Taking a Look in the Mirror
:The Inversion of Middle Class Fears of Urban Decay and the Representation of Racial Violence in Bernard Rose's Candyman
Throughout the history of the horror genre, Western media has traditionally associated urban settings, specifically ones which are suffering from urban decay, with the supernatural, horrifying, and life-threatening. In this paper, I decided to analyze one of the most famous examples of a horror movie that features urban decay at its center: Bernard Rose's 1992 film Candyman. I analyze the ways in which Rose addresses societal perceptions of the Cabrini-Green housing project specifically and urban decay in general by placing his white, female, middle-class protagonist right in the middle of this notorious neighborhood and uses the situations in which she finds herself both to scare the viewers of the film and to force them to come to terms with the implicit biases that give rise to these fears. I pay particular attention to the contrasts between a gang leader that adopts the name "Candyman" and the ghost itself; the fact the protagonist, Helen, lives in a former project and the history behind her building; and the intersection of ingrained fears surrounding race, violence, and sex in both this area of Chicago and in the story of Candyman (who was lynched for impregnating a wealthy white woman) and Helen, who is the spitting image of Candyman's lover. I conclude that Rose, in this film, is forcing his viewers to reckon with their prejudices and realize that the true terror of this film is not its seminal ghost, but the long-established fears in their own minds.