To continue our spotlight on the writers who have contributed to WHITE ZOMBIE, here are some words by John L. Thompson.
When I first heard about the anthology, “White Zombie’, I had to do a double take. Instantly the ideas came to mind on what to write. For once here was something different in regards to the African-American winning in the face of overwhelming odds. I grew up in an age where the African-American actor was often relegated on the Silver Screen to secondary or minor roles and eventually died in these films (I’m think of James Brown in the Dirty Dozen) and usually in some gruesome fashion. This does not happen all the time mind you, and happens quite a bit with other ethnic groups of people as well. The fact that the ‘black guy is going to die’ is getting to be pretty redundant and just plain stupid sometimes. Check out these video clips from Mr. Fuck Hollywood that are posted on Youtube as a little bit of proof:
And a personal favorite,
I still don’t understand this Hollywood line of thinking. Is there a tinge of racism within the making of these films? Are the residual feelings of hate and hard feelings from the Civil Rights movements still being subtly fed to the masses via these films? I’ll leave that thought for others to think and debate about. The Internet is packed with blogs and thoughts on the subject.
For the most part, as evidenced from the Youtube clips above, most of your known African-American actors or lesser known ’token’ actors usually die first. This is especially true within the film and written horror story genres. Most of what is being written today is perhaps authors writing along the same lines without thought on why they are killing off their lesser ethnic characters. I believe this stems from years of conditioning and exposure from these Hollywood films. Everyone in the audience sees it coming and they know that the black man is going to die the minute his character is introduced. I say it’s ridiculous to say the least and totally flawed and unrealistic but its just an example of typical Hollywood formulas developed to kill off the African-American or other ethnic people first. But, to be fair, not all stories or films have the African American dying so needlessly or pointlessly. These are just some stories or films that have a prominent point that requires the African-American to die and are essential to the plotline. In some films and stories, even if the main character were white, it would be essential for him or her to die.
I wrote a story titled ’Armored Saint’, which is posted on the Internet site ’Tales of the Zombie War’ where an African American is just trying to survive the zombie apocalypse from day to day. Basically he is afraid to face anything that life throws at him. He dies at the end to save a band of strangers from being killed. Was the death necessary? I believe so. It added a poignant reminder of how short life can be and also added that one person can make a difference to a horrible situation by sacrificing their own lives to save others in need. Could the character have survived the outcome? I thought on that for some time before writing the ending. The story would not have come out with the same conclusion and skin color had nothing to do with the decision. Even if the character had been white, I still would’ve killed the character off.
Denzel Washington, in his film ’The Book of Eli’, is a good example of a common African-American man caught up in circumstances that end in his death but for greater purpose. As he is mortally wounded near the end, he gives humanity back its greatest literary piece, the Holy Bible, verse by verse by reciting it from his deathbed. Would the story have been different if he were allowed to survive? I believe not. His death was just as poignant as his ability to recite the entire Bible from memory.
Regardless, there are the majority of Hollywood films or author’s stories that kill off the African-American characters in a totally unneeded fashion. Characters that could have well have had a larger impact to the story line if the writers had put some thought into it. This is perhaps some of my thoughts on why I submitted the story ‘Penance’ to this anthology. In this anthology, the black guy actually wins and the white guys die first for a change. Hopefully, with this anthology, this is the beginning of change from some of the current lines of thoughts on ‘killing off the black man first’ mentality.
John L. Thompson currently lives in New Mexico. When he is not working the daily grind or hiking the vast terrains looking for remnants of the old west, he is found writing short stories, poetry and novel scripts. His work can be found in publications such as Battlespace, Tales of the Zombie War, Adobe Walls Poetry, Science Fiction Trails and Rune Wright’s Best Served Cold Anthology to name a few.