Lovecraft Country, racism and terror

10/8 · Por HBO · Reading 3 min.

Where do monsters dwell? Who are the most dangerous beasts? These would appear to be the questions underlying Lovecraft Country, the new HBO original series coming this August for your enjoyment.

Racism and Cthulhu come face to face in Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft Country is based on the book of the same name, written by Matthew "Matt" Ruff, an American writer who has authored terror and science fiction novels filled with suspense and references to modern society. The series, like the novel, delivers a universe where racism goes hand in hand with the horror elements typical of the mythical and enigmatic H.P. Lovecraft, who created a style and mythology of his own, which has endured down to today and inspires so many writers in that genre. Lovecraft’s literature is filled with dark dimensions and ancestral beasts that occasionally escape into this world, seeking to retake the power lost in times long past. He is known for having created the myths of Cthulhu, the literary cycle made up of a repertoire of stories that range from dreamscape to nightmare, madness and science fiction.

But Lovecraft’s literature also contains an element of rejection of the outside world inhabited by what we might call others. His characters carry a certain idea of isolation in which people are strange, repulsive and threatening. It is said that the author was racist, and that this racism can be seen in his work. The matter, as has been said, may be much more complex, but without a doubt, rejection and trepidation of others are present. And so, what Ruff does with Lovecraft’s literature is paradoxical, or a plot twist: in his novel, the supernatural creatures inspired by the dark author run parallel to a story that turns out to be an indictment of racism.

A terror series that explores a land of death

Thus, the series Lovecraft Country echoes these elements, while also leading us to think about the current times. We have Jonathan Majors (The Wire) playing Atticus Freeman, a Korean War veteran and fan of pulp fiction novels, who finds himself propelled into a hazardous journey to the lands of white America, where racism prevails. He is accompanied on his journey by Jurnee Smollett-Bell (True Blood), in the role of his friend Leticia, and Courtney B. Vance (American Crime Story), as Atticus’s uncle George. A larger task sets them on the road: the search for Atticus’s missing father, played by Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire and Boardwalk Empire). And so, the characters lead us into territories filled with shadows and intolerance, which also seethe with supernatural creatures. Predators are all around, and we don't know which monster will be most terrible.

Jim Crow laws

The journey takes place in the 1950s, during the time of what are known as the Jim Crow laws. Jim Crow was not a legislator or a racist politician, but a character created for vaudeville blackface. In 1828, Thomas Dartmouth Rice, also known as "Daddy Rice,” began painting his face and hands black (giving rise to the term “blackface,” referring to the theater make-up used to represent a Black person) and included in his act the song “Jump Jim Crow,” which mocked the pretensions of an African-American character. Rice traveled throughout much of the United States, and that is how the name Jim Crow became a pejorative way of referring to Black people. Then racial segregation laws were passed in 1876, and these came to be known as Jim Crow laws.

Jordan Peele and J.J.  Abrams, executive producers

Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams are the executive producers of Lovecraft Country. Peele is an actor, producer and screenwriter who leapt into the arena as a director in 2017 with Get Out, an electrifying thriller that centers on racism. In 2019, he delivered Us, a story that features evil doppelgangers and scientific postulation. J.J. Abrams, also a producer, actor, screenwriter and director, is the well-known creator of the series Lost. He has produced a sizable number of box office hits and directed such movies as Mission: Impossible III (2006), Star Trek (2009) and two of the Star Wars movies: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) and Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019). Episode directors include Yann Demange (’71, a film with a magnificent run of luck at international festivals) and Daniel Sackheim (Game of Thrones and True Detective), among others.

Lovecraft Country, a new original series, a journey into the depths of the most terrible monsters of the soul. Coming in August on HBO and HBO GO.

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