The newest film in Netflix’s lineup isn’t anything all that special, in honesty. It follows Lupita Nyong’o and Australian actor Alexander England as kindergarten teacher Miss Caroline and washed up musician Dave, respectively.
On a class field trip to a farm, an outbreak of zombies occurs, and the two, along with Josh Gad as a children’s actor, have to protect the handful of kids from hordes of the undead. It’s a predictable zombie film, but that’s not what makes this movie nothing short of remarkable.
It’s the fact that Lupita’s character is a love interest. I know that sounds simple, and, had she been white, nothing worth noting, but I think it’s so fucking cool, and still, in fucking 2019, something that I don’t see often.
It’s obvious but black girls get no love. This goes doubly for dark-skinned black girls. And in horror as a genre, forget it; I don’t know if you’ve heard, but its more likely that we die out within the first few minutes, and it’s extremely unlikely that we become romantic interests without, well, without something extremely traumatic occurring first.
In taking his nephew, Felix to school, Dave meets Miss Audrey Caroline.
Her introduction is in slow-motion, in a bright pink dress and surrounded by a rosy pink background, and he is smitten with her in the way an asshole like Dave can be smitten.
They have a conversation, he tries to impress her and fails, and then masturbates to her picture later that night which is…hm.
By the end, the two reconcile whatever differences they had and share a kiss, and the final shot is Audrey and Dave singing a peppy tune on the ukulele. It’s disgustingly cute. This, I think, turns Little Monsters from an extremely forgettable zombie movie to a decent one.
Miss Caroline herself is such a turn on its head for tropes about black women. She is given a femininity that is so denied to us.
Miss Caroline wears bright colored dresses, strums on a ukulele and sings Taylor Swift songs to her class of students, and none of these quirky things that she does is framed as ‘being weird’ cause she’s black.
In a scene towards the end, Miss Caroline is frazzled by the screaming kids, the growling, scratching zombies outside and the insanity of the situation. Dave picks up on it, and takes Caroline’s ukulele, and, with the help of the kids, serenades her with a rendition of “Sweet Caroline”.
And, I don’t know, seeing beautiful, dark-skinned Lupita flushing in embarrassment and happiness as someone sings to her in hopes of winning her heart made me fucking tear up. Even recalling the scene makes me a bit misty eyed. Yes, I cried at Little Monsters.
Because how often are black girls sung sweetly to? In what movies do we get to be swept off our feet with no strings attached? Without having to fight for it or confront our deep-seeded trauma around race.
Yes, of course they have to fight off the living dead and their own sordid pasts—Dave and his noncommittal attitude and Miss Caroline who found herself alone and peniless in Australia after stalking a band—but Miss Caroline is simply Miss Caroline.
There’s nothing about Dave having ‘jungle fever’, and no one in the movie saying anything negative about her race. In fact, no one says anything about the fact that Miss Caroline is black.
It’s refreshing that a black person can just exist as a person who, just also happens to be black. And it’s extra amazing to see that she can be black and be loved at the same time.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s other faults this movie definitely has; there’s ableist language involving the kindergarten student with multiple sclerosis, and they involve a character with Down syndrome for something like schlocky, inappropriate comedic purposes.
The R word is thrown around at least once.
Having a kickass character like Miss Caroline doesn’t excuse ableism, but it was just a nice change of pace to have Lupita, to have a black girl in a role that is not reserved for us. I’d like to see more of it in movies soon.