Orginal Publication Date
Ethnic Studies Review
In Lee Frost's 1972 film The Thing with Two Heads, a white bigot unknowingly has his head surgically grafted onto the body of a black man. From that moment on, these two personalities compete for control of their shared body with ridiculous results. Somewhere between horror and comedy, this Blaxploitation film occupies a strange place in interracial discourse. Throughout American literature, the subgenre of tragic mulatto fiction has critiqued segregation by focusing on the melodramatic lives of those divided by the color line. Most tragic mulatto scholarship has analyzed overtly political novels written by African American writers from the Reconstruction Era or Harlem Renaissance, and examining these overtly political texts has produced valuable ways to understand American racism's harsh reality. Beyond this focus on reality, however, The Thing with Two Heads is a valuable contribution to the field of tragic mulatto studies because its focus on the fantastic plot of a black/white conjoined twin provides opportunities to theorize race in ways that more reality-bound works cannot. This article explores how this horror-comedy articulates different discourses regarding interracialism, conjoined twins, and monstrosity in ways that reveal much about American ideas about race, selfhood, and identity.
Copyright ©ESR, The National Association for Ethnic Studies, 2011