How Lovecraft Country's Monsters Helped Shape a Searing Historical Critique

Lovecraft Country used magic and monsters to tell a tale of real racism in 1950s America.

By Rosie Fletcher

HBO’s Lovecraft Country is based on and expands upon the eponymous novel by Matt Ruff.

It follows Atticus Freeman, his Uncle George, and his friend Leti as they travel across the Jim Crow South in the 1950s, where they face real-life racism as well as magic and monsters.

The show and the book riff on the racism displayed in the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the lack of black heroes in the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres

The Shoggoths are creatures from Lovecraft Cthulhu mythos. Controlled by the Braithwhite family, a racist ancient order who plan to use Atticus to achieve immortality.

Episode three introduces the ghosts of eight black people experimented on and killed by a white scientist.

While trying to banish the spirits Leti instead calls on them to find the ghost of their dead tormentor...

...saying,“You’re not dead yet, you can still fight!” The eight are restored to their true forms.

Yahima is an intersex character, an Awarak ‘two-spirit’ exploited by Titus Braithwaite. They represent the native community and gender non-conformists.

Ruby’s transformation with the help of Christina’s potion allows her to explore her own relationship with her race as well as racism from a female perspective.

Christina also embodies a type of white feminism.

A kumiho is a nine-tailed fox from Korean legend, who appears as a beautiful woman who seduces and kills men.

The episode explores atrocities in Korea meted out by Atticus and what it is to be a monster.

Diana is cursed and sees visions of the demonic Topsy and Bopsy, both references to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 

The series also explores the real-life lynching of Emmett Till, and how his legacy shaped the way we view extrajudicial, prejudiced murders in the United States.

The Tulsa massacre of 1921 is explored in episode 9 as the characters travel back in time to retrieve the book of names.

The episode focuses on Montrose’s own mistreatment at the hands of his father which informs his later behavior: the past and future are tied together.