Lovecraft Country Should Not Have Been Canceled.
Just finished watching the series and I want, no I need more.
I am not a horror fan. I don’t like seeing a lot of blood and guts and I’m astounded at the idiocy of some of the protagonists who just INSIST on going into that bloody basement! The Horror genre usually makes me squirm with revulsion and I’m likely to turn it off for some sort of historical documentary. BUT, and this is a big but, sometimes you just have to face the horror, experience the trauma and get through it to the other side where reflection is necessary and possible. It helps if the writing is good, the acting exceptional and the story painfully engaging.
For those of you, who like I was, are ignorant of the show (or who don’t have HBO) Lovecraft Country is a mix of reality/history, fantasy, science fiction and horror. Heavy on the horror. It starred Jonathan Majors, Journee Smollet, Aunjanue Ellis, Courtney Vance, Wunmi Mosaku and an exceptional Michael Kenneth Williams in one of his last roles.
All of the main characters are black. They star in their own story. For that alone it’s worth a watch. They are supported by white actors who are, without exception, portraying villains and one Korean-actress, Jamie Chung who plays a Komiho, the nine-tailed demon fox spirit, who battles her nature.
Jonathan Majors plays Atticus Freeman, a young black man who starts by searching for his father across 1950’s Jim Crow America. That journey is fraught with real life danger. The ‘Guide Book’, edged in green, written and researched by Atticus’ Uncle George is a guide to ensure the safety of black travellers across America but especially in the South. It echoes the famous Green Book. It’s important to note though, that the majority of the story takes place in Chicago, the Northern city where many Black folks fled to safety before and after the Civil War. Safety. Think of that. It also brings Atticus, George and Leti smack up against magical terrors and monsters, both human and other.
I won’t spoil the show with any more description of the story. Please see it for yourself. There are ten episodes and we binged it over a few weeks. A very short time for me considering the horror part of its genre. But it isn’t the genre that makes this show important, it is its content and what it says about the history of black people in America and whether it makes me uncomfortable is not the point. Or perhaps it is.
The Lovecraft Country people were important. Their lives mattered. I got to know them and like the characters, flaws and all. I was terrified for Hippolyta’s daughter Dee, played by Jada Harris. I cheered for Atticus and especially Leti and was deeply concerned for Ruby. Michael K Williams moved me and left me weeping. And I learned something, a lot of somethings.
It wasn’t just the horrifying history of the Tulsa riots, the obvious hatred of white cops for black people, all the tropes of racism that I wish would just desolve in the mud and disappear. It wasn’t just about the subtle and not so subtle ‘usage’ of people that continues unabated or the difference between how a competent white woman is perceived and how the equally competent black woman is treated. Though all of that is in there and much, much more. The exploitation of people for the benefit of a few and the nonchalant acknowledgement of that dynamic was jarring in its banality. The sheriff toward the end makes use of obviously black body parts to prolong his life, the main villain makes no excuses for wanting the kill the last man, Atticus, who carries her very own bloodline, in order to live forever. The metaphors fly around continually. I should really watch it again to take in all of it.
I think now it is time to mention Misha Green.
She was the show-runner and primary writer of Lovecraft Country. I will be looking out for anything she puts her hand to (such as Underground Railroad, Cleopatra Jones and The Mother). I appreciate good writing. Her handling of the material, including the ‘pet’ monsters, was intelligent, emotional and sure. Please Misha, more stories that show us the real story. Horror is not an inappropriate venue for what whites have done and are continually responsible for perpetuating against black people. I wish there was a second series. HBO are you listening? This show was nominated for more Emmys than any other HBO show and you cancel it? Why might that be?
Lovecraft Country, may have ended and as entertaining and engaging as it was in Misha Green’s hand, it nevertheless contained sharp truths that we all need to understand because racism hasn’t come to an end yet. We can’t just cancel racism and declare it non-existent. It is like those underground monsters, lying in wait, ready to spring up and raise their ugly heads and bare their teeth. We, white people, need to stop the monsters now. It’s our problem.
See Lovecraft Country. It’s non-stop and well worth your time.