Read This Before You Watch “Lovecraft Country” Episodes 9 & 10

Welcome to the final installment of our five-week trek through the thrills and spills of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” (2020). This television series and our exploration of it have taken us through a wide range of topics. We’ve examined how the show and the 2014 Matt Ruff novel upon which it’s based draw from the cosmic horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. We have discussed Lovecraft’s enduring cultural influence in the horror genre, along with the pervasive if sometimes sublimated racism of Lovecraft’s vision.

We’ve considered how “Lovecraft Country” grows out of and comments upon American literary history, from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin to novels and narratives about “passing” like Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894) and James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912). We’ve discussed W.E.B. DuBois’s conception of “double consciousness” and Sigmund Freud’s ideas about “the uncanny.”

We’ve also looked at the major conventions, tropes and themes of horror filmmaking, from mad scientists, strange monsters, and the weird, to haunted houses and body horror. When the series veered into science fiction, we’ve even touched on Afrofuturism.

This week, “Rewind 1921” (episode 9) takes our heroes back to their family history in the massacre of Black citizens in Tulsa. They travel to rescue the Book of Names from the fire that destroys Tic’s family home, but they must also resist the temptation to alter historical events by saving people from violence and death. “Full Circle” (episode 10) brings us to the final showdown between the evil forces of selfish white privilege and the bonded forces our family of heroes working to reclaim their power.

Now we can consider the full narrative arc and explore some of the major themes the show addressed. In our discussion questions for this week, I ask you to consider what overall messages this series conveys about representations of Blackness in American literature and film, what it has to say about notions of blood and family, and what it ultimately suggests about the current state of race relations. Although primarily set in an alternative supernatural version of 1950s America, “Lovecraft Country” guides its viewers through the broader and painfully real history of 19th– and 20th-century white violence against Black people in this nation.

As a social artifact and a piece of popular television, “Lovecraft Country” does not merely confine itself to commenting on the remote past. Produced and released in 2020, this series has vital things to tell us about race in America today and into the future. If only we can learn to see, to listen, to feel, to reflect, to understand, to change, and to grow.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.

Published by Chuck Caruso

writer of dark fiction (crime, horror & western noir), literary & textual scholar (american gothic, noir, po-co, sf), and cultural critic

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