This past Sunday saw the release of the highly anticipated horror/sci-fi/fantasy series LOVECRAFT COUNTRY from executive producers Misha Green, Jordan Peele, and J.J. Abrams. Based on the book of the same name by author Matt Ruff, the ten-episode series “follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he journeys with his childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) on a road trip from Chicago across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams). Their search-and-rescue turns into a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and monstrous creatures that could be ripped from an H.P. Lovecraft paperback.” (HBO)
Recently, I had the opportunity to partake in a group roundtable interview with Misha Green where I was able to speak with her about H.P. Lovecraft, his racist ideologies, and the importance of Black folx reclaiming Lovecraft’s stories. For those who may be unfamiliar, H.P. Lovecraft was an American writer of horror and weird fiction in the early 1900s. He’s considered “one of the most significant 20th-century authors of supernatural horror fiction” having published such works as “The Call of Cthulhu”, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, “Colour Out of Space” and “At the Mountains of Madness”. Though is popularity has grown exponentially, I would say, within the last decade or so, most are unfamiliar with his racist views.
Though LOVECRAFT COUNTRY isn’t based on any of H.P. Lovecraft’s writing, it’s still important to bring up who he was as his influence is more than apparent in not just this series but in the genre of horror, in general. When speaking with Green on the topic, she stated that as a horror buff she was familiar with Lovecraft as well as his history as a person. “I had read his stories but I wasn’t bananas…like I think that a lot of people get bananas [about him]” stated Green. “[His stories] are good and I can definitely see the influences but I can definitely read them and see the parts where [he’s] being racist right there in [his] stories,” explained Green. “So for me, it was hard to divorce those two things especially when I can go and read horror that doesn’t have blatant racist things happening right in the text.” Even the biggest fans of H.P. Lovecraft’s writing can’t ignore his racist opinions which are featured in stories such as “The Horror of Red Hook” and his 1912 poem, “On the Creation of N******”.
When it came time to adapt Matt Ruff’s book into a series, what intrigued Green was how Ruff created a story that allowed Black folx the chance to reclaim Lovecraft’s visions of cosmic horror without the use of his racist beliefs. “[We’re] not saying that we’re not going to honor all [his] contributions to this genre, and there are many, but we are going to take that, we’re going to acknowledge who [he was] as a person as well and we’re going to move forward.”
The process of bringing Lovecraft’s touch of horror/weird fiction to the forefront while also focusing on the prevalent themes of racism in the 1950s (and, unfortunately, today) was a challenge that Green handled brilliantly. “How we move forward is acknowledging [who he was], celebrating the good stuff, taking the good stuff, and then building on the good stuff. I think that was what was exciting to me and why I had no problem doing that because it feels like moving forward.” If one thing’s for sure, LOVECRAFT COUNTRY is most definitely a move in the right direction.
For more on the series, check out our review here and tune into HBO each Sunday at 9/8c for new episodes of LOVECRAFT COUNTRY.
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