In 2021, Candyman Rectifies the Franchise's White History
The original Candyman from 1992 holds a very important role within horror film history. Ahead of its time, the film portrayed a powerful and well-rounded black villain who dealt with issues pertaining to gentrification, white saviorism, white privilege, and white guilt. The original Candyman’s primary issue, however, lay in the fact that while it was about the racism and gentrification of urban communities, it placed white people in key roles and was directed and written by a white man, Bernard Rose. Candyman (2021), on the other hand, features a majority black cast and was directed and co-written by Nia Decosta, a black female director. It was also co-written and produced by Jordan Peele. As a result, the film is better able to address racism and explore themes brought up in the first Candyman more deeply.
Candyman (2021) takes place 27 years after the events of the first film and follows Chicago artist Anthony McCoy, who lives with his girlfriend Brianna Cartwright, a director for a local gallery. After hearing Brianna's brother tell a story about Helen Lyall (the main character from the original Candyman), and the legend surrounding her death, Anthony develops an unhealthy obsession with Candyman and begins researching him. He finds that Candyman was originally an accomplished painter named Daniel Robitaille, who lived during the late 1800s and fell in love with a white woman he was hired to paint. After her father found out about their relationship, Robitaille was brutally murdered by a mob and then haunted the grounds of Cabrini Green, a housing project that sits on top of the site where he was murdered. Anthony begins to incorporate the story into his art until he is consumed by the legend.
The film does have issues with dialogue and pacing; the actual quality of Candyman (2021) does not match that of the original. The way that the subject of Candyman is broached to the main characters at the beginning of the film feels forced, with Brianna’s brother bringing up the subject almost immediately. Nevertheless, Candyman (2021) is a necessary addition to the Candyman canon because of the way race relations have changed in the United States over the past 30 years. Instead of representing racial issues through the lives of white people, it places more value on telling black stories from perspectives that can actually tell them in a more sensitive way. By making the main character, Anthony, an artist, the film is able to explore the way that black stories and art are consumed and exploited by white people and institutions.
Anthony is pushed by Clive, a white art dealer who works at the same gallery as Brianna, to create something new and groundbreaking with his art. Clive implies that even though the art Anthony makes is deeply earnest and personal, it is overplayed and not good enough for the Chicago art scene. This sends Anthony into a depression about his career, and he is compelled to use the legend of Candyman for his art and in turn, the pain of Daniel Robitaille. We’re reminded that black artists (and the black community, in general) are oftentimes devalued until their experience and pain can be profited off of. Had the production and cast of the film remained white, Candyman would not have been able to flesh out and deliver its narrative of racism, gentrification, and the black experience to its audience as successfully as it has. This sequel allows the classic story and villain of Candyman to be brought to a younger audience while further developing its themes of racial justice.
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
Pieto is a junior in the College studying English with a minor in Japanese. Her favorite food is ramen.