White Zombie and *Magic Island*

White Zombie and “Magic Island”
Mary Grace Henley
Feb. 19, 2015
Main Idea
Through sensationalism and sexualization
of the Haitian people, “Magic Island” and
White Zombie are consistent with the
paternalistic and imperialistic view of Haiti
during the U.S. occupation.
 Talk about historical context, stereotypes,
U.S. Occupation
Haitian Revolution affected 19th century U.S.
South  could be motivation for slaves,
made people suspicious, wanted control
 Occupation begins 1915  “allowed U.S. to
become premiere power in the Caribbean
under the guise of installing a liberal
democracy for the first time in Haiti”
 Attempts to “civilize” the native Haitian
Advertising and sexualization
Haiti associated with pleasure  mystery,
vacation, sugar, beaches
 Exploits peoples’ desires
 “A sensational production that lends itself to
sensational exploitation”
 Ads more sexual than actual movie
 Murder’s power lies in his eyes  eyes are
penetrative and give him control over
Madeleine’s body
 Advertisements preconditioned people to
see the movie and the threat in a sexual way
Where did this idea come from?
A lot of inspiration: “Magic Island”
 Represents Haiti as mysterious land of
primitive, superstitious people who need
saving from a demented and sinister
 Plays on stereotypes of voodoo and
 Also sexualizes Haitian people and
culture, especially voodoo
Goat-Cry Girl-Cry
“The goat’s lingam became erect and rigid,
the points of the girl’s breasts visibly
hardened and were outlined sharply pressing
against the coarse, thin, tight-drawn shift that
was her only garment. Thus they faced each
other motionless as two marble figures on the
frieze of some ancient phallic temple.”
Where do we see this in the
Example 1
As the couple is riding into town
 Murder meets the carriage and stares at
 She is seemingly immobilized as he
snatches her scarf from her body
Example 2
When Neil and the doctor are discussing
Madeleine’s disappearance
 He distinguishes that the natives stole not
just her body, but her live body
 Neil responds “better to be dead than in
the hands of natives”
 Very physical language
By making a white woman a victim, the film
demonizes native Haitian culture further, plays on fear
of black men raping white women in American
 Sensationalist views of Haiti and the native people
contributed to stereotypes and sinister images of
Haitian natives
 People were primed to think this way by hypersexualized advertisements and previous existing
 This is related to the U.S. occupation in that Haitians
were seen as menacing, ignorant people preying on
American white females, with evil rituals who needed
to be saved; paternalism
White Zombie. Dir.Victor Halperin. Prod.
Edward Halperin. Screenplay by Garnett
Weston. Perf. Bela Lugosi and Madge
Bellamy. United Artists, 1932. Web.
 Seabrook, William. The Magic Island. New
York: Harcourt, Brace, 1929.
 Rhodes, Gary D. White Zombie: Anatomy of
a Horror Film. Jefferson, NC: McFarland,
2001. Print.