TV

Lovecraft Country

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H.P. Lovecraft's footprint on modern horror storytelling is inescapable. Even those who have never read his short stories of people driven to madness by the eldritch abominations looming in the darkness recognize the profile of his monstrous, tentacled god Cthulhu.

Also inescapable is that Lovecraft's fiction was influenced by his deep-seated racism and xenophobia. While the author's pervasive influence on the horror genre means he can't be "canceled" entirely—nor should he be—his image was removed from the World Fantasy Award in 2015 following protests.

But the mythos Lovecraft created has outlasted the man himself, and new creators can expand on his ideas with fresh eyes. In the case of HBO's Lovecraft Country, based on a book by Matt Ruff, they completely reframe Lovecraft's racial dynamics.

Lovecraft Country shifts the setting from the early 20th century to post–Korean War America amid civil rights and desegregation battles. The protagonists of the series are predominantly African-American men and women thrust into conflict with a cult obsessed with reclaiming the power of the biblical Adam.

The fantastic monsters, horrifying body transformations, mind-corrupting secrets, and esoteric magic will feel familiar to Lovecraft readers. But in this telling, the twisted cult leaders aren't dark-skinned foreigners but a secret establishment cabal attempting to cling to control in a changing world.

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  1. This series was a high quality mess. And that’s even ignoring the fact that the makers took Lovecraft exactly in the opposite racist direction, making every non-black character varying degrees of evil.

    1. The way to fight racism is more racism!

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    3. That’s being generous. It was a mess, it catered to identity politics, it involved Lovecraftian themes. And, overall, I found that it sucked after the fourth episode.

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    4. I liked the novel, but the series sucked. I bailed early.

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  3. The interesting thing about Lovecraft is his portrayal of the universe as being indifferent to humanity. This gets played as a horrifying realization, but the idea that the laws of physics don’t care about people shouldn’t be horrifying. What else did you expect?

    The idea that the laws of economics work the way they do–regardless of whether people want them to work that way–shouldn’t be horrifying either. It’s a real statement about this generation of childish adults if they’re drawn to Lovecraft because they find the idea that their feelings don’t matter to be so horrifying. Maybe the reason they like Rick and Morty is the same reason why they’re so oblivious to basic economic thinking. Is the Lovecraftian universe too awful for them to contemplate outside the realm of comedy and horror?

    One of my friends was killed in a car accident. The laws of physics didn’t care whether his family loved him. Another went out of business during the recession. The laws of economics didn’t care about him either. This may be an argument for compassion in the face of a cruel universe, but for goodness’ sake, people, your feelings about the way the real world works should never have been so important. The world certainly isn’t about to stop working the way it does just because of your feelings.

    Why not spend some time getting to understand how things like economies work–and put that knowledge to good use so they don’t get run over by reality like a train? There may not be anything more legitimately horrifying than people who willfully refuse to understand how things like economies work and, thereby, get us all run over by reality like a train.

    This is the horror behind Medicare for All, raising corporate taxes, and the Green New Deal–people feeding themselves and the rest of us to an indifferent universe because they willfully refuse to accept reality. Don’t they care about anyone but themselves? Have some compassion for your fellow man!

    1. Unfortunately over the past decades we have allowed if not encouraged perpetual childhood. People who should be capable of autonomy and self-reliance (and should want to embrace that) are inclined to reject responsibility and live in a semi-fantasy world. They expect that just because they can imagine a thing, reality (or mommy and daddy–or some institutional substitute) should provide that thing.

      Blame it on over-parenting. Blame it on the consumer economy, much of which promises care-free life. Blame it on a coddling education system (Everybody Wins!). And, of course, blame it on a scheming, steaming brand of politics that promises a preschool level of Marxism.

      Like the T-shirt says, Reality Bites. Letting people think they can reject reality bites more.

      1. They refuse to believe that their feelings aren’t more important than anything else–which may be the practical definition of childhood.

        1. I agree, though obviously I do love the Lovecraftian stuff. More the spinoffs than the original source material, so this show should be right up my alley. It is a childish delight, in contrast to the sobering realization of the Hard Facts Of the World. Hence it’s appeal. I also worry that the culture of my country, the USA has turned too childish for its own good, whether conservative or liberal. Both extremes rule each party, and both blame all the ills of the world on the other. The Republicans used to be the cautious adults in the room, and now they have turned into a bunch of whiners. What about the Democrats you say, well they have been whiners my whole life, but have become even more whiny. This blame everyone else mentality is corrosive towards our Democracy, and does not lead to happy adulthood.

