I was excited about The Angry Black Girl And Her Monster when I saw it was playing at SXSW. As a former Black girl and someone aspiring to become an older Black woman, I am very interested in media where we get to be angry. Many of us are usually denied our rage and/or learn to bottle it to avoid people using it to further perpetuate “The Angry Black” woman stereotype reserved for any of us who dare to speak up for ourselves. It’s the year 2023, and white journalists are still using the highly contested “sassy” to describe any Black feminine character that doesn’t just go along with the flow.
The movie follows Vicaria (played by Laya DeLeon Hayes), who lives in a rough neighborhood. Like most Black girls, Vicaria is already battling systemic racism via the systems that should protect her. However, also like most Black girls, she’s persevering. She’s tired of being surrounded by needlessly violent deaths and has come up with the theory that death is a disease. Because she’s an aspiring woman in STEM, she decides to cure the disease by reanimating her recently murdered brother. As with most movies following in the footsteps of Mary Shelley’s most beloved novel, things do not go according to plan.
Because Of The Times
This one is a hard one to review. Mostly because the internet is overflowing with trolls who see any movie with Black leads as “woke” and will spew their quiet thoughts out loud. Because of that, I have the knee-jerk reaction to want to protect the movie and gloss over my concerns. We were also able to hear the writer-director Bomani J. Story talk about the movie at SXSW. This helped underscore the film’s empathy and allowed us to see that there were truly good intentions here. I also think Laya DeLeon Hayes is an aspiring queen, and I am ready to see what’s next for her.
However, I’m so tired of having to sit through movies where parents are addicts, Black teens are in gangs, and so many other tropes I’ve had to grow up with. It’s not this film’s fault this is the millionth movie I’ve seen writers reach into this bag. I also genuinely believe that Bomani J. Story is trying to tell a narrative close to his heart, which is why it didn’t make me as upset as I usually get. This isn’t a case of someone outside the culture plugging these strings. Story based some of the characters on his sisters and has a solid foundation for the narrative trying to be told here.
I think the more interesting conversation that could and should be had, is how can we make space for Black writers to tell these stories. How do we find ways of getting these messages across that don’t involve these almost constant stock characters for Black actors? That’s the dialogue this movie deserves. It would benefit all of us aspiring Black filmmakers than people marking it as “woke.” This would then lead the conversation to how problematic some people on social media are. They didn’t make a movie, and we must stop giving them airtime. We need to focus on the people actually getting produced and find ways to constructively critique their work. It’s the only way to start moving forward.
This is especially hard to do because very few Black horror critics are being paid to review anything. I’m looking at the few Rotten Tomato reviews for this movie and am about 80-85% sure no one on the list identifies as Black. We need more Black folks to come in with the real talk while asking important questions about this type of media. If we want to change the film landscape, we have to change the face of film criticism. We need people who look like the filmmakers and have an understanding of where they’re coming from to get into the messy conversations. Because, again, there is a way to tell this story that will make it so much more effective, but odds are, we’re not going to find the answer without more people with skin in the game.
What’s Working For Me
I love to see Black girl leads who are smart, capable, and have a sense of self-worth. Vicaria and her teacher, a professional Karen, get into it at one point. I was transported to every time I spoke up in a classroom that didn’t want to hear what I had to say. As Black kids, we are often punished for being passionate about topics that excite us. We are also usually denied support for our ideas even when we might be onto something big. This was a relatable moment that didn’t make me feel tired. This was a moment that I haven’t seen a billion times because we very rarely get media that depicts the less overt brands of racism.
I even love how her father, Donald (played by Chad L. Coleman), stood up for her when he was called into a bs meeting about her behavior. This was also my favorite moment for her dad because it was one of the few times we saw him being a good parent. We get a few laughs with him at dinner scenes, but for most of the movie, we’re talking about his addiction.
So, yeah. I was excited about this movie. I’m also excited to see what Story does next because the directorial aesthetic made me lean in. However, I wish more Black critics were working at horror outlets because we need that dialogue so badly. I want this script unpacked with the nuance it deserves. Otherwise, how will we figure out how to tell these stories without invoking some trauma and causing the audience rooting for it to roll their eyes?