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Understanding Why Tony Todd Digs Deep into his Blackness to Project Fear

“Growing up black in America as an only kid and avoiding gangs. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of stuff in my time living in New York, growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, living in Chicago, living in LA. I’m a well balanced guy — got cats, fish, peace, and solitude. Because of how I was raised and where I come from [connecting with that fear] comes easily. I spent most of my time trying to suppress it, okay, because I’m not psychotic!”

— Tony Todd “Scare Glow” Masters of the Universe Press Day Roundtable

scare glow

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION (L to R) TONY TODD as SCARE GLOW in episode 104 of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

I never gave Scare Glow a second thought before hearing Tony Todd talk about voicing the character from the upcoming series  Masters of the Universe: Revelations on Netflix. My favorite was, of course, Teela and later She-Ra. The women of Eternia gave us girl power vibes before Brittany and Christina could utter their first words. So, Scare Glow never registered in my world outside of the episodes where he temporarily bested Prince Adam—before Adam turned into He-Man and rocked Scare Glow’s socks. With a few exceptions, I think most people felt the same way about the character.

That is until Todd explained the motivation that prepared him for voicing the character. It happened in a roundtable interview during the Masters of the Universe: Revelations press day. Kevin Phoenix of Fanboy Nation asked Todd to explain how he taps into the fear projected in his performances of villains like Scare Glow (Todd is also well-known for his role as Candyman in the Candyman films). He told the panel of journalists how his background as a Black kid growing up in America gave him all the material he needed to understand the fear and how to project it.

He’s Not Wrong

I reflected on my own girlhood as I listened to Todd’s recorded voice. He described, to a pale panel (no Black journalists), how Scare Glow’s fuel of fear is common for Black kids. In the 80s, I was a nerdy little stick figure of a girl, in glasses and ill-fitting hand-me-downs, who compounded her otherness by liking comics and loving the He-Man universe. He-Man was meant for boys back then. Playing with boys’ toys was yet another thing that my bullies could chant about as they chased me home from school.

MOTU skelator

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION (L to R) MARK HAMILL as SKELETOR in episode 101 of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Our Monsters Were Real and Mostly White

In an impoverished, Black community, kids often find themselves fearing more than the school bully. The police were shooting our cousins, aunties, uncles, and daddies back then, too. Those shootings rarely made the news as they do today. The police could do as they wish to our bodies without consequence. That’s just as scary as the Boogey Man. 

The social workers were also people to fear. They were the people who can come and snatch you from your home, leaving your family helpless to stop them. A little White lady who could steal you from your bed and your parents can do nothing about it? Of course, that was scary. We never understand their true purpose and back then. And, racist social norms made it easy for the county to take custody of a child from his parents. 

My neighborhood also had gangs or groups of older kids, who usually bullied the nerdy, small, lovers of shows like He-man. And let’s not forget the persistent racism that has always plagued the Black community. Back then, A bald teenage White boy was often scarier than Skelator could ever be, especially if he was visiting the hood with his skinhead friends.  

The Monster Called Racism Followed Us Everywhere (Even into Eternia)

We saw it as kids, even in our beloved He-Man cartoons. We saw it and suffered as well. In school, the teachers expect us to be the cause of trouble. We were never allowed to behave as our White peers did. The teachers seemed to miss their tantrums while ours sent them into a fury. Our achievements were interrogated much more often than were celebrated, and everywhere we turn, we saw whiteness being held up as the model of perfection. Our melanin was the criminal, promiscuous, drug-addicted, lazy, and lying butt of all the jokes.

I noted that there were no Black girls in Eternia. I felt that, too. (Note: The first Black character Clamp Champ appeared in 1985.) And let’s not talk about the moment when I discovered that my beloved cartoon friends were colonizers from Earth. The racism monster was inescapable. I wrote about how colorism brought a different level of racism to my girlhood

MastersoftheUniverse Revelation Part1 he man

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION (L to R) CHRIS WOOD as HE-MAN in episode 101 of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Todd’s Boyhood was 30 Years Prior and Much Darker than Mine

My experience with fear and growing up Black in America in the 80s was milder than Todd’s. He was born in 1954, and that means he grew up in the 50s and 60s, in the midst of the Civil Rights Era. That’s when America was a particularly hostile place for Black kids to grow up in. The fear of Whiteness then must have been tremendous because the threat and danger are still palpable in the photos, videos, and stories we read today. Todd saw that as a kid. He harnessed the power of such ancestrally rooted fear and that is why Candyman is the biggest villain on film. The thought of that power behind the new Scare Glow actually makes me even more intrigued with the reboot of Masters of the Universe: Revelations

Tony Todd’s words make Scare Glow’s image a bit more sinister. They add depth to the character that I’ve never felt before. The fear connection is not all scary though. There is a familiarity there, a feeling of being, heard, seen, and acknowledged in something. I think that will bring us, 80s Black nerds, back to our childhoods. I know Todd’s words will give me another reason to watch Scare Glow, Skelator, He-Man, Teela, and the gang on Netflix, July 23.