Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
October 25, 2019
Papa Ray Loves Black Meat
Category: Serious … Travels

So I visited Field of Screams in Lancaster County, PA, last night. As haunts go, it was comparable to other attractions incorporating multiple attractions in terms of quality, though it had a few standout areas -- I particularly enjoyed the multi-floor setup of the Den of Darkness (one ground-level area resembled a frontier saloon/brothel; toward the end there was attic area populated with all manner of creepy dolls), and the layout of the Nocturnal Wasteland was impressive though the theme was kinda weak. (The green light/fog combination they employed to give the visual impression of wading through a toxic swamp was brilliant, though.)

And there was one part that left me especially cold, though that's less the fault of the haunt itself than the actor. And it's not an uncommon thing. (I mean, I wouldn't be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time it happened -- I haven't been to a million haunts, and not every haunt affords the opportunity for it -- but I could certainly buy a current Marvel Legends figure at a local comic shop markup.) Nearly every time I pass through a redneck cannibal area and the actors can interact with patrons, an actor singles me out to make a crack about "dark meat" or some other reference to the color of my skin. Last night the area was loud and the guy had wrapped his arms entirely around my head, so his speech was muffled, but I think he said, "Papa Ray looooves black meat." Ha ha ha.

Last year I had a prolonged run-in with a local haunt performer whom I know as well as anyone working these things -- he actually pulled me out of line and brought me to the front group, and then at another point he "kidnapped" me from the group, whereupon I was invited to hang out with him and some of his fellow actors during their downtime. He was clearly pleased to see me and desirous of my company. But he repeatedly lauded me for being "that cool black dude" (he knows my name) who didn't get offended when he broke out various slurs and derogatory references during the act. And, to be fair, nothing he said was *flagrantly* offensive: there are certainly things he could have said that would have moved me to respond, but his comments were the sort of thing I'd just as soon ignore rather than make a scene and risk upsetting people. Even so -- I really was not cool with his remarks and I was indeed bothered by them, and so what should have been a mutually pleasant encounter was marred for me because the entire time I felt like a weird uncool fraud. I admit that I would have had difficulty saying something under any circumstances, but here I was especially disinclined to object because my silence was the very thing that made me likable to those people.

I mean, I get it. These folks are trying to play a character, and a redneck cannibal probably wouldn't be the most PC or respectful or anti-racist individual. I also imagine that most people who aren't me would find that kind of comment hilarious, so I hesitate to say that they shouldn't do it or that they should know better. Even so, minor as they seem, those encounters consistently dampen my experience. They're not-so-subtle reminders that I don't belong, that I shouldn't be here, that it's time for me to go. And while it's not as if I'm hurting for those kinds of reminders, somehow it's especially disappointing to find them even in the middle of a theatrical haunted house.

-posted by Wes | 4:40 pm | Comments (0)
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