She Never Died (2019) tells the tale of a cannibal woman who eats bad men. An unlikely feminist anti-hero that means much more than the creators intended. Gabe talks about the character's power and the significance of casting a black woman in the role. Kat discusses the history of medical violence against black women in America.
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She Never Died (2019) Director/Writer: Audrey Cummings / Jason Krawczyk
Summary by IMDB: When a girl goes missing, a woman with a mysterious past tracks down the people responsible.
She Never Died: The Black Anti-Heroine We Need
by Gabe Castro
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
She Never Died tells the tale of a cannibal woman who eats bad men. This film is funny and gruesome, two of my favorite things in horror. I found in this film what I was looking for in the feminist vampire revenge flick, Bit. Where that filmed pulled it’s punches, this one punched harder. Although a sequel to Henry Rollins’ He Never Died, I never felt I was missing pieces of the story from having not seen it. Lacey’s story is its own. We follow Lacey, played by Olunike Adeliyi, the deadpan antihero who accidentally becomes a feminist icon. Lacey is cursed, she needs to eat bone marrow to survive and she strategically chooses bad men as her victims to survive.
Lacey is a character who on the surface appears to be driven by instinct alone. She comes across as uncaring, emotionless, and at times, inhuman. However, when looking closely at her actions you find that beneath this hardened, animalistic facade is a woman who understands the fight between good and evil. She has been around long enough to be jaded by humanity, tired of the performance of good and disgusted by the power of evil. In He Never Died, it’s made clear he’s been around since old testament times which has you questioning how long Lacey has been around. With this, it becomes apparent just how over the world she is.
Our vigilante catches the eye of hardened detective Godfrey who surprisingly knows what she is, to an extent. Despite knowing she is a killer who eats people and clearly isn’t kept up late at night over it, he enlists her to help bring an end to a human trafficking ring. In her first “mission” to find those responsible, she ends up saving spunky sex worker, Suzzie. The interactions between the two are charming and bring humor to an otherwise dark film. Suzzie immediately pegs Lacey as the feminist zombie?? heroine the world needs. Lacey immediately lets Suzzie know she doesn’t like her. But underneath the tough, hardened exterior we see the hero who can’t help but fight for what is right. She sees something in Suzzie’s persistence: despite her hard and troubled life she still believes in the potential for good to prevail. Maybe Lacey can too.
Adeliyi gives a phenomenal performance. We don’t have a cliched horror final girl but rather a grizzled hero in Lacey. She is solemn and studious. Her blunt responses give comedic relief to otherwise dark scenes. And as Kat will discuss in her section, it is incredibly important that Lacey is a dark-skinned black woman who is fighting this. She is the protagonist, not the support for the quirky Suzzie. She even fights against the human trafficking leader who is a white woman. Whether it was Audrey Cummings intent in choosing Adeliyi for the role to transform it into something this powerful and opinionated, it has certainly become that. Just as George A. Romero didn’t fully understand the impact of casting Duane Jones in his film would have in fundamentally changing the messaging, Cummings too has a film that represents more than just femme power.
Spoilers Ahead: In the very end, we get a glimpse into who Lacey is and just how long she’s been wandering the earth. In He Never Died, it is revealed that he is Cain, cursed after killing his brother. This is a punishment and for her, this is also “deserving of punishment”. She is called Lilith. In Judeo-Christian lore, Lilith is a demonic being who was Adam’s first wife. Her existence stems from the line in Genesis in which God makes man and woman, then later he makes Eve. Many questioned who then was the first woman made equal to Adam and not made of him. She was angered by the request by Adam to be subservient to him, despite being equal, so she fled and copulated with demons. I have always been fascinated by Lilith. She is an unlikely feminist icon and one of the first strong women to be demonized and have her story rewritten or erased to better push the narrative of well-behaved women. The decision to name Lacey as Lilith only further strengthens her identity as a feminist icon. Even now, she is a “monster” who kills bad men.
Lacey's Pain in She Never Dies: Medical Violence Against Black Women
by Kat Kushin
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
Trigger Warning: Racism, Medical violence, Systemic oppression
So I did some reading and I’ll be real that I was pretty surprised by the coverage on this film. I felt like this film was saying a lot, things that seemed really obvious to me with my media analysis glasses on, and I feel like the lens that people reviewed this film with was different than mine. They weren’t saying anything new, and were mostly like wow cool, this lady eats the bad guys, this is a cool metaphor for eating the rich, good for her. Which I’ll give it that, it did do that too but I feel like an opportunity to talk about things that may be uncomfortable for some people was missed. To start off positive, since we already spoiled it, you know that the main character, Lacey, is implied to be Lilith. I thought this was really cool, specifically because it’s basically a fact that Lilith, i.e. the first WHOLE woman was a Black woman, and it was dope to see that actually represented on screen with such a powerful character.
