Take Back Your Legacy
August 20, 2020 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Misha Green’s new series Lovecraft Country (HBO) follows two Black families as they travel through the Jim Crow North confronting monsters both supernatural and human. In the first episode (free in the US), a road trip montage strikingly echoes Gordon Park’s iconic Segregation Story photo series, and includes a voiceover from James Baldwin’s 1965 debate against William F. Buckley Jr.

Here's an interview with Misha Green on The Watch podcast (29:26) with brief discussion of Gordon Parks and James Baldwin (40:00).

Elsewhere on Metafilter:
posted by adrianhon (31 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
We loved this first episode. If the whole season had been released in fell swoop, Netflix style, we probably would've stayed up and watched the entire season in one fell swoop
posted by NoMich at 10:45 AM on August 20 [2 favorites]


Yeah same here, this was most excellent full of ALL sorts of scary horrors
posted by mbo at 11:06 AM on August 20 [2 favorites]


Watched the first, and then (as is our habit) immediately went to get the second episode so that we could watch the whole thing one ep a night — and remembered, to my horror, that it's releasing like a traditional series, one a week... This one is, nonetheless, worth waiting for.
posted by kikaider01 at 11:11 AM on August 20 [4 favorites]


FYI in case you’re wondering how scary the show is – or at least the first episode – I’d put it on the same level as Get Out: few if any jump scares, but plenty of suspense and dealing with very human evil. Some gore, but it’s pretty well-telegraphed and you can always look away!
posted by adrianhon at 11:14 AM on August 20 [3 favorites]


It took around 40 tweets from people I respect before I bothered to find out this that might actually be good. I'm looking forward to it. It's pretty rare that things with "Lovecraft" in the title and things I respect go together. This looks like an exception.
posted by eotvos at 11:17 AM on August 20 [4 favorites]


"Lovecraft Country reclaims pulp fiction for the Black men and women it excluded"- (via The Verge). We loved the first episode and especially loved the unexpected soundtrack (Etta James, James Baldwin, Tierra Whack).
posted by gollie at 11:25 AM on August 20 [7 favorites]


I have been so excited by this. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was really in the mood for horror, and so I listened to the audiobook of Lovecraft Country, narrated by Kevin Kenerly, who did a fantastic job of setting the mood, he's got the perfect voice for this. And I waited and waited and WAITED for the first episode, and I'm just thrilled. (I also went back and re-read Call of Cthulhu and...yeah, I don't want to derail, you all know the score with Lovecraft, but having the two stories back to back made Ruff's book that much more powerful.)

Really my only complaint is this damned weekly format. I have to keep restraining myself from saying guess what happens, no, you can't guess, let me tell you--
posted by mittens at 11:30 AM on August 20


And yeah, my big fear is that it'll turn out to be some kinda goddamn white savior plot, but there are enough sensible people involved that I really hope not?
posted by Kyol at 11:35 AM on August 20


I want to second adrianhon on the level of scary/gore. I am a Certified Wuss who does not watch horror but I found this to be easy to look from when necessary but I feel like I've seen worse on Game of Thrones?
So if you are a scaredy cat like me, please don't let the genre put you off.

This was so good, y'all.
posted by pointystick at 11:48 AM on August 20 [6 favorites]


I loved the book and was cautiously optimistic about this. First episode was everything I hoped, with a few actual surprises. Sold.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:17 PM on August 20


I liked that the Color Out of Space made a cameo at the block party.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:18 PM on August 20 [4 favorites]


I'd loved the book, but had forgotten that it was being made into a show. The book has an episodic structure, with interconnected stories that build on each other, that seems like it would lend itself well to a TV adaptation. I'll have to check it out.
posted by JiBB at 12:33 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


I really loved the first chapter of the book but it pretty quickly faded from what I took to be the important premise (that mankind's mistreatment of their own is the real monster) into a vague monster of the week that loosely tied into the arc. I'd hoped that the miniseries would solve some of that when it was announced, but the reviewers that have seen the whole thing seem to indicate not so much.

On the bright side, as has been pointed out on Twitter etc., HBO viewers that previously learned about the Tulsa Race Massacre via Watchmen can now learn about Sundown Towns.

The book has an episodic structure, with interconnected stories that build on each other, that seems like it would lend itself well to a TV adaptation.

I felt like that was the explicit intent. It's the real way to make money as an author these days.
posted by Candleman at 12:39 PM on August 20 [2 favorites]


Umm, it would be nice if we can avoid book spoilers in here, please!
posted by adrianhon at 1:18 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


Any podcast listeners interested in these sorts of details may want to check out the official companion, Lovecraft Radio.

In addition to the general excellence, listening to the first episode made me aware of the colorism subtext they built in to the “applying for a job at the department store” conversation. (One of the hosts on the podcast was a writer on the show.)
posted by FallibleHuman at 1:26 PM on August 20


I get that people like TV shows, but the book was so, so good. So good. Everyone should read this book, it's just perfect in so many ways.
posted by GuyZero at 1:42 PM on August 20 [4 favorites]


Chiming in as another person who love love loved the book. One of the most memorable things I've read in the past few years, actually. And the show is just as good, so far. I'm really excited to keep watching, and now I'm extra interested in checking out more of Misha Green's work.

The homage to Gordon Parks gave me feeeeeelings.
posted by palomar at 1:47 PM on August 20


Another person so impressed by the book. I don't like Lovecraft much as a writer even without the horrible racist baggage but I often like Lovecraft inspired writers. And this is the best I've encountered--partly because I could picture Lovecraft spinning in his grave if he actually read this.

