Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Race, Horror, and Science Fiction

Get Out (2017)

Interview Excerpt: Late Night with Seth Myers (2017)

Seth Meyers: …But have you had people come up to you and talk to you about your character and actually try to justify…

Allison Williams: Yes, first of all they stay about this far away…just cause, you know…you never know. I mean now I get that kind of reaction…and as Marnie they did too, because they were worried I was going to judge them or yell at them or both. But I’m kind of used to that.

(background) Seth Meyers: Okay. *mmhmm* You never know right…*chuckling*

Allison Williams: But yeah they’d say, she was hypnotized right? And I’m like, No! She’s just evil! How hard is that to accept? She’s bad. We gave you so many ways to know that she’s bad. She has photos of people whose lives that she ended behind her…the minute she can, she hangs them back up on the wall behind her. That’s so crazy! And they’re still like, but maybe she’s also a victim? I’m like no! No! And it’s…I will say that it is 100% percent White people that say that to me.

Seth Meyers: Yeah, I was gonna guess, I was gonna guess…

**audience laughter**

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

A few weeks ago, I discussed my love for the science fiction genre and the many types of storytelling one can employ to discuss various themes from a Black female perspective. In particular, these stories delve into various types of social anxieties that are always blatantly or on the periphery of many Black and White spaces. Oftentimes the lines get blurred between science fiction and horror — and for very good reason — the threat for Black people can be quadrupled via human monsters, the supernatural and/or an alien creature from another world. A lot of my favorite sci-fi horror films have always pinged around in my thoughts because they examine the fear, the erasure, and the expendability of ‘the other’. Let me explain what I mean. The films: Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing all explore the impending threat of the alien, the lingering doom of an alien’s assimilation to Whiteness, and the alien’s reluctance to inhabit a non-White body. I understand that the majority of these films are viewed through a White lens, with a predominantly White cast, and with a focus on white terror. However, when one views these benchmark films, its important to understand how they frame the films that came after them and what they say the threats are to White lives and White safety.

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The Skeleton Key (2005)

The aliens in all movie iterations of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the original Thing from Another World and its subsequent remakes all cloak themselves in Whiteness to blend in to assume power, to assume ‘normalcy’, and to garner un-detection. If, these aliens encounter non-White bodies they will simply dispose, destroy, or outright ignore them because to assume a non-White identity is a risk, dangerous, and makes one a target; its safest to lead a life of anonymity. When thinking of these aliens that presume the form of Whiteness, its important to highlight the what, why, and how of the body that’s being used as a vehicle, with a drive that seems to have a single destination of White global power domination. The fear this elicits for the White audience is that once they have been taken over by the alien, they now will become ‘the other’, the unknown, and the menace. Films that subvert or play with the conventions of this genre of body swapping and assimilation are the films Get Out and The Skeleton Key.

The Thing (1982)

The first film examines White minds in Black bodies and the threat for Black people of being mentally/psychologically hijacked and their bodies being used as vehicles to live healthier, longer, and stronger lives. The never ending void that is the sunken place is a manifestation of a Black person’s greatest fears made tangible. Conversely, the Skeleton Key flips this narrative with Black people assuming the identities/bodies of White people to escape the horrors of slavery. The film, The Skeleton Key has one of the best twists of all time for this reason. We are given multiple red herrings that elude to a danger or a threat that is merely superficial; the film subverts all those expectations by showing the deaths of White children in black bodies, by the all too common practice of lynching — a true terror that in a single scene magnifies that terror from a Black and White point of view.

I’m an advocate of digging deep into the media that we consume, especially those that are subtly or blatantly trying to convey a deeper message. What’s always fun about watching films is peeling back the layers and experiencing the film from an entirely different perspective. Horror and science fiction seem to be the two genres that intertwine the most, because they often dwell in that foggy place of real and surreal; moreover, there are more images and storytelling devices that you can get away with because the mind is allowed to roam to the darkest corners of our subconscious.

Editor: We Are Horror Magazine. Writer: An Injustice, Fanfare, Gayly Dreadful, Haw Creek Horror, Rely on Horror, Something Ghoulish, and SUPERJUMP.

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