Wed. Sep 30th, 2020

Lovecraft Country: Racism isn’t the only monster in HBO’s electrifying drama

Racial commentary meets vampires, witches and other supernatural beings in HBO’s rich new drama series, ‘Lovecraft Country’.

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HBO’s Lovecraft country has been described as a “bold, wild ride that’s well worth taking”, while Vulture says it’s where “monsters past and present converge”.

“‘Lovecraft Country’ feels like it’s all over the place, but it’s definitely not boring. And the theme that runs throughout – that racism against Black Americans is every bit as monstrous as supernatural creatures bent on mayhem – comes through loud and clear”. 

Oregon Live

I had the opportunity to take that ride ahead of the show’s release. Lovecraft Country is coming to 1Magic DStv channel 103 as a weekly release on Mondays at 21:30 from 17 August 2020.

In addition, Lovecraft Country will stream on Showmax as well: The first four episodes on 8 September, the next four episodes on 6 October, and the final two episodes on 20 October 2020.

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Image supplied: Multichoice

Lovecraft country: Production and influence

The 10-episode series was produced by Jordan Peele (known for Get Out and the mind-bending Us) and J.J. Abrams; it’s an adaptation of Matt Ruff’s eponymous novel and is filled with symbolism and commentary.

Fans of horror and science fiction will understand the references to H.P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider and Others, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

William Hope Hodgson’s supernatural horror 1908 novel The House on the Borderland also gets a mention, along with John Carter of Mars (the protagonist of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom stories).

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Image supplied: Multichoice

When Tic is asked why he’s reading a book that has a Confederate officer as a hero, he responds that “stories are like people, loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try to cherish them, overlook their flaws”. He adds:

“I love that the heroes get to go on adventures in other worlds, defy insurmountable odds, defeat monsters, save the day. Little [Black] boys from the South Side of Chicago don’t get to do that”.

The farce of the American Dream

Lovecraft Country is upfront and in-your-face about segregated buses, separate entrances and sundown towns; and also about how unattainable the American dream was for Black citizens.

Sundown Towns, Sunset Towns and Gray Towns are all-white areas, named after signposts reminding passersby that black Americans had to leave town by sunset. Discriminatory local laws and violence enforced segregation.

In Apartheid-era South Africa, this was largely enforced through curfews and dompas. Today, we have Orania, but I digress.

Moreover, Lovecraft Country will make you uncomfortable, and that’s a good thing. How else will we understand the historical complexities that the United States (and the rest of the world) is built upon?

Lovecraft Country is many things, but it definitely doesn’t lack excitement, and it doesn’t sugarcoat the racially segregated ‘Jim Crow’ America of the previous century with cutesy slogans and songs either.

And yet, it’s also so much more than that.

“Lovecraft Country may be a case of intellectual challenge and racial criticism with a generous serving of gothic and fantasy, but It’s also just a very entertaining drama. And it’s also entertaining without feeling like it’s trying to juggle too many pieces”.

Patricia Puentes 

Watch: Lovecraft Country trailer

Lovecraft Country: Plot and storyline

Lovecraft Country very accurately portrays what Black Americans had to endure because of the colour of their skin. But just when you think it is just another period piece, the show surprises you by taking a turn for the paranormal.

The show follows Atticus Freeman, or Tic for short. Tic is portrayed by Jonathan Majors (known for The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and Da 5 Bloods). He is a Korean War veteran who loves science fiction novels.

He heads back home to Chicago after his father disappears. Tic ends up going on a road trip with his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and his childhood friend Leti (Jurnee Smollett) to find his father.

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Image supplied: Multichoice

Their road trip takes them across the Midwest and into Massachusetts. It soon turns into a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.

“When this show is scary, it’s really scary, but there’s also a deeply rooted family drama here and moments of heart-pounding romance”. 

Ellen E Jones

Lovecraft Country Series details

Genre: American drama horror television series

Based on: cult novel by Matt Ruff

Series creators

  • Jordan Peele – Oscar-winning director and producer known for Us and Get Out
  • Misha Green – Created Underground, named Best New Cable/New Media Show of 2016 by the African-American Film Critics Association

Executive producer: JJ Abrams, also known for Star Wars, Star Trek, Lost, Super 8, and Westworld

Premiere: On Showmax and 1Magic, Tuesdays at 22:30 from 8 September 2020.

Cast and Characters

  • Jonathan Majors as Atticus Freeman
    • Majors is a Black Reel nominee and known for The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and Da 5 Bloods
  • Jurnee Smollett as Letitia “Leti” Lewis
    • Smollett is a Teen Choice nominee (Birds of Prey, and Friday Night Lights)
  • Michael Kenneth Williams as Montrose Freeman, Atticus’ hard-headed and secretive father
    • Williams is a four-time Emmy nominee (When They See Us, and The Night Of)
  • Courtney B. Vance as George Freeman, Atticus’ warm, funny and well-read uncle.
    • Vance is a Golden Globe nominee (The People Vs OJ Simpson, and Law & Order)
  • Wunmi Mosaku as Ruby Baptiste, Leti’s hustler half-sister
    • Mosaku is a BAFTA winner(Luther, The End of the F*ing World, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)
  • Abbey Lee as Christina Braithwhite, the sole daughter of the leader of a secret order known as the “Sons of Adam”
  • Aunjanue Ellis as Hippolyta Freeman, Atticus’ aunt and a star-gazer with an itch for adventure
  • Jada Harris as Diana Freeman
  • Jamie Harris as Eustace Hunt, the county sheriff.
  • Jamie Chung as Ji-Ah, a seemingly naive nursing student who is more than she seems.
  • Jordan Patrick Smith as William, Christina’s henchman and lover.
  • Jamie Neumann as Hillary
  • Erica Tazel as Dora Freeman

Lovecraft Country soundtrack

The soundtrack is good. It reminded me of Fallout 4, but that’s a story for a different day. It includes popular songs from the sixties, but also modern tracks too, from the likes of Rihanna, Frank Ocean and Marilyn Manson.

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