The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1752  Monday, 18 September 2000.

From:           Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 17 Sep 2000 09:15:39 -0400
Subject:        Scary Movie Shakespeare

The politically incorrect and pretty dumb film Scary Movie (duir. Kennen
Ivory Waylans, 2000) has an episode in which a black couple, Ray (Shawn
Wayans) and Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris), decide to go to a movie
together.  The movie marquee shows Shakespeare in Love on it and in the
theater, Ray, who is gay but seems to be the last one to know it, goes
off to the bathroom, enters a stall, and hearing some voices in the next
stall, lowers his head to what is a glory hole and looks in it. An
erect, white penis goes through it briefly and quickly withdraws, but
Ray doesn't see it. He puts his ear to the hole, and then the erect
penis literally goes through one of Ray's ear and out the other, killing
him (though he appears alive later in the film). Meanwhile, Cindy talks
back to the movie, reading the balcony scene as if it were a horror
movie, and screaming after the Nurse comes to the window and sees
Shakespeare at the window and screams and then he screams in turn. Later
she says "Brad Pitt's ex-girlfriend ain't all that," as Shakespeare
unwinds her white bandage she used to flatten her breasts so she would
look like a boy. The other members of the audience (all white) all
"shhh" her, but she is defiant, saying "shh back to you" to one, and
filming him with her digital camcorder. The murderer, dressed in
costume, sits downs next to Cindy with a knife on his lap, but she
assumes he is her boyfriend.  She then gets a call on her cell phone,
and a white guy sitting next to the murderer picks up the knife in
disgust and stabs her. She gets up and several other people in the
audience stab her too. As she makes it to the aisle, other people get up
and either stab her or hit her with things like a baseball at saying
"This is for ruining Big Moma's House!" Finally, she makes it to the
stage, and gurgles in front of the movie screen, before collapsing,
dead. (I kept thinking she would say "Et tu , Brute?", but she didn't.)

The episode occurs near the middle of Scary Movie, and it is a direct
reply to and parody of the introduction to the already self-parodying
Scream 2 (dir. Wes Craven, 1997). (The title of the Scream 2 DVD chapter
for this introduction is "Scary Movie.") There is a shot of the movie
marquee showing Stab!, and then we see a black couple, Maureen (Jada
Pinkett) and Phil (Omar Epps) in line to buy tickets. Maureen says she
doesn't like scary movies and suggests they go see Sandra Bullock. She
is willing to see Stab! but voices her complaint to Phil: "I'm gonna
tell you what I think it is, OK" It's a dumb ass white movie about dumb
ass white girls getting their dumb asses cut the fuck up. . . The entire
genre is historical for excluding the African American element." Phil
replies "Where'd you get your Ph.D. is black cinema, Sista Souljah?"
From "Entertainment Tonight," she replies. They go into see the movie
and she talks back to it, telling the blonde woman on screen (Heather
Graham) not to "go in there." Phil goes out to the bathroom while she
goes to get popcorn and a drink, and he enters a stall, hears a voice,
puts his head to the stall wall to listen better and then gets stabbed
by a knife into his ear. The knife is withdrawn from Phil's head by the
killer, and Phil slowly sinks down holding his ear until he drops dead.
The killer then sits next to Maureen wearing Phil's clothes and his
mask. During a scary part, Maureen grabs the killer, thinking he is
Phil, and telling him that if she were the character on the screen,
she'd know how to escape. She also accurately predicts the woman's
death. Yet just then Maureen sees blood on her hands (from the jacket).
She recoils in horror and he then stabs her.  Maureen gets up an d tries
to escape, but he follows her into the aisle stabs her another four
times. No one notices because everyone is dressed like the killer,
screaming, and waving fake knives. Maureen walks up to the screen, her
shirt all bloody, and the audience figure out that she actually is hurt.
She gurgles, and collapses, dead.

So what is Shakespeare doing in Scary Movie, and how does Shakespeare
bear on the way this scene rewrites of the opening scene from Scream 2?
Shakespeare in Love is there partly, no doubt, because it was such a
successful film and because it was nominated for so many academy awards
and won so many of them. However it got into the film, the result is
that it signifies in a number of ways. In terms of Scary Movie itself,
there is an implied parallel between the black couple and the couple in
the film, Shakespeare and Viola de Lessups. Phil's gayness and disavowal
of his homosexuality roughly parallels the homoeroticism in Viola's
cross-dressing, and the error he makes in failing to recognize Viola in
drag roughly parallels Cindy's misreading of the romantic comedy as a
horror movie.  Furthermore, the movie-within-a-movie and allusions to
the Scream trilogy, which is highly self-reflexive and self-conscious,
roughly parallels the play (Romeo and Juliet) within the movie
Shakespeare in Love. It is worth pointing out that Kevin Williamson, the
screenwriter for Scream 2, does have (all white) characters mention
Ophelia, Romeo, and Juliet in Teaching Mrs.  Tingle, a film he wrote and
directed. In terms of the intercinematic allusion to Scream 2, Scary
Movie may be using Shakespeare to reply to Scream 2's critique of the
racism of the horror movie, producing a shock value for liberal white
people they're not expecting. After all, the black couple is the first
to go in Scream 2, and it is the vocal black woman Maureen who is killed
by a hooded white guy. Moreover, Maureen is portrayed as a sexually
withholding bitch who rebuffs all of Phil's advances, whereas Cindy
indulges all of Ray's whims, including his request that she dress up in
his football uniform. By making having the white people in the audience
be offended by Cindy's talk back, which marks her as black, Scary Movie
suggests that Scream 2 co-opts an African American critique of the
horror genre's racism. Perhaps the similarity between the black woman
and Viola / Juliet elevates the woman's death to tragic status or makes
Cindy into a rebellious figure the other race can't understand; or
perhaps the similarity pokes fun at Shakespeare and is meant as a kind
of aesthetic incorrectness (as in, "Shakespeare ain't all that"). Scary
Movie takes the license to be as nasty and as silly as it wants to be.

Some other African American references in cinema and tv. There is a
brief reference to Shakespeare by Shaft in Shaft in Africa, an excellent
film (Shakeshaft in Africa?). The sleepwalking scene is performed by a
lack woman stripper as part of Live Nude Macbeth in the comedy High
School High. Also, there is a skit on an episode of the Fox network
1980s series In Living Color, episodes of which Keenen Ivory Wayans
appeared in and wrote, about a black man named Anton (Damon Wayans)
panhandling on a New York subway. The premise is that the guy is not
simply a beggar but will entertain for handouts. He is so terrible that
people give him money just so he will stop and go away. At one point,
Anton starts to quote Hamlet's "To be or not to be?" soliloquy but only
gets the first line right and stops after a mangled version of the

Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.