          1. We need to keep our sense of proportion. I don’t see the Republicans going against the laws of economics and nature with Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and soaking the rich with taxes–and yet Biden is promising all three on his website(s) with the only objection from congressional Democrats being that he isn’t going far enough.

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      2. In a nutshell, humanity has domesticated itself. That’s been happening ever since we invented civilization. But as technology progressed so does our domestication.

        Domesticated animals have juvenile traits. Which is why our civilization is so full of adult children.

        The big question is whether the benefits of domestication outweigh the downsides. I think we can strike a balance without having to go back to the caves and chasing down our food.

        1. I wasn’t asking for anyone to move into a cave and chase down their food.

          I was asking for them to accept the fact that the economy works the way it does because of the economic forces behind it–regardless of whether we like it.

          Is facing reality before they subject the rest of us to economic ruin really too much to ask?

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    2. “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

      ― Thomas Sowell

    3. Nature is brutally fucking honest. It does what it does the same way every single time no matter how hard you try to wish it didn’t.

    4. “The world certainly isn’t about to stop working the way it does just because of your feelings.”

      Unfortunately, regressive Democrats and left wing media outlets believe that feelings (especially when lots of Democrats have the same feelings) are the ONLY things that matter, and that feelings trump all laws of nature, physics, chemistry, economics, science, logic and common sense.

  4. “But in this telling, the twisted cult leaders aren’t dark-skinned foreigners but a secret establishment cabal attempting to cling to control”

    So the Davos crowd and mainstream media then?

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  6. Obsession with past wrongs and the past in general is always a bad sign.

  7. Once again, the last two thirds of the review are missing. I’m almost expecting a “…to continue reading please subscribe” message. WTF?

    1. This show ended its run on HBO a month ago. Its like someone accidentally hit the ” post story” button on an adandoned review.

      If Woke Historical Fiction is your thing, The Good Lord Bird on Showtime is in every way superior to Lovecraft Country

  8. What was the point of this article? This was a blurb that could have been found in TV guide. Waste of time, nothing insightful, no commentary. Pointless.

  9. One of the worst HBO shows I had watched in a while. Moreso one of the most disappointing given its start. I enjoy Lovecraftian things, and the first 1 to maybe 2 episodes were kind of OK. Then it just turned into a mix of bad and random so quickly. By the 4th episode it felt completely sloppy; and though there is an overarching story, each individual episode was such a cluster of “why the fuck are they in this completely unrelated and random place, looking for some other McGuffin they can barely make me care about”. Its almost as if they had too many ideas (not all great) and slammed them together as fast as they could, jumping from episode to episode.

    Then you have the woke pandering. I don’t know how these people aren’t bored with it by now. OK we get it, it was the whites that did it. Whatever it was, the evil things, the racist things, they’re the villians. Takes all the element of surprise out of it. But any POC, good person. White person, likely evil. White man, probably the devil or big bad of the show. Yawn.

  10. With the trend of woke pandering, Im starting to just skip shows/movies that look like theyre following the same boring format. Antebellum was a hard skip.

    Wish I would have skipped out on Black Christmas. Just heard it was a horror movie and the in-laws wanted to watch it. Man was that a hard regret from everyone.

    Feminist pandering, woke SJW crap, white man evil garbage. The only 2 men who aren’t one of the rapist murders, one white and one black, of course the white one is portrayed as angry and belittling to the women even though he isn’t a murderer. The black one (surprise, surprise) is a good guy who is only turned by the evil powers of the dastardly whites, but fights it due to his virtue!

  11. Great show, can’t wait for season 2

  12. I don’t watch nothing with Peele’s name on it.

    1. Why the hell reason still thinks I care about its television reviews? They are always talking about something idiotic, such as The Invisible Man (2020) or The Handmaid’s Tale.

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  15. I wanted to know more about the exclusion of white people from using magic anymore because they were bad over and over. Are the 50% white characters only 50% as powerful with magic as those with no evil whiteness in them or is it that people who identify or are identified as not being white oppressors are still allowed to use magic?

  16. Also, what I liked about the Lovecraftian world was that learning the underlying nature of the world and using Mythos powers necessarily required loss of sanity. There is none of that in this series. The knowledge of and using the magic has almost no ill effect on the characters at all. Magic is at least as benign than Tolkien style magic.

  17. Also inescapable is that Lovecraft’s fiction was influenced by his deep-seated racism and xenophobia

    I suppose that’s true, in the sense that he was prejudiced against tentacled, man-eating abominations from outer space. Though is it “prejudice” if they reallly do want to eat you?

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