However, it was interesting and I think harmful that the main character, who is a Black woman, was shown experiencing so much violence, in what felt voyeuristic, with the showing of the villain stabbing her, shooting her, torturing her. The first thing that stood out to me in this film is it seemed to be saying something, intentionally or unintentionally about how the medical industry treats Black women. That in broad daylight, in spaces that are supposed to be safe and healing, Black women are treated as if they experience less pain than white women. That this doesn’t happen in basements with dudes trying to create torture porn on the dark web, so much as it does in doctors offices and the medical institutions that reinforce white supremacist teachings in medicine. Is that what the director intended? I don’t know, because I couldn’t find anything even suggesting that, but that’s how I interpreted it. I’m not sure if it was a call out of that, or that the film was reinforcing the blatantly racist assumption that Black women feel less pain, but either way it’s a problem. So in my facts section I’ll be talking about that.
The history of medical racism is long, and we’ve covered some of the horrors of it in our episodes on Population control,vaccine creation, and most recently, in our episode through the PLAFF featuring a film about forced sterilization in the California prison system. There is no way I’ll be able to cover the vast and complex ways racism is integrated into our medical system and history in the time we have available so I strongly encourage others to do their research. There is extensive and horrific violence that has been done by the medical community against Black and Brown bodies in America, and while we’ll only be covering this from a surface level, there are sources in our show notes that can provide further context. The information is hard to learn about, as it’s horrifying to understand the true depth of how messed up society really is. To give a brief overview of what structural racism is in terms of medical racism, I’ll reference one of my sources. According to an article in Medical News Today, written by Kimberly Drake and Ana Sandoiu, titled, Medical News Today Structural racism in medicine: Ways to promote meaningful change, “Structural racism goes beyond individual prejudice…and results from a pervasive, misaligned thought process that places one racial or ethnic group above another. This is often driven by white supremacist beliefs, underlying white privilege and failure to understand that all human beings share 99.9% of their DNA”.
A large problem within the medical schooling system, and the medical system as a whole is they are still teaching racist theories to new and incoming medical students. Part of the problem as described in an article titled What is Medical Racism? by Eric Bronson on ywca works, “many medical standards and techniques still used today are based on the untrue belief that Black and white people have different physiology”. In fact, the machine that is used to measure lung capacity has been programmed to have “race correction” programming, to assume that Black people have “20% less lung capacity than white people, an untrue theory that was invented by a pro-slavery doctor in 1857.” So not only are these false theories being taught to students, they are being programmed into the technology used by medical professionals. I remember a while back, a sound on TikTok trending that repeated that doctors are to Black women, what police officers are to Black men, and I think the information within these sources backs that up.
In fact, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, highlighted in an article titled How We Fail Black Patients in Pain, written by Janice Sabin of AAMC, “Half of white medical trainees believe such myths as black people have thicker skin or less sensitive nerve endings than white people.”
I think it’s really important to be aware of the many and complex ways racism hurts people on a systemic level, in order to stop perpetuating these things. It extends further than just getting these blatantly racist teachings out of the medical school curriculum, and will involve removing the people in power who have signed off of these teachings for years. Referring back to the Medical News Today article, “Many allies would have to lose their positions of power” in order for this change to really take place. It will require a lot of people rejecting the system that they actively benefit from, and making sacrifices for meaningful change. There will also need to be attention paid to the way academia has been utilized as a tool to reinforce white supremacist teaching as facts in this country, despite no real scientific evidence supporting the information. There needs to be a massive unlearning of things that have been taught to us. And Acknowledgement that science was manipulated as a way of reinforcing and justifying slavery in this country, and as a means of creating a widespread underlying bias that suggested white people were superior to Black people. We have to acknowledge that that will greatly impact the way all the systems in our society operate and has resulted in the intentional oppression and violence against people for hundreds of years. And ultimately that after lots of unlearning is done, that for anything to actually change that we’ll need to do much more than just acknowledge it.