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For years within the genres of horror and science fiction, Black men and women had been severely excluded and/or misrepresented. In 1915 D.W. Griffith’s infamous Birth of a Nation was essentially the beginning of how Black people would be seen in films, especially Black men. In the 2019 documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, notable Black filmmakers and actors have the conversation of representation in the horror genre. For so long Black people were often portrayed as something to be feared and a majority of the time they never seemed to survive by the end of the horror movie. Thankfully, horror continues to evolve to include more black perspectives, HBO Max’s original series “Lovecraft Country”, allows Black audiences to experience and see themselves as the heroes in this thrilling series.

Created by Misha Green, this series dives into the world of 1950s Chicago and follows Atticus (Tic) Freeman, played by Jonathan Majors and Leticia (Leti) Lewis, played by Jurnee Smolett as they navigate through a dark family history of magic and murder. However, anyone who’s seen the show can tell you that there’s so much more to the story than magic and horror. Black people in both history and fiction narratives have been erased in some way, shape, or form so what “Lovecraft Country” does is reimagine and reclaim the narrative.

Tananarive Due, a horror author and UCLA professor told CNN Entertainment, “The entire genre is having a renaissance…More people are accepting that horror doesn’t have to look like they always expected it to look.” Also featured in the documentary she states, “that with films like Birth of a Nation and others of their time “Hollywood could use it’s messaging to create fear around Black people, especially fear around Black men.” It wasn’t until decades later in Night of the Living Dead (1968) where there was a Black male protagonist. Although his character was still killed in the end, this role became a catalyst for more Black leads which led into the era of Blaxpoitation movies. While misrepresentation was still an issue in these films it was a change of pace for Black actors and filmmakers and how they were portrayed. It showed them as leads in stories that highlighted Black neighborhoods and Black culture which hadn’t been done before.

The Black horror genre, even then, had to undergo an evolution. With the film Blacula (1972), director William Crain created a character who was an intelligent and attractive Black man which was also revolutionary for the time. In Horror Noire, it’s also noted that Black women had also been lost within the genre. Due said that, “Black women were centered as frightening because they wielded power.” This is also displayed in “Lovecraft Country” with main character Leti. As the show begins she is hesitant and weary of using magic but soon finds and wields it’s strength to protect herself and Atticus; and while he is protective of her he stands aside and lets her come into her own with magic.

Several of these creators also touched on the trope of how Black people will die first in a film or not make it to the end of the story and while it’s become a running joke, they spoke about how the true horror of that issue was that Black characters die because they are only there to help or sacrifice themselves for the (usually) White main character. Actor Richard Lawson stated that, “We may not have liked necessarily what we saw, it was stereotypical, but those doors slowly started to open, so as all things in life it was a double edged sword.” In so many films, even today dying first isn’t the problem but not being a fulfilled character with goals or intention was. Even though our

Black male protagonist Atticus in “Lovecraft Country” is sacrificed by the end of the first season, he still was a fully designed character with flaws, goals, and supporters. For fans of the show, the reveal of his death was devastating, but seeing his fight to the bitter end was a fulfilling ride throughout the series.

Through all of this Black creatives have still begun to birth new worlds and explore pass what gatekeepers of the genre thought was possible. Although we can’t be 100% sure of what’s to come, creators in this documentary noted that so many others have begun to come forward with projects and ideas within this realm of Black horror and how exciting it is. Finally Due stated that, “We’ve shifted from being the focal point of the fear, or other, to being the heroes.” Shows like Lovecraft Country and movies like Get Out will prove to be just the beginning of this era of inclusion and we can’t wait to see what all unfolds.

For years within the genres of horror and science fiction, Black men and women had been severely excluded and/or misrepresented. In 1915 D.W. Griffith’s infamous Birth of a Nation was essentially the beginning of how Black people would be seen in films, especially Black men. In the 2019 documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, notable Black filmmakers and actors have the conversation of representation in the horror genre. For so long Black people were often portrayed as something to be feared and a majority of the time they never seemed to survive by the end of the horror movie. Thankfully, horror continues to evolve to include more black perspectives, HBO Max’s original series “Lovecraft Country”, allows Black audiences to experience and see themselves as the heroes in this thrilling series.

HBO’s LoveCraft Country

Created by Misha Green, this series dives into the world of 1950s Chicago and follows Atticus (Tic) Freeman, played by Jonathan Majors and Leticia (Leti) Lewis, played by Jurnee Smolett as they navigate through a dark family history of magic and murder. However, anyone who’s seen the show can tell you that there’s so much more to the story than magic and horror. Black people in both history and fiction narratives have been erased in some way, shape, or form so what “Lovecraft Country” does is reimagine and reclaim the narrative.

Tananarive Due, a horror author and UCLA professor told CNN Entertainment, “The entire genre is having a renaissance…More people are accepting that horror doesn’t have to look like they always expected it to look.” Also featured in the documentary she states, “that with films like Birth of a Nation and others of their time “Hollywood could use it’s messaging to create fear around Black people, especially fear around Black men.” It wasn’t until decades later in Night of the Living Dead (1968) where there was a Black male protagonist. Although his character was still killed in the end, this role became a catalyst for more Black leads which led into the era of Blaxpoitation movies. While misrepresentation was still an issue in these films it was a change of pace for Black actors and filmmakers and how they were portrayed. It showed them as leads in stories that highlighted Black neighborhoods and Black culture which hadn’t been done before.

The Black horror genre, even then, had to undergo an evolution. With the film Blacula (1972), director William Crain created a character who was an intelligent and attractive Black man which was also revolutionary for the time. In Horror Noire, it’s also noted that Black women had also been lost within the genre. Due said that, “Black women were centered as frightening because they wielded power.” This is also displayed in “Lovecraft Country” with main character Leti. As the show begins she is hesitant and weary of using magic but soon finds and wields it’s strength to protect herself and Atticus; and while he is protective of her he stands aside and lets her come into her own with magic.

Several of these creators also touched on the trope of how Black people will die first in a film or not make it to the end of the story and while it’s become a running joke, they spoke about how the true horror of that issue was that Black characters die because they are only there to help or sacrifice themselves for the (usually) White main character. Actor Richard Lawson stated that, “We may not have liked necessarily what we saw, it was stereotypical, but those doors slowly started to open, so as all things in life it was a double edged sword.” In so many films, even today dying first isn’t the problem but not being a fulfilled character with goals or intention was. Even though our

Black male protagonist Atticus in “Lovecraft Country” is sacrificed by the end of the first season, he still was a fully designed character with flaws, goals, and supporters. For fans of the show, the reveal of his death was devastating, but seeing his fight to the bitter end was a fulfilling ride throughout the series.

Through all of this Black creatives have still begun to birth new worlds and explore pass what gatekeepers of the genre thought was possible. Although we can’t be 100% sure of what’s to come, creators in this documentary noted that so many others have begun to come forward with projects and ideas within this realm of Black horror and how exciting it is. Finally Due stated that, “We’ve shifted from being the focal point of the fear, or other, to being the heroes.” Shows like Lovecraft Country and movies like Get Out will prove to be just the beginning of this era of inclusion and we can’t wait to see what all unfolds.

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Marissa Zeno

Marissa Zeno

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