Like many of you, I’ve been counting the days and looking forward to Lovecraft Country since it was announced. Having seen the trailer a dozen and a half times since it was released (as if I was the only one who did so), I still felt like I wasn’t sure what I was about to walk into for the show. And after seeing the first five episodes, I yet don’t have an idea of what the show has left up its sleeves.
Lovecraft Country is based on a novel by Matt Ruff. In both the book and the television series, the year is 1954, and Atticus Turner (Jonathan Majors) gets a letter from his father who’s been missing for nearly two weeks. In the letter, he’s told that there’s a birthright that has been kept from them. He’s in Lovecraft Country. And so, Atticus, his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) go from Chicago to New England.
Even though I’ve seen five episodes, there are no spoilers, and I only reference the pilot episode.
On the way, Atticus, Uncle George and Leti encounter quite a few monsters. Because the our leads are Black men and women, they have to deal with the other evil creatures that came with the Jim Crow-era, White folk.
If this does anything to the mainstream audience (white folks) [or if we’re honest, what some people think is the mainstream audience], I’ll hope they understand that sometimes the way they treat Black men and women is scarier and more haunting than any of Lovecraft’s creatures. A lot of times, what’s scary is what is tangible and believable. This show makes a great argument that these cosmic horror entities can be terrifying, even if they’re hard to believe. And yet, it’s the White society that is more dangerous and the biggest and hardest fight they have.
It is very tough to have been able to pull off because there’s an incident in the woods in the pilot, and even though it’s terrifying in its own right, I was more anxious over them attempting to get out of Sundown County first. For those unaware, like I was. Sundown County were small communities that were all White. Some may have only one Black family living there, and they would drive out all the rest, or worse, killed them. A lot of these towns belonged on Route 66, which runs from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. In Illinois alone, there were nearly 150 Sundown Counties. The Atlantic posted a great article about the history of Route 66 that you should read for more information. A lot of the towns would have businesses with three “K’s” in their title. This was their way of saying they would only serve Whites. Route 66 was extremely dangerous for Black folks since the birth of the “Road of Dreams” in 1926 and even past the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s.
Black folk were allowed to pass through the town, but they had to make sure to be long gone by sundown, or else they’d be gone as well. Sometimes, they would travel with The Negro Motorist Green Book, a book written by Victor H. Green, a postal worker from Harlem, New York. The book that eventually would be semi used with Don Shirley and Tony Lip, the events that inspired Green Book, the atrocious White-saviour film that won Oscars.
I also acknowledge the irony in our site and our article. The purpose of our website and outlet has always been to give a voice to the voiceless and offer proper representation, and yet, a Spanish male is reviewing Lovecraft Country. As co-founder of the site, you have the word of all that we will do better in the future. And hold us to it. There are smarter people than me who can talk (and please, listen to them when they do) about Black people and their relationship with horror, or H.P. Lovecraft. One of the most influential horror authors to have lived, but also one of the most racist and problematic as well. We throw around words like “Lovecraftian,” and yet, people haven’t even read their work. It’s me; I’m people. I’m not calling out anyone but myself.
A lot of the show is about our love-hate relationship with history. It can be romanticized, but there is a lot of ugliness found in everyone’s past. Especially America. The way that Atticus has a birthright, but yet, he would never be entirely accepted due to the colour of his skin. And while to some people, it might feel “shocking” to see how far people would go to belittle, hurt, attack, and kill Black men and women. And even though, there’s been a new trope of “the White men were the monsters all along” that has become repetitive, it bears repeating. Especially, from a HBO show with an incredible budget and incredible special effects.
I’ve seen five episodes, and each one feels different than the one prior – and it’s been an utter joy to experience them all. I still have five more episodes to see, and I might have to wait for them to come out like all of you, but I look forward to every one of them. And on top of that, I can’t wait to see how you experience them.
Lovecraft Country premieres on HBO Sunday, August 16th @ 9pm.