More 'Timely' Racial Reckoning from HBO's 'Lovecraft Country'

August 16th, 2020 11:03 PM

As if 2020 didn’t have enough racial tension, HBO decides to throw fuel to the fire through its latest series Lovecraft Country. Based on a 2016 novel, the story is yet another remark about how racist America is. This time, we’ve got the usual “timely” comparisons between 2020 and the Jim Crow era.

The August 16 pilot “Sundown” introduces us to our protagonist Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors) in 1950s segregated Chicago. Following a letter, he travels with his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and his old friend Leti (Jurnee Smollett) to Ardham, Massachusetts or “Lovecraft Country” to find his missing father. On the way, they come across monsters both metaphorical and literal as they fight off both racist psychos and hundred-eyed beasts. Just a little reminder that every white person in the 1950s was apparently a racist.

And I mean every white person because, as per usual of a Jordan Peele project, there is no such thing as a good white person in this pilot. Instead, we have racist white youths who mock our leads, racist diner workers who call the police on their own patrons, and, of course, racist cops who literally try to hunt down black people. Perhaps that could change over the season, but with the track record, I’d doubt it.

While the 1950s wasn’t a perfect era for equality, the show is determined to have us see it as a kind of genocide against black people. Even worse, we have the return of the “timely” issues that are shoved in this period to make a statement about the present.

Indiewire writes the show “is a chimerical portrait of racism in America” that “couldn’t arrive at a more timely moment, as the nation contends with a vast reckoning.” Salon comments that there’s “no better illustration of the ever-present threat of white supremacy than to see it manifest as a slimy, many-eyed creature with multiple rows of teeth.” Collider boasts that the show “is must-see television — television that digs deeper to ask tough questions but still knows that biggest threat we will always have to combat is racism and our fight for equity.” Apparently, we’ve never moved past the murder-happy 1950s in these leftists' eyes.

Finally, the series has the now common trait of inserting modern debates into the past. Here, we have Tic talking with another black woman about how a character in a book he loves is a Confederate soldier, and how there’s no forgiving that.



Woman: What’s that book you’re reading about?

Tic: "A Princess of Mars"?

Woman: Mm-hmm.

Tic: It's about this man named John Carter...who goes from being a captain in the army of Northern Virginia to becoming a Martian warlord.

Woman: Huh.

Tic: Starts with him running from Apaches and hiding in this magical cave, which transports him to the Red Planet. That's when it starts to get good.

Woman: Hold on. You said the hero was a Confederate officer.

Tic: Ex-confederate.

Woman: He fought for slavery. You don't get to put an "Ex" in front of that.

Tic: Stories are like people. Loving them doesn't make them perfect. You just try and cherish 'em, overlook their flaws.

Woman: Yeah, but the flaws are still there.

Tic: Yeah, they are. But I love pulp stories.

You would think that a decade that still worries about the Ku Klux Klan and segregation wouldn’t focus on things like representation in a pulp fiction novel. Tic gives a good answer regarding Confederate figures, but, like every liberal nowadays, even he must posit a character he loves is actually a terrible person. Even Tic was a terrible person since he fought in the Korean War for “a country that hates [him].”

We live in crazy times, but ones not nearly as crazy as the minds behind Lovecraft Country.