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    Nia DaCosta’s “Candyman” Isn’t Just “Black Trauma,” It’s Horror Triumph And Here’s Why

    “In the original version, so much of it was about the monstrosity of Black men and how they are something to be feared… Whereas here, in telling things from a Black point of view, we get where the monstrosity is what actually happens to the Black men.”

    On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed Nia DaCosta's Candyman. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview! (WARNING: This episode and post contain spoilers for the original and new Candyman.)

    Listen on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. You can also find BuzzFeed Daily wherever else you might listen to your favorite podcasts!

    So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to Kinitra Brooks, Associate Professor at Michigan State University, about how the new Candyman deals with Black trauma — and how it stacks up against the original. Here's some of what we learned:

    BuzzFeed Daily: To kick things off, as a self-proclaimed horror scholar, what did you actually think of the Candyman reboot?

    Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in Candyman
    Universal

    Kinitra Brooks: I really enjoyed it. It was not horribly scarring the way the first one was for me. I think also because I'm not like a young child, but I really, really enjoyed it. I thought it was smart. I thought the visual language of it was snappy. I love getting to know the cast as a director and I enjoy how how they handled Black trauma in dealing with the Black horror idea. They were very smart and intentional about it through their use of shadow puppetry and mirrors and reflections as a way to sort of take the punch out of some of the more violent or gory or traumatic parts of the film.

    BuzzFeed Daily: When the original Candyman came out in 1992, it was an entirely different world we were living in. And this reboot is told from a Black person's point of view. So how does that in and of itself tell a completely different side to the story? And how does it differ from the way Black characters in horror movies have been portrayed in the past?

    Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in Candyman looking up at a mirror and seeing someone else's reflection
    Universal

    KB: In the original version, so much of it was about the monstrosity of Black men and how they are something to be feared, how they are a threat to white womanhood, and how folks should run from them. Whereas here, in telling things from a Black point of view, we get where the monstrosity is what actually happens to the Black men through white mob violence. 

    We get different men who become a version of Candyman because they die through white mob violence. So now we get this more complex story being told about Black monstrosity. But why? In what terms? Because of whom? What starts this idea of what the monster is? And Robin Wood, who's a horror scholar, he says that horror can be defined as when normality is threatened by the monster and the monster is always the other. Right? And so we get this idea — that is it that Black men are monstrous? Or are they simply the other, outside of the normal, and therefore a threat?

    BuzzFeed Daily: How did [Nia DaCosta] manage to respect the power of Black trauma without trying to re-traumatize? How did she pull off such a delicate balance?

    Shadow puppet from Candyman
    Universal

    KB: You could tell that she was heavily influenced by Black women artists.

    So Kara Walker, who's an artist (she did the big large sugar woman) but her earlier work includes these shadow puppets that allows for and discusses enslavement of Africans, in a way that is — not safe — but in a way that it allows for a certain removal. Because they are these dark outlines of figures, and not the hyper reality of seeing an actual person undergo this.

    And so that's what DaCosta borrows, that sort of visual language. Even in the original Candyman and telling Daniel Robitaille's story...they go in and they show the white mob, taking him and dropping him in honey and all of these things. [DaCosta] uses shadow puppets, where you get the idea of what happened, but you don't have the gore, you don't have the visceral nature. And in this way, she's able to respect the trauma here.

    She's also influenced by, you can see, the visual language of Carrie Mae Weems, another Black woman artist who works a lot with mirrors and reflection. And in the film, you don't see Candyman always appearing before you, not until the very end. You see the reflection of Candyman. You see him in the mirror. Is gore happening? Is he murdering the victims? Yes, definitely. But there's still this safety in the removal of not having it happen right in front of your face.

    We also discussed Kumail Nanjiani's recent interview about how he was able to use his upcoming MCU debut, Eternals, to defy cultural stereotypes.

    Kumail Nanjiani posing with a statue of Iron Man
    Handout / Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

    He told the LA Times that after a decade in Hollywood, he was tired of the “usual opportunities that the brown dudes get." Unlike the “nerdy, weakling” characters he’s played in the past, he wanted his Eternals character to be cool and physically strong.

    It sounds like he got what he wanted, adding: "He has these super powers and he's become a Bollywood movie star. All the Eternals have been in human society to different degrees, but he's the one who really immersed himself and falls in love with the trappings of modernity. And he loves being rich. He loves being famous. He loves being an Eternal."

    In other news, if you were wondering how the upcoming season of Succession plans to tackle COVID-19, the short answer is: It won’t.

    Kendall and Shiv Roy on Succession
    HBO

    This is partially because showrunner Jesse Armstrong wrote the season before lockdown started, and the decision makes total sense, plot-wise. 

    According to Sarah Snook, who plays Shiv: "These are really wealthy people. And unfortunately, none of the world's really wealthy people were going to be affected by the pandemic."

    As always, thanks for listening! And if you ever want to suggest stories or just want to say hi, you can reach us at daily@buzzfeed.com or on Twitter @BuzzFeedDaily.

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