Thanks to its huge popularity, a UCLA course on Black horror has become a 7-class course available online. Launched in Fall 2017, novelist and screenwriter Tananarive Due along with sci-fi writer Steve Barnes created a course, “Sunken Place: Racism, Survival and Black Horror Aesthetic” centered on Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and allowed viewers from around the world to take part.
The initial webinar, called “On The Sunken Place and the Black Horror Aesthetic” was hosted on Saturday, Jan. 13 and discussed how Black horror has transformed over the years. From the menacing Black man portrayed in 1915 drama, “The Birth of a Nation” to “Get Out” character Chris taking vengeance against his white girlfriend’s family for coveting Black bodies, the webinar breaks down how Black people have taken ownership of their portrayal in the genre.
The hope for the class is to give filmmakers and writers the foundation for what Black horror is, why it works and where the journey is headed.
“Give perspective from the inside out, from the outside in,” said Barnes to all the creatives who participated. “If you want to create it yourself, we’ve got you covered.”
Additionally, the course outlined the themes in the critically-acclaimed racial satirical thriller, including liberal racism and microaggressions. It also included a portion of Peele’s surprise visit to Due’s UCLA class last year.
“I went back to this idea of … you know when you’re about to fall asleep and it feels like you’re falling?” Peele said of the inspiration for the sunken place where Chris’ conscious body control has been separated through hypnosis. “What if you didn’t catch yourself? What if you didn’t wake up? Where would you go?”
The film captured the attention of audiences worldwide for Peele’s self-described interpretation of the prison industrial complex and has broken ground for such filmmakers as “Girls Trip” writer Tracy Oliver. She told Rookie magazine about the challenges she’s faced getting her horror film based on Danielle Vega’s novel “Survive the Night” off the ground.
“I’d already said prior to ‘Get Out’ coming out, when people would ask what I’d want to do next — this sounds random because people don’t think of Black women and horror — but I was like, ‘I want to do a horror movie, and not only do I want to do a horror movie, but I want it to be with Black women,” she said via Elle UK. “So people were like, ‘That’s an interesting combination.’ One of the execs who passed on it, his issue with it was: ‘Do Black women watch horror movies?’…He was just like, ‘I don’t think that happens.'”
There are sure to be lots more filmmakers like Oliver who will take that leap to continue making progress in the genre, which is all Barnes can hope for.
“We love this stuff, we love talking about this stuff,” he said. “We’re sharing something so important to us in our lives.”