Why racism, sexism and a lack of diversity is present in the horror genre

When thinking of horror movies or films, racism and bigotry is not our first thought. Well, usually not our first. Surprisingly, the tropes or stereotypes present in many horror movies are racist. More often than not, horror movies contain female characters that are sexualized and morbid jokes where Black characters die predominantly more than other characters. However, this racist stereotype affects any ethnic minority. And this isn’t from nitpicking “that one movie” but several like the Halloween trilogy and The Shining (1980),

There’s no denying that ethnic minorities have had it tough on the big screen. Specifically, African Americans in American films fall into harmful tropes like the “Magical negro”, a trope that was used and popularized by Shelton Jackson. What this trope is about is a little on the nose. In this trope, the Black character is just there to help the main cast on their journey; magic/supernatural powers are usually thrown in. In an attempt not to play into cliches, they land into the territory of zero characters where there’s not much substance or personality to them and they are simply there to fill one category: diversity. Which actually in itself is racist.

This isn’t claiming that movies that use the minority character dies first trope are racist, but they seem that way to the audience. For example, the casting director could have wanted more diversity, but they also wanted to ensure minority characters didn’t make up too much of the film. Therefore, they get killed off. For other offensive tropes, again, they could have just wanted diversity. It was just done wrong and was repeated until it became a staple that other directors would use. Or the directors are just racist. That’s also a possibility.

To end it on a positive note, some films managed to have diversity without pulling any of the tropes like Night of the Living Dead with Duane Jones. This movie was without any harmful tropes, including being crazy, magical, or just there to save the protagonist only to die once completed. In addition, recent horror films that checked all the boxes were  2020 Black Box and Get Out.