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CULTURE

‘Lovecraft Country’ Tackles Racism Through Horror Genre

“The supernatural series takes place in the 1950s Jim Crow-era south, following a group of African American protagonists who must battle racism, monsters, and terror — with the lines blurring between all of those elements.”

The new HBO series “Lovecraft Country” tackles racism through the lens of the horror genre.

Written and developed by Misha Green (“Heroes”, “Sons of Anarchy”), the supernatural series takes place in the 1950s Jim Crow-era south, following a group of African American protagonists who must battle racism, monsters, and terror — with the lines blurring between all of those elements.

It’s also produced by Get Out director and writer Jordan Peele, who has similarly infused the horror genre with themes of race, social issues and discrimination.

“Lovecraft Country” stars Jonathan Majors as Atticus, a Korean War veteran who returns home to Chicago looking for his father (Michael Kenneth Williams, “The Wire”), who has gone missing. Accompanied by childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), the trio embark on a trip through segregated America — where historic racism is accented by supernatural elements.

The new series is based on a 2016 fantasy horror novel of the same name by Matt Ruff. Its title references H.P. Lovecraft — a popular horror writer from the early 20th century whose work was filled with racism. In fact, the main protagonist of the new series loves reading science fiction, fantasy, and horror and is condemned by his dad, who points out that those genres are dominated by white authors and full of racist stereotypes.

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This tension feeds into the series as it delves into the racial and societal mores of its time, including discrimination toward gays as well as African-Americans. It also subverts the historic legacy of these literary genres — reimagining white supremacists as literal monsters, for instance. There’s also a thinly veiled brotherhood of racists known as the Sons of Adam — led by a potentially literal “Grand Wizard”.

Early reviews of the series, which will span ten episodes, have been somewhat mixed — with critics pointing out a lack of character development but praising the production values and the creative pedigree of the cast and crew.

Still, in the aftermath of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement this year, perhaps this new series will resonate with audiences who have a renewed zeal to confront race and class in America. The horror and fantasy aspect will serve to entertain us and provide some distance from such difficult subjects.

“Lovecraft Country” premieres Aug. 16 at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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