What kinds of terror lurk beneath the surface of White respectability? Many of the top-grossing US horror films between 2008 and 2016 relied heavily on themes of White, patriarchal fear and fragility: outsiders disrupting the sanctity of the almost always White family, evil forces or transgressive ideas transforming loved ones, and children dying when White women eschew traditional maternal roles.
Horror film has a long history of radical, political commentary, and Russell Meeuf reveals how racial resentments represented specifically in horror films produced during the Obama era gave rise to the Trump presidency and the Make America Great Again movement. Featuring films such as The Conjuring and Don't Breathe, White Terror explores how motifs of home invasion, exorcism, possession, and hauntings mirror cultural debates around White masculinity, class, religion, socioeconomics, and more.
In the vein of Jordan Peele, White Terror exposes how White mainstream fear affects the horror film industry, which in turn cashes in on that fear and draws voters to candidates like Trump.
Introduction: Whiteness, Politics, and Horror
1. Whiteness Under Siege, Part 1: Haunted House Films
2. Whiteness Under Siege, Part 2: Home Invasions
3. American Dreams: Fantasies and Social Mobility in Dream House and Drag Me to Hell 4. Sad White Men and Their Demons: Possession Films
5. Suffering and Reluctant Mothers Meet Their Match: Horrific Children
6. Motor City Gothic: White Youth and Economic Anxiety in It Follows and Don't Breathe 7. Surveilling Whiteness: The Horrific Technology Film
8. Making Horror Great Again: The Horror Remake
Conclusion: Horror in the Trump Era
Russell Meeuf is Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho in Moscow. He is author of Rebellious Bodies: Stardom, Citizenship, and the New Body Politics and John Wayne's World: Transnational Masculinity in the Fifties.
"White Terror is a much-needed, original, and provocative analysis of race and the American horror film in the early 2000s."—Aviva Briefel, author of Horror after 9/11: World of Fear, Cinema of Terror
"Given the rising awareness of entrenched racism and the accompanying resistance to white supremacy that marks the current moment, this book couldn't come at a better time. A welcome addition to the growing body of work assessing the racial dynamics of the horror genre, the book offers a cogent assessment of Obama era horror, especially as it pertains to normative conceptions of family, home ownership, gender, and socio-economic class."—Natalie Wilson, author of Willful Monstrosity: Race and Gender in 21st Century Horror
"A chilling look not only at the horrors we can't stop watching on screen — demonic possession, evil children, home invasions, and ghostly forces, to name a few — but also at the horrors we can't stop living off screen. Meeuf deftly weaves together economic forces, political realities, and Hollywood strategies in order to demonstrate how the three of them work together to shape the way we see the world, as well as how we choose to live in it. Don't make the mistake of thinking that what happens on screen is purely entertainment. As Meeuf demonstrates, there is no such thing."—Dahlia Schweitzer, author of Going Viral: Zombies, Viruses, and the End of the World
"Through a thematic overview of mainstream horror films divided into six cycles, Meeuf evokes the simmering discontent that boiled over with the rise of MAGA rhetoric and the election of Trump. Despite early-Obama era media speculations that the US had reached a post-racial turning point, horror films told a different story."—Marc Olivier, author of Household Horror: Cinematic Fear and the Secret Life of Everyday Objects
"Ably dissecting a dizzying range of recent horror films, White Terror makes a strong contribution to the scholarship on horror films in general and race in horror in particular. Its focus on whiteness is something long overdue, and Meeuf's book will be of interest to academics and to fans of the horror genre alike."—Murray Leeder, author of Horror Film: A Critical Introduction