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Review: Lovecraft Country/ S1,Ep 1/ Sundown

HBO’s Lovecraft Country takes the Lovecraft Mythos and turns it on its head while illustrating that for a Black person in America, the scariest monsters are, in fact, racists. For those unfamiliar with Lovecraft, H. P. Lovecraft was a horror author and an unabashed racist. How racist, you ask? Ask Google what he named his cat.

Lovecraft was also the creator of an entirely new horror fiction genre, called Lovecraftian Horror. The genre is also known as Cosmic Horror or Eldritch Horror. Lovecraft’s work embodies the philosophy of cosmicism and the idea that the “fear and awe we feel when confronted by phenomena beyond our comprehension, whose scope extends beyond the narrow field of human affairs and boasts of cosmic significance”. [1]

Courtney B. Vance, Jurnee Smollett, and Jonathan Majors in Lovecraft Country. Photo credit HBO.

Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Black, played by Johnathan Majors, as he joins up with his friend Letitia, played by Jurnee Smollett, and his Uncle George, played by Courtney B. Vance, to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father, Montrose Freeman, played by Michael Kenneth Williams. 

The first episode plays with the theme of reconciliation. Atticus (Tic) must reconcile fighting for a country that won’t fight for him, reconcile his love and duty to a father who treated him with disdain his entire life and reconcile his love of pulp fiction and specifically Lovecraft’s works with the author’s racism. 

In a scene with his uncle, Atticus recounts a time when his father forbade him to read H. P. Lovecraft’s work. He tells his Uncle George, “Stories are like people. The author doesn’t make them perfect, you just try and cherish them, overlook their flaws.” Tic’s philosophy on the media he consumes lines up with his philosophy on his relationship with his father. This theme also later echoes in the relationships that his friend, Letitia, has with her own family.

Black fans of popular fiction are familiar with the dichotomy of loving the work of a creator, but hating the creator’s philosophies or hating the fandom that comes with the work. Like Atticus, Black fans of genre fiction are often left feeling that they are on the outside of the margins and sometimes feel as if we have more in common with the monsters in the stories we read than the heroes. Lovecraft Country gives Black fans a chance to see someone who looks like us fight the monsters and be heroes. All while shoving a mirror into the face of an America that consistently paints itself as the hero when it’s really playing the role of the villain.

Lovecraft Country shows that no matter what monsters our heroes face, the biggest monster that Black people in America face is the racial terrorism by white America on its Black citizens. And Atticus, Letitia, and Uncle George will have to fight to survive Eldritch horrors and the horrors of white supremacy, simultaneously. 

[1] Ralickas, Vivian. “‘Cosmic Horror’ and the Question of the Sublime in Lovecraft.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 18, no. 3 (2008): 364.

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Kenesha Williams is an independent author, screenwriter, speaker, and Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Black Girl Magic Lit Mag.

She took to heart the advice, “If you don’t see a clear path for what you want, sometimes you have to make it yourself,” and created a Speculative Fiction Literary Magazine featuring characters that were representative of herself and other women she identified with. She has happily parlayed her love for the weird and the macabre into Black Girl Magic Literary Magazine, finding the best in undiscovered talent in Speculative Fiction. 

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