Carol Clover’s groundbreaking book, Men, Women, And Chainsaws: Gender In The Modern Horror Film marks the widely known introduction to the term, “Final Girl” which thoroughly examines a formula that positions women in major slasher film roles as strong, capable characters that in the end, defeat the antagonist and survive. The film period that Clover covers to use the most substantial examples is witness to a noticeable absence of black female characters that don’t quite fit the Final Girl description.
However, the black Final Girl was an established heroine in horror cinema before Clover’s work was published. The “Enduring Woman,” a type of Final Girl found in Blaxploitation horror films of the 1970’s is a term coined by Dr. Robin Means Coleman in her book, Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present. The Enduring Woman shares many of the Final Girl’s traits, but the role is more textured by horror narrative standards, portraying Black women as feminine, sensual, tough and triumphant in the face of a monster that not only benefited them to defeat, but their communities as well.
There is room to examine the Black Final Girls existence using both Clover and Coleman’s work as a framework in a more contemporary context. From Jeryline (Jada Pinkett-Smith) in Tales from The Crypt: Demon Knight (1995) to Melanie (Sennia Nanua) in The Girl With All The Gifts (2016) and those in between and beyond, I will focus on the varying depictions of Black women and girl survivors in horror films; their place in scholarship, the stakes of their representation as survivors, and how they will shape the future of the horror genre.
Presented by Ashlee Blackwell