Carvell Wallace on Candyman and the exploitation of Black pain in cinema

Carvell Wallace wrote a brilliant essay on Candyman and chronicled a history of Black pain in cinema for The Atlantic.

Ultimately, DaCosta’s Candyman character becomes a cipher that the film’s characters, and by extension its audience, have no choice but to live with—the absence upon which anything can be projected, bequeathed by centuries of Black trauma. This is perhaps where the film hews most faithfully to the Clive Barker short story upon which it is based. “I am rumor,” his monster reminds his victim, and us, in “The Forbidden.” “It’s a blessed condition, believe me. To live in people’s dreams; to be whispered at street corners; but not have to be. Do you understand?”

I enjoyed Candyman (1992) even if it was a white liberal depiction and exploitation of Black pain as Wallace surmised. Candyman (2021) rewrites, recreates, and renews the ghosts of that film (figuratively and literally) and extends the lore for Black people to feel much more than they could imagine—myself included. I want to watch it again and I will at some point. It was an intriguing film and something to be appreciated and studied (but maybe not by and for white people).

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