The people under the stairs are white
OK, so given this 21st century isn’t it time that cinematic criticism gets updated? Who am I to talk, I know. I mean I barely take the time to spell check my blog. But in part it’s because I’m not convinced that the verbal symbolic is the best medium to convey the awesomeness that is my social/political critique. I envision a new stylization of cinematic critique which involves graphics and interactive capabilities, not unlike the track bar on Ableton Live’s audio editing software. This new critique tool would be able to locate specific texts with specific audio and/or visual moments within a film based on their time codes. One could read critique separate or in caption boxes with the film, not unlike the bonus features on a DVD. Naturally, separate audio and visual links would be able to be imposed, as well as hyperlinks, plain texts, and all the rest. It would be the type of critique that a gaming generation could appreciate. And when I finally do trademark and patented this idea the first film I will utilize it for is, “The people under the stairs.”
Stop Laughing. I hate ya’ll I swear.
OK, Aside from Blade, The people under the stairs is one of the only movies that makes me sound like a rabid eugenics ranter when I give my break down of it. I don’t care. I know one day I’m going to run into Wes craven and he’s going to say “I read your critique of the people under the stairs. Very astute. Do you have any screenplays I might be able to read of yours? Maybe we can work together. Have you met my beautiful daughter Cree Summer? Would you like to be my son in Law?” Sorry, out of fantasy world now.
Ok, So Wes Craven sets-up a fairy tale with all the rules of a fairy tale in The people under the stairs. Hell the movie starts with a tarot card reading, giving us all the symbols will need to take care of ourselves for the rest of the film. The protagonist is a boy named fool who, by the fourth minutes in the film, is on a rite of passage as a man. :0 seconds into the film you realize his world is a construction of blackness by a white eye, as made evident by the large dogs fighting in Fool’s hallway over what can only be a human hand. But don’t let this distract you; soon you shall witness the envisioning of hyper whiteness by whiteness.
Rather than working hard to find a way to keep his sick mother taken care of, Fool decides to find some buried treasure with his guide into the realm of black masculinity Ving Rhames. You know Ving Is the guide to blackness as the brim of his hat and other parts of his costume hold Kinta cloth, a symbol of blackness. And well, he is a big strong Negro male.
9 minutes and twelve seconds into the film the allegory of Hyper whiteness officially begins by introducing the character of Alice, obviously already down the rabbit hole and in a surreal world where the values and morals of the 50’s are actually a thing veil for Incest S and M fantasies. No, I am not making this shit up. Pay attention.
Fool’s treasure is hidden in the house of his landlords, the hyper whites S&M people. They keep themselves locked away because they fear the negritude that has encompassed their city. So instead of relying on the societal recognized Other of Blackness, they create their own Other, their adopted deformed versions of whiteness, or “The people under the Stairs”
The house functions as a center for Hyper whiteness. Only the Hyper white can function in it without triggering its defenses. For instance, Ving Rhames and Fool have a white associate, Spencer, who first tries to gain entrance to the house, but the woman of the house recognizes him as being associated with Blackness and feed him to the People under the stairs. To gain entrance to the house Fool has to “whiten” himself by dressing as a boy scout, one of the whitest organizations in America. (And if the black boy scouts of America write me a letter because of this post they will most certainly hear my mouth. The scouts are racist when it comes to out Native American brethren) When his ruse is not totally successful, Ving Rhames has to break into the house using a crowbar. “I done busted this house’s cherry” (19:38) he exclaims when the house is finally opened to him. Yet White rage attacks him for violating its sanctity in the form of a big black dog. Luckily this is a fable world and the dog attacks fool instead when the boy shouts “Your momma sleeps with cats.”
Spencer, ill performing White man is corrected in death by literally tuning white (27.40) and (32:02) “You thought he was white before? You should see that suka now” Fool tells his guide to blackness. But fool can’t mourn too long, even over a white man. He must prove his worth by actively joining the American quest for cash. The divine light shown of the consumerist goal indicates Fool as worthy of being a hero because he can participate and strive in the Capitalist paradigm (28:09)
But as any capitalist can tell you, those first to the resources are those least likely to give it up. And the Hyper white parents of Alice have lain claim tot eh once bountiful resources of the city. But now they only run cemeteries. They deal only with the dead and are hence dead themselves, frozen in a simulacra of the fifties that never truly existed. For chirst sake, they drive around in a Hearse. And this was before Six Feet Under so you know.
When confronted with Fool and Ving Rhames in their house the couple completely mis-recognize the entire situation. But this is their pattern even before encountering blackness. When Ving Rhames is captured and cannibalized (consumed by whiteness which is the case of all popular black media, just ask Dave Chapelle) the man calls out to his younger counterpart, “Run Fool! Run!” To wit the woman replies “You’re the fool, not us.” This plays on the notion of double coding in language amongst black people. At the time, fool was also popular slang. (37:05)
“Did you see it? He came at me like a Bull.” The Big white man says “A big one” The big white woman calls him Daddy. These people have been overly incestuous, which of course is the ultimate case of Whiteness. She calls him Daddy. In actuality, they are brother and sister.
Alice is influenced by her adopted parent’s inability to contextualize, a trait which Whites are routinely mocked by African Americans for. She had no idea what the term of Brother means (39:17).
Alice tells Fool about her “Parents” and about the people under the stairs. Those children that were adopted but saw, heard, or spoke evil and as a result had to be maimed. The see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil part is vague. What did these people under the stairs hear, see and say that was is wrong. It could be the taboo against incest. But it could be argued that they were supposed to see, hear and speak such a thing if they are the “children” or “products” of incest. My argument is that what they saw, heard, and spoke of, was connection with blackness. After all, these people are in a predominately black neighborhood.
These people under the stairs exemplified a sort of deformed whiteness that threatens the values of their 50’s parents and allies itself with blackness. When daddy goes hunting for Roach the representative for the adopted children, he goes hunting in his S&M gear. (41:29). Oh yes, Roach is Eminem, the whiteness that got away. Keep in mind, when we first see him, he’s on Fool’s back. We never get an explanation as to why.
“He’s in there right now, with our little angel.” The mother exclaims when Fool is trapped in a room with Alice. Fool then assumes his proper role as a Black male, as a sexual threat (A survival since the Birth of a nation) 45:41. Alice has a little thing for dark meat since Most of her dolls have dark or tan skin (50:26)
But the hyper white parents will not allow it. Instead of allowing integrated love to bloom, the parents demand a spring cleaning and the death of Fool. Spring cleaning includes the scrubbing of Alice. Not due to blood but due to her connection with Fool (53:28) But Fool does not allow himself to die. Instead he makes the white master kill his black slave, the big dog, all under the gaze of Roland Reagan’s portrait. The picture of Ronald Regan is in a revered position on an altar right before Fool gets the crazy Daddy to kill his own dog (1:02:12)
In the end of the movie, Fool has to come back to the house of whiteness to save the white girl. Shit, it is a Hollywood movie. What do you expect? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.