Lingua Mea Vita

Is “Eve’s Bayou” Southern Gothic Literature?

Eve’s Bayou is a fantastic movie.

fantastic [fan-tas-tik], adj.

  1. conceived or seemingly conceived by fancy; so extreme as to challenge belief; exceedingly large or great
  2. marked by extravagant fantasy or extreme individuality
  3. excellent, superlative

[Again,] Eve’s Bayou is a fantastic movie. Even by definition. What is NOT fantastic about the story of a mischievous 10-year-old Louisiana Creole girl who believes she killed her womanizing father by performing voodoo rituals with the local shadowlady?

After watching the movie the other night, I perform my post-movie ritual of going to imdb and reading comments on the movie’s discussion board. One of the topics was:

“Is Eve’s Bayou considered Southern Gothic Literature?”

I kid you not, I shouted “YES, OF COURSE” at my computer. This is only because I have a deep appreciation for Southern Gothic Literature. I like to blame this on my ragin’ Cajun roots.

For those who are like, “What the hell is Southern Gothic Literature”, it (is):

  1. An offshoot of gothic literature, set in the American South. (Gothic literature put very simply is atmospheric, supernatural fiction. Think Frankenstein, Interview with the Vampire, House of Leaves)
  2. Usually features strange characters. Puts a twist on your stereotypical Southern characters, e.g; the southern belle is a murderer (“A Rose for Emily”), the righteous, football-hero, man of the house may have feelings for another man (“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”).
  3. Use of the grotesque (which was described by my Chicano/Latino Lit proffy as “something disturbing, but you feel an affinity for it, and in the pit of your stomach, you may want to laugh”) to criticize Southern culture (as Wikipedia puts it). Example: To Kill a Mockingbird and racism. The trial is the “something disturbing”, you feel an affinity for it because you believe that Jim is going to get off, and you may want to laugh at the drunken ridiculousness of Bob and Mayella Ewell.

So clearly Eve’s Bayou fits this. It’s got the supernatural aspects of old gothic literature (the voodoo, Mozell’s psychic ability), strange characters (Louis, the womanizing father, Cisely, the nearly-psychotic 14-year-old sister), and use of the grotesque (the affair, the SPOILER ALERT: kiss between Cisely and Louis, and the relationship between Elzora and Eve).

So why would there even be a question about this movie being counted as Southern Gothic Literature?

I think it’s because it’s a black movie. I’m not implying that the poster who asked this question is racist. It’s more of the fault of black movies that often rely on the formula of “let’s commit a crime and make it funny” or “let’s tail-chase an impossibly annoying (but sexy!) woman and make it funny” or “let’s take a man and put him in a dress and make it funny.” Eve’s Bayou not only was more thoughtful and exciting than your typical “black” movie, but actually thoughtfully researched and  artfully written to fit under the SGL genre.

In fact, the fact that this movie has mostly black (or rather, Louisiana Creole) characters puts an interesting twist on an already interesting genre. Eve’s Bayou combines between Black literature and Southern Gothic Literature, that have been somehow separated for some reason, despite black people being a rather large part of Southern culture.

FUN FACT: This movie was written by Kasi Lemmons, aka Jodie Foster’s FBI agent friend in Silence of the Lambs (which also could be considered Southern Gothic Literature, in my book).


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