And yeah, my big fear is that it'll turn out to be some kinda goddamn white savior plot, but there are enough sensible people involved that I really hope not?

I will comment on this which is by definition a mild spoiler, so skip if you are super averse.


No. It is absolutely not a white savior plot. The story centers around a black family and they are going to live or die or go insane at the cosmic horror of it, all on their own--part of the horror is that there is *never* the feeling anyone else has their best interests at heart. It's segregation era America and never forgets that fact.

posted by mark k at 2:27 PM on August 20 [5 favorites]


I get that people like TV shows, but the book was so, so good. So good. Everyone should read this book, it's just perfect in so many ways.

What if you’re like me: haven’t read the book yet but also enjoy being surprised? Should I go go out and read the book now or hold off until the end of the season?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:35 PM on August 20


You know, I just looked at fanfare discussion and I *did* see someone complaining about "white savior" tropes in the work. I stand by what I said and am happy to go into more detail, but clearly I'm not speaking for everyone!
posted by mark k at 3:20 PM on August 20




What I took away from the "white savior" trope in the books was how bullshit it actually is. All the white folks say they want to help Atticus and his family/friends, but it is very clearly not true and actively harm them. I took it as an indictment of the "well-meaning" white people who are not helping to help but are helping to achieve their own glory. Sort of like how you get the rush of white folks at protests who run roughshod over the Black people who have put in the work and effort and stuff. eg Wall of Moms most recently. Or white "progressives" being performative.

Lovecraft Country is one of my top 5 favorite books and I am pleased with how the series is adapting the book. I was concerned it would be too gore-horror which the book is decidedly not, but the pilot episode was great.
posted by apex_ at 4:52 PM on August 20


What if you’re like me: haven’t read the book yet but also enjoy being surprised? Should I go go out and read the book now or hold off until the end of the season?

I will fully admit my bias: you should not let a TV show spoil a good book for you. I try not to get too dogmatic in the book vs movie/series argument, but I'm pro-book. You'll get lots of amazing surprises reading the book.

But if you really want to have a TV show to look forward to for the next few weeks, sure, read the book later. No big deal.
posted by GuyZero at 5:09 PM on August 20 [5 favorites]


The book has an episodic structure, with interconnected stories that build on each other, that seems like it would lend itself well to a TV adaptation.

I felt like that was the explicit intent. It's the real way to make money as an author these days.
It could be that, but I figured it was playing with the serialized style of old pulps or comics, and just happened to work well with the more modern serialized medium of TV shows.
posted by JiBB at 7:34 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


Matt Ruff (on Goodreads) said the germ was a TV series pitch. Didn't go anywhere, but the idea stuck around:
A part of the original TV show concept I wanted to preserve was this “monster of the week” element where each member of my ensemble cast would get to star in their own reimagined weird tale. I didn’t want to write a short story collection, though, I wanted to write a novel. Eventually I hit on the idea of an episodic novel – basically a TV season in literary form, that you would binge-read instead of binge-watching, and whose individual episodes would gradually be revealed to all be pieces of the same arc story.
The comment that each cast gets their own weird tale is actually *not* like your standard TV series, and I'm curious if they'll be as willing to sideline major players for up to a couple months as the season works itself out.
posted by mark k at 11:04 PM on August 20 [3 favorites]


HBO Max has just posted a new link for the first episode, available worldwide!
posted by adrianhon at 6:06 AM on August 21


I'm not a huge podcast fan, but I can't recommend the companion podcast enough: Lovecraft Country Radio. I've never heard an episode review podcast like it.
posted by eamondaly at 9:51 AM on August 21 [2 favorites]


Thank you very much for centering Misha Green with this post rather the more well-known name so many other discussions and reviews attach to the show, adrianhon.

When I first read the book, the description of the characters' feelings during and after the sundown town chase was so right that I said out loud to the empty room I was in, "Wait, is Matt Ruff black?" I know there's a lot to unpack with a white author providing the source material for this, but, in that section at least, I feel like his empathy dials were turned up to 11.

So far, I'm loving the show. Green has breathed life into it in a way that exceeded my hopes, and I'm excited to see where we go from here. The 1st episode is like the 6th episode of Watchmen: I recommended it even to people unfamiliar with the source material and who otherwise aren't fans of the genre, because it's that damn good.
posted by lord_wolf at 2:36 PM on August 21 [7 favorites]


I loved the book, and I am so far delighted with everything about the show. The casting is fantastic, I'm loving Wunmi Mosaku's depiction of Ruby despite the shortness of it so far and the difference between her Ruby and the Ruby in the book. I am very much looking forward to the later, more Ruby focused, episodes.

The music is amazing, and while I know some people aren't too happy with the inclusion of modern music, I think it works well. The modern music is clearly something we the audience hear, and they use contemporary music for music that's actually in the show, and I think it does a great job.

I thought at first the use of shots to reprise famous photos might be a bit twee, but it fits the setting, it grounds the show rather than seeming like too much of a wink and a nod to in the know viewers.

The use of James Baldwin's speech as the voice over for a travel montage is another thing I've seen some people object to that I think works brilliantly. Like the use of homages to famous photos, it helps set the mood and grounded the show in its time.

Sadly many modern white people need to be educated about the reality of racism in the 1950's, just as they had to be educated about the Tulsa massacre. So it falls to Green to include an educational component in the show, and I think she does it well and organically.
posted by sotonohito at 6:32 PM on August 22 [4 favorites]


I liked the book and I liked the first episode and I like that we finally got a Green Book movie worthy of the name.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:41 PM on August 24


Well, that went downhill pretty fucking quickly.
posted by mittens at 10:35 AM on September 9


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