Celebrating Black Female Characters in Horror Television
February is here and what does that mean? It’s Black History Month! But hey, every month is BHM when you’re black. Trust me. So I’ve decided to celebrate black women in Horror. More specifically, black female characters in notable Horror shows. From The Walking Dead all the way to The Vampire Diaries.
Even when a show ends or a character’s journey ends – their Black Girl Magic never really dies, no matter what anyone wants to say, which is why celebrating these characters isn’t fruitless. They have a place in Horror as a genre and that will always hold importance. At least to me.
Please be wary of spoilers (character deaths or otherwise) if you’re binge watching any of these shows or plan to.
1. Michonne (The Walking Dead)
Weapons in the apocalypse usually come in the form of guns or various styled knives. But who can say their fave wields a katana like no other? Nobody, unless their personal fave is Michonne. And what a treat it is to have a character like her exist.
Michonne (played by the talented Danai Gurira) has been part of the show since “Walk with Me” (3x03). She’s first presented as someone who takes no one’s shit (that still rings true) and is loyal to those closest to her. Which, in the beginning, she doesn’t have many people. From the start, it was obvious she wouldn’t be a forgettable character. And the same can be said about Danai’s acting. Michonne has carried on as an intense character, same as the comic version of her.
Even with the show experiencing many ups and down, she still continues to be one of my favorites that I cling to. One thing I adore about her as a black character is how multi-faceted she is. Black women showing vulnerability rather than clinging to the ‘strong black woman’ trope, is the type of representation that’s needed. Especially in the state of our own world.
Currently in the show there’s been much change and Michonne is juggling A LOT. Such as Rick Grimes “death,” new losses, leadership, motherhood, new enemies and no shortage of other apocalyptic complications. Aside from all the stress she endures, she remains the same bad ass she has always been.
2. Sasha Williams (The Walking Dead)
Every apocalypse needs someone who takes many risks and Sasha was one of those characters. She was played by Sonequa Martin-Green and was an original character (versus being apart of the comics as well) since late season 3. Sasha wasn’t afraid to speak her mind or do what she felt was needed for the group or herself. Her bravery even in the face of danger is/was admirable.
There were moments where I wanted much better for her character. Or even had a sense of irritation towards some of her decisions. But when her time was up in the apocalypse – I hated it. Her send off wasn’t a blindside, though it still wasn’t something I hoped for, evidently I accepted it. Sonequa played Sasha well and thankfully we were able to see her one last time recently.
3. Bonnie Bennett (The Vampire Diaries)
No one can convince me that Bonnie Bennett (played by Kat Graham) was dealt a good hand. Her character was the subject of much mistreatment and there was no surprise why. No shock is had when a black woman is the token best friend, subject to violence by or because of white characters, used as a plot device, or any other bullshit.
Bonnie/Kat Graham was subject to A LOT of racist nonsense from the fandom as well. This also isn’t a shock that fandoms can be quite vile to people of color. And she isn’t the first or last to experience this. It’s part of what needs to change in terms of the writing of characters of color. Especially black characters of color (why there needs to be diverse writing teams).
Despite her mistreatment from the writers and such, Kat played Bonnie with passion. She was the one black witch who showed just how powerful she was. That in itself should spark a fire in real life black witches. She showed you don’t have to take shit from enemies to those closest to you.
4. Kendra Young (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Even though Buffy is very much a feminist show (don’t even argue with this), there was always a lacking with women of color. Once Kendra comes along in What’s My Line, Part One (2x09), it’s a bit of a shock to the system. Bianca Lawson (who still hasn’t aged a damn lick) played her and if you set aside the poor Jamaican accent - she gave us something to run with.
Her character wasn’t emotional but was focused on her slayer duties. One could say she wasn’t a strong character but we didn’t see much of her. That is part of my problem with her character. None of that is Bianca’s fault but it still irks me to think of. Kendra stood tall and was the complete opposite of Buffy, which would have made for an interesting dynamic if she had been long term.
Her death in Becoming, Part One (2x21) due to Drusilla slitting her throat is… shitty, to say the least. So celebrating what little we got to see of her is still decent acknowledgement.
5. Marie Laveau (American Horror Story)
How exciting is it when strong and powerful black characters are based on real life people? Pretty damn exciting. Marie Laveau, who is played by the great Angela Bassett, grips tight to the title of “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.” Her character was first introduced in American Horror Story: Coven as a prominent character. The way she’s depicted in the show has been subject to criticism. It’s mainly due to how she’s villainized and that’s definitely fair.
Though, with Angela Bassett, you’re not going to get a half assed performance. She remained consistent in her portrayal of Marie Laveau. From the first moment you see her you know she’s not one to mess with. She does meet her demise by the end of the season, but the writers manage to bring her back briefly in American Horror Story: Apocalypse. Unfortunately, the disappointment sets in once they kill her off once more. Despite that Marie’s iconic lines, overall presence, and literal Black Girl Magic make her a special character. Forgetting her is impossible if you loved her in the first place.
6. Keelin Mikaelson (The Originals)
The Originals had a fair amount of diversity and there was never much failing with characters of color. In the season 4 premiere Keelin was introduced as a werewolf/ER doctor. Her first episode on the show wasn’t actually the best for her, given the events that took place and how her life was being threatened. But she remained interesting enough for me to want to see more, more specifically in terms of her relationship with Freya Mikaelson.
The relatively problematic start to Keelin and Freya’s relationship is easy to point out. Though eventually their relationship shifts into something else. And by the 7th episode of the season they kiss. Unfortunately, Keelin remained a recurring character ‘til the end of the series. But her importance didn’t dissipate regardless of her appearances. At least not when it pertained to Freya and that was enough for me. Even just having a black queer woman being on the show was enough.
By the end of the show she and Freya got married and moved ahead with their lives. It completely swerved away from the typical ending for queer women (one or both dying). And that to me is something even more so to celebrate.
Vanessa Maki is a queer writer, artist & other things. She’s full of black girl magic & has no apologies for that. Her work has appeared in various places like Really System & others. She is also forthcoming in a variety of places. She’s founder/EIC of rose quartz magazine & is involved in other literary spaces as well. Follow her twitter & visit her site.