The rise of BLAK horror & Sci-Fi
Lovecraft Country by the incredible Misha Green, and supported by Jordan Peele, is the best thing on television at the moment, in my opinion. Right from the outset the narrative is set as in science fiction universe – where the supernatural is natural, but racism remains at the forefront of society. Ultimately it is a BLAK perspective piece through history, celebrating BLAK figures, creativity and movements along the way.
Shows like this, and Watchmen, films such as Get Out or Us, change the common horror formula. Tired out formulas where the only black person in the film meets their maker from the onset, where the danger is projected into the one character and every other character has a set formula for their identity. Evil dies while good wins, there is no grey.
When a diverse industry is introduced, their experiences and perspectives of the world is also introduced into their creative process. Experiences and perspectives influenced by oppression, adversity and resilience, all of which dramatically influence the mould commonly used in film.
Lovecraft Country does this by a constant maze of questioning of reality and motivations. With moments of key Blak figures and histories littered throughout the episodes, a creative acknowledgement to the past realities of the country, throwing them in the face of the audience, forcing them to deal with those moments and how they have impacted each character, on screen and off.
Similar to Watchmen, which focused on concepts of power, ethics and morals, interpreting powerful Black moments in history and transforming them into equally powerful creative mediums. In the case of Watchmen, how a single moment in history could have reshaped the future, focusing even more on a single family and how their bloodline has had a pivotal role to play in the main narrative. The similarity, this series also dealt with the onslaught of racism, its impact on society and how this has affected the ‘law and order’ system.
While many of the creative story choices are being made ‘off screen’ by their Blak writing teams, it is equally important to have the power of Blakness in front of the camera. In order to tell a story of Blakness, there must be Blakness acting this out.
Good representation gives me the chance to see myself within that film, it gives me the power to identify with that character, ultimately opening opportunity for new thoughts and questions for me. Which may be one of the most powerful things for a child to see and do, an opportunity for them to project themselves into that movie, making that connection as a young person and keeping a curious mind, questioning the world around them, what is right and what is wrong.
*Now, onto the focus of this blog, Lovecraft Country*
H.P. Lovecraft – American author and creator of such things which came to be apart of the Lovecraftian Horror genre. The Lovecraft universe, a creation of six writers – The Lovecraft Circle – who wrote to each other and wrote books detailing this new universe they created. The weird, science fictitious, horror induced world where the imagination creates entities of nightmares.
notably, having such a group of writers exist during the turn of the 20th century, racist values and politically incorrect perspectives plagued the pages. So why a TV show about it? further, why a TV show with the BLAK gaze standing front and centre?
In my view, the world of science fiction is an opportunity, a chance to be completely transported to a new world full of adventure where the magic of science fiction is real, regardless of whether it is created by ink and paper!
This, act of picking up a book, knows no race. Thus, it’s not impossible to see that a Blak man would immerse himself into this universe, further supported by his family also immersed in this science fiction knowledge system. Plus, my view is that, this act of bring this unverse to life is an act of reclaiming such a racist world, exposing these authors very outdated views of the world and the people here.
Following the journey of our Blak characters, we go with them as they walk along a path set out by the Locraftian universe of monsters and other worldly, while also seeing the creativity of a Blak writing team, expressed through some very real historical moments of significance of the Blak consciousness.
I will however highlight their handling of (What might be) the only Indigenous character in the show, a two-spirit Indigenous person. Marked by earthly toned paint, literally ‘fleshing out’ before our eyes from a skeleton to a human. Literally silenced (by magic, turning them into a Siren, making only a high pitched screeching noise when attepting to speak) and given the task of “ancient text translator” to a book of ancient magic text. This particular narrative plays into the stereotypical trope which so many mediums portray of Indigenous peoples. That our culture primarily lives in the past, we are mystical and primitive beings and frozen in history – which was literally how they introduced us to this character (what looked like a ship quarters, where several villagers have been frozen in time, along with the keeper of the ancient texts).
These tropes further antagonised when this character was further silenced by our main characters father cutting their throat – perhaps one of the most important characters, being killed along with that knowledge system. All this to cater to the story progression without any real context of a character who could’ve done so much for Indigenous representation on screen, in such a fresh and new series!
I wonder if they had Indigenous writers on board for this episode???
As I haven’t had a read of the book, I am excited to see where this series takes us next, and hear from others if it has diverted far from the book. But I am even more excited to think about the impact this has on our people, if we start to see the full creativity of our people in creating whole universes, imagining a future where our society has been untouched – a Wakandan vibe perhaps? or maybe even a time-travelling story, skipping between a far moments in history…across a few universes in the multi-verse?
Whatever this might look like, creative endeavours such as Lovecraft Country are pursuits intended to dramatically impact our future generations, or even reshape our generations here at the moment.