some Hollywood exec said that black women don’t watch horror movies. Obviously, that statement is bullshit. All over the world, black women watch and love horror movies. When we are allowed to, we write horror comics, we direct horror movies, and we star in horror movies. But the opportunities are never that abundant and the distribution of our films are worse. So often, we are not allowed the complexity and nuance of our white counterparts. We’re reduced to stereotypical assumptions about what we want and desire. What that Hollywood exec said about women who watch horror echoed a commonly held belief about black women in horror: that we don’t exist.

But Rochelle did exist. She was a character with her own voice, her own desires, and her own enemies. Rochelle gave black girls and women something that we so rarely saw in horror: ourselves. Even the context of Rochelle’s character was familiar. Being the only black girl and having a racist bully, was something a lot of us could identify with. By excluding Rachel True from the celebration of the film, these conventions are saying that her character didn’t matter. That we—black women—don’t matter

 

Include Rachel

Rachel True has never gotten the recognition she deserves. When I think about the longevity of her career or the classic movies and TV shows that she’s been in, it boggles the mind to think that anyone would have the audacity to not include her in any convention. But we know why she isn’t included. And it has nothing to do with her career or how much it would cost to book her. Instead, it has everything to do with how black women are seen in this country, Hollywood, and in Horror.

Then and Now of Rachel True

Someone on Twitter pointed out the irony of this situation. By excluding Rachel, they are essentially doing to her what that racist white girl did to Rochelle in The Craft. It’s painful to see how we are devalued even when our significance is as big as Rachel True’s. Even worse is the knowledge that there’s very little being done by people in power to fix it. The hashtag #IncludeRachel gained some traction after her Tweets, but we shouldn’t have had to do this in the first place. This is why what Jordan Peele is doing with horror is so significant. It’s also why Shudder’s airing of Horror Noire in February is cause for celebration.

We need more of that kind of inclusion, but it only comes when people recognize our influence and significance in this genre. Including Rachel would have been an excellent way to do that, but once again, we have been failed. It only goes to show that much like the real world, in horror, we only got ourselves.

Like Black Girl’s Guide to Horror?

Have a movie you want me to review? Leave the title and where to watch it in the comments. If you like what you read here, check out my other articles and leave a tip using the Ko-fi button on the sidebar.

Hit the like button!

-Jessica

5 comments on “Erasing Rochelle – Importance of Black Female Representation in The Craft

  1. You know when I was in 3rd grade I was OBSESSED with The Craft. It had just come out to rent and when I showed it to my best friend, who was black(I’m white), she was instantly obsessed with its as well and it became our movie that we rented every single weekend. Never thought about it at the time but I can only imagine having that representation had to have meant something to her, especially as little girls, you see older cool girls in movies and want to identify as or with them. And we watched so many scary movies together but none of them hit us like The Craft did.

    And Rachel just seems super cool in real life too. Her Instagram leads me to believe that, much like Faruiza, she lives a somewhat witchy life in reality as well.

    • I was obsessed with The Craft too. I have to say it was one of the movies that shaped me and my love for anything witchy or supernatural. It was also one of the few movies that, as you said, white and black girls could see themselves in together.
      And yes! Rachel seems so cool. Definitely gives me cool witch vibes. It’s a shame what these conventions are doing to her.

  2. It’s shameful that she’s being left out of the conversation this way. I hope that her co-stars are speaking out against this as well, but if not, that’s pretty messed up of them.
    I’ve known you love The Craft for a while, but are there any other portrayals of witches that have really stood out to you? I’d love to see your top picks for on-screen witches someday!

    • OMG thats a great idea Cassandra! I should do a top ten witch list. And yes, it’s completely messed up and I really don’t understand why they are going out of their way to exclude her. It’s not like people are going to look at the other three women and not wonder where Rachel is. And yes, I do hope her co-stars arensupporting her.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: