Note: Spoilers Below
Lovecraft Country Season One, developed by Misha Green, is the television show we need. Lovecraft Country is about our Black heroes battling the forces of White privilege and racism to live the American Dream. One of the main characters, Atticus Freeman, is the ancestor of a slave named Hanna and her master Titus Braithwaite, a magician, and founder of the magical KKK fraternity, the Order of the Dawn. This story’s central villain is Atticus’s distant relative, Christiana Braithwaite, a witch who pulls the group into her magical world. The television show’s horror comes from racism.
In Lovecraft Country, the real horror is racism and White privilege. The first scary moment is not a monstrous shoggoth attacking somebody, but when a Sundown town sheriff harasses Atticus, Uncle George, and Leti at the side of the road. A sundown town is where Black citizens need to leave town before the sunsets. A Black person could be lynched or jailed if they were caught in the town limits. They are chased by the sheriff’s car, Atticus races past the city limits to safety before the sunset. Diana Freeman, almost dying from a curse, is another instance of metaphorically weaponized racism. Two Jim Crow caricature of Black girls with claws chase Diana around Chicago, trying to kill her. Christina Braithwaite is an example of White privilege as horror.
Christina Braithwaite is the epitome of the White female privilege. Christina thinks that since she is oppressed by the White Male centric group The Order of the Dawn (or the Sons of Adam), she has permission to use everybody in her way. Her father, Samuel, believes women are meant to be servants to men. Christina first learned magic to prove her father wrong but later realized she could use her new power to bring down the White patriarchy. Christina’s ultimate goal is to become immortal and destroy the Sons of Adam. She believes that her plan gives her the right to use Blacks as disposable tools. Christian ignores her privilege and is guilty of oppresses her Black relative Atticus. Her ultimate goal is to kill Atticus for a spell to gain immortality. I think Christina is the perfect main villain for Lovecraft Country. My only issue with her is her queerness.
Historically in media, Queer people have often been villainous or tragic characters. Though Lovecraft Country does a fantastic job of dealing with racism and sexism, their ability to constructively explore queerness leaves a lot to be desired. First off, Christina Braithwaite’s queerness makes her doubly marginalized as both a woman and a Lesbian or bisexual person. By making Christina a villain, homosexuality is tainted as evil. Especially when the other queer woman in the series has questionable morals. Leti’s big sister Ruby Baptiste is bisexual or at least sexually fluid. After learning her White lover, William is Christina; the Black woman develops romantic feelings for the witch. Ruby is an Uncle Tom like a character who will work against other Black people to get her way. For some reason, Ruby’s recognition of racial inequities leads her to be willing to do anything to gain what she desires. The older sister experiences White privilege when she wears Dell the White groundskeeper’s skin allowing her to achieve her dream job at Marshall Fields. In the end, Ruby tries to help her sister Leti by stealing some of Christina’s blood for a binding spell. Sadly, the older sister is killed by Christina for her troubles. Ruby becomes a victim of the “bury your gays” trope. Montrose Freeman, whose an in the closet gay man, is no better.
Montrose has been living a lie all of his life to fit into society. Atticus’ father being an alcoholic, abusive man because he has been suppressing his “feminine” traits and forced to have sex with men in the shadows is historically accurate. My problem starts where all the other main characters get to deal with their deep-seated issues, but Montrose doesn’t. Through most of the series, Montrose is an angry, abusive alcoholic who can’t even talk to his lover, the bar owner Sam. In the end, the father comes out to his son and explains how he sacrificed his identity to be a parent. But Montrose doesn’t embrace his sexuality and transforms into his true self; instead, the character is just a devoted father who helps his son stop Christina. I know that there were other more celebratory paths for this character because of Hippolyta Freeman.
The strongest Lovecraft Country storyline belongs to Hippolyta Freeman, embracing her Black womanhood. Hippolyta is a feminist hero. As an intelligent, brave young girl and an astronomy lover, she named a comet Hera’s Chariot. Afterward, the astronomical society claimed a Swedish girl named the comet. They didn’t want a Black girl as the face of their organization. Hippolyta loses her confidence. By the time the series starts, Hippolyta feels like a small housewife. Uncle George won’t let her travel for The Green Book scouting trips. The Black mother discovers her inner self by traveling through a multi-dimensional machine into different worlds and times. During the journey, Hippolyta figures out all the different layers of her identity. She is a sexually, mentally, and emotionally powerful Black woman. Hippolyta refuses to shrink herself because of her race or gender. She is a discoverer. In the end, Hippolyta saves the day by operating the multi-dimensional machine, allowing Atticus, Leti, Montrose to travel back to the night of the Tulsa Massacre. In Tulsa, the group tracks down The Book of Names to help lift the curse of Diana. The last scene reveals that Hippolyta built a robotic arm for her teenage daughter.
I hope Lovecraft Country gets renewed for a second season to continue to wrestle with the complexity of racism and feminism, but we will have to wait to see. The media is a perfect medium to explore our country’s challenges while grappling with the #MeToo, and Black Lives Matters movements.
Photo Credit: Eli Joshua Ade/HBO