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Lovecraft Country (Spoilers for Episode 1)

CapnZapp

Legend
No, that's not it at all.

People can have different opinions about the relevance of H.P. Lovecraft's racism to his work, but you can't deny his virulent racism. I don't think that making a book that is using themes of alienation and Lovecraftian horror to explore race relations in the context of nerd culture is exactly "pulling a fast one."
Absolutely.

I was exhibiting the train of thought that goes
"sees Lovecraft something" ->
-> expects "cosmic horror of the unknown more than gore or other elements of shock"[1] ->
-> "becomes disappointed by show"

...and nothing more.
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
Topsy & Bopsy for the win! :LOL:

I'm eagerly awaiting animated GIFs of their wicked dance moves, but here's a still in the meanwhile.

 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
My unsolicited and unprofessional opinions on the show so far...

1. I kind of want to see a movie having the same feel of the first 5 minutes.

2. The shift from general storytelling to focusing entire episodes on one character felt jarring.

3. I feel that the Watchmen show covered similar themes in a tighter and better told story.

4. Overall its an interesting and original bit of story, but if asked about recommending an actual Lovecraft work I would tell someone that the show shares little to no style in common with those works.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Yes, it's not Lovecraftian horror, full stop. That's just a disappointment I had to overcome to enjoy this wild ride.

Lovecraftian horror is a subgenre of horror fiction that emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown (or unknowable) more than gore or other elements of shock.
Wikipedia definition of "Lovecraftian horror"

This show is anything but Lovecraftian! It is shocking, full of gore, and more interested in exploring America's racist past (it is actually very enlightening in that respect!) than fetishizing the sad fates of white men and their demons. (And I love the fetishization of sad fates of white men and their demons, and HP's other stories)

Don't get me wrong, it still features themes and stories from Lovecraft. It just doesn't present them in a "lovecraftian" way.

I must say, I am amazed at this show's capacity for amazing me. I thought I had seen everything, and that I was fairly knowledgeable in horror tropes. But this show is something else. Each and every episode has featured at least one scene where my reaction could only be "WTF?!".

And that's meant as high praise :)
 

moriantumr

Villager
I would submit that the racism plays the role of lovecraftian horror. The fact that racism can strike whenever and for whatever reason makes it even more implacable and terrifying than any eldritch horror.
 


Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
The horror of Lovecraftian horror is that everything on Earth is so inconsequential it doesn't even register on the evils radar. There is no more hate between Cthulhu and humanity as there is humanity towards plankton because one isn't capable of affecting the other in any substantial way.

Its a different scale than man's inhumanity to man, which manifests personally.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I think it would be more accurate to say that the racism replaces Lovecraftian horror, not that it plays the role of it.

I think you're incorrect.
Much of the point of the work is that looming dread of forces you cannot control is the same, whether it is a shoggoth breathing on the back of your neck, or a white supremacist law enforcement officer.

The horror of Lovecraftian horror is that everything on Earth is so inconsequential it doesn't even register on the evils radar.

Absolute and singular categorizations get in the way of understanding. There is not one single "the horror" of Lovecraft. He employed many things which are horrifying.

The cosmic forces in Lovecraft do not view humans as consequential, or even as "people". Their efforts are irrelevant, and impersonally overlooked. The universe of Lovecraft is cold, uncaring or generally malign, holding no comfort for humans.

Now, consider the characters operating in a racist system - the system is cold, uncaring and malign, and holds no comfort for them. It does not recognize the characters as people. The overall racist system the characters operate under might as well be Azathoth.

However, the various minions on Earth that serve these impersonal forces have their own motivations, and may very well delight in your pain.

I think if you review some of the various themes of Lovecraft's work, you'll find many of them present in the show.

Its a different scale than man's inhumanity to man, which manifests personally.

This show, in part, speaks to how systemic and pervasive racism goes beyond the personal hatred of one person for another. Yes, sure, that individual man hates you, and is using the opportunity to vent his anger on you and show his or her personal power over you. But, when racism is so pervasive... that one person who has hatred ceases to be the real issue - if you killed that one racist... there's basically a limitless supply of others, and they are everywhere and you cannot really run from them. Those individuals are merely servants of the overall malign force.

In a way, it is our privilege that leaves us only thinking of this in personal terms. We can comprehend one person hating another. We cannot easily wrap our mind around the entirety of society being malign to us. Much as a Lovecraft character cannot wrap their mind around Shub-Niggurath.

In Lovecraft, the actual elder god, the cosmic horror, is not typically personally witnessed by mortals. It is not physically present for the characters to shoot at, or stick a sword into. It is a motivator that is elsewhere, in some space with geometry you cannot reasonably interact with. It might as well not actually have a physical form. So, how is "racism" not much the same as "Azathoth"? It is not a tangible object, but it is a motivator for events that unfold...
 

moriantumr

Villager
I appreciate the juxtaposition of racism and horror inviting those who have not experienced racism personally to realize that it is more terrifying than shoggoths or ritual sacrifice because it is always there. No matter what choices you make, how well you play the game, or even how skilled you become, racism does not care and will hound you until the end.
I feel that is exactly how lovecraftian RPGs are designed. You may succeed at this one thing and push back the inevitable, but you will eventually succumb to madness or die. Usually this is reserved for people in specific locales or those aware of it and who choose to fight/investigate. Racism is everywhere and harms you even if you never realize it is there.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
looming dread of forces you cannot control
Except there's nothing "looming" at all in this show. Everybody is talking about magic and monsters in unambiguous, overt ways.

Lovecraft is perhaps the least unambiguous and overt writer in existence (maybe with the exception of abstract poetry ;) ). Reading Lovecraft is all about mood, foreshadowing, mounting sense of dread, and trying to avoid pinning things down to explicit and concrete descriptions.

This show is definitely connected to the Lovecraft Mythos in some ways, but it is clearly different in other, key, aspects.
 

moriantumr

Villager
Is fear of the police, not knowing where you can safely stop to eat or relieve yourself, or having to constantly make choices based on how others may perceive or misconstrue your actions not looming or dreadful enough?
The fact that the “horror” elements are openly discussed shows that they are less dreadful than other forces in play.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Is fear of the police, not knowing where you can safely stop to eat or relieve yourself, or having to constantly make choices based on how others may perceive or misconstrue your actions not looming or dreadful enough?
The fact that the “horror” elements are openly discussed shows that they are less dreadful than other forces in play.
I'll try to phrase my thoughts on the differences in another way to maybe illustrate it better.

When discussing issues of racism, there is always a hope that one day things are going to get better. The world of 2020 is better than the world of 1950 in terms of equality for most minority groups. There is no reason to believe that over a longer span of time things will improve even more. The characters in the show that are fearful of racism still have some "safe spaces" that they can return to and feel protected.

When discussing issues of lovecraftian horror, there is literally no hope of things getting better. Either you are blissfully ignorant of the fact that you mean nothing OR you learn that you mean nothing and have to live with the knowledge. You could be hiding in the most secure underground bunker guarded by a million trained martial artists and it just doesn't matter because literally nothing you do is going to protect you or humanity if things go south.

I'm not going to say you can't draw parallels or that you can't substitute racism for lovecraftian horror in a story, but what I am saying is that when viewed on a non-personal level one is less hopeless than the other.

I havent read everything Lovecraft has ever written, but I have read a majority of his stories. Some focus on something as small as a man trapped in a crypt with no universal horrific entity elements. Others focus on the literal reawakening and reemergence of Cthulhu which implies the end of the world. When I use the term "lovecraftian horror" I am referring to the end-of-the-world or you-are-less-than-inconsequential-in-the-multiverse stories. This outlook for humanity is what I feel Lovecraft is credited with maybe not inventing, but at least baking into a solid cookie for consumption. Its just such a different scale than any story involving a group of people, wizards, monsters, and racism that defines their existence.

At the end of the crooked wizard police attack on the house the characters are saved by a conveniently timed invulnerability spell and a monster popping up out of nowhere to kill all the police and end the battle. Although some unimportant extras were probably killed in the shootout, the two important characters emerged from the ambush without any damage and having gained a magical monster pet who will apparently do Tic's bidding. This is kind of the opposite of a hopeless lovecraftian outcome from a group of powerful evildoers coming after you.
 


Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
I think one point of the show is that American racism is horrific precisely because it hasn't gotten better?
It's gotten better.

We certainly haven't eliminated racism from society, there are plenty of racists left unfortunately. And there is a lot of systemic racism still embedded in society as well.

But today, the situation is not nearly as awful as it was decades ago. Awful at times and in places, but not quite so pervasively.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
It's gotten better.

We certainly haven't eliminated racism from society, there are plenty of racists left unfortunately. And there is a lot of systemic racism still embedded in society as well.

But today, the situation is not nearly as awful as it was decades ago. Awful at times and in places, but not quite so pervasively.
The show certainly makes it hard not to get the point: HP was a racist white male. If he wasn't, he might not have had to reach to beyond the stars to find horror worthy being afraid of, he could just have described his neighbors.

And that the point isn't that it might have gotten a bit better, the point is that it's still awful and completely unacceptable in 2020. I don't know about you, but I'm not exactly thankful each time I'm not shot on sight by a police officer... It's a low bar to clear not to let lynchers go free, am I right? I'm neither black nor American, but it's hard not to register people watching a show and seeing a direct link with their own, contemporary, fear of US law enforcement: being searched, seeing your friends being put in a police cruiser, not being able to shake the worry you'll never see them alive again (in that carefree way I'm sure most privileged white males like me would be able to)...
 

CapnZapp

Legend
This week's ep was slower. It even featured slowmotion with operatic music.

Not sure it did it for me. That is, not saying it was bad, just that for the first time it didn't provide a moment of sheer WTF-ery. I have been quite impressed with the way this show has managed to make my jaw drop at least once every episode - and that's coming from someone who thought he'd seen it all.

That alone makes this show special, whatever you might think about the story, actors, etc :)
 

Herschel

Adventurer
The final episode was pretty good. The Christina twist didn't surprise me, and JIn's move made sense. I thought there might be an elder evil reