Arachnia (2003)

This otherwise laughable giant spider movie is notable in that it features a black heroine, Chandra (Irene Joseph). Granted, Chandra is just as laughable as the rest of the film, but hey, she’s there. The entire cast, Joseph included, acts as stiffly as understudies in a high school play, and they insist upon wasting time engaged in monotone “witty banter” when they should be getting busy dyin’! Those spiders aren’t gonna feed themselves! Then again, maybe they are…

To Arachnia‘s credit, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but what self-respecting 21st century horror film can take itself seriously when it uses stop motion animation? Some of the spider attack scenes feel like episodes of Gumby gone horribly awry. As for the character of Chandra, she’s the bossy, take-charge type, although thankfully not in a stereotypically neck-craning, finger-waving sort of way.

Still, while she avoids one black female stereotype, she steps right into another: asexuality. Unless they’re the (usually malevolent) seductress, black women aren’t usually allowed to exude leading lady-type romantic appeal in horror movies — or any movies, for that matter. In Arachnia, Chandra isn’t seen as the object of desire that the two ditzy white gals in the film are, even though she’s the female lead. Although she’s obviously attracted to the white hero — even kissing him on the cheek in a rare vulnerable moment — he never returns the affection. In fact, he’s scared of her, like she’s from some different species. What is this, a Pepe Le Pew cartoon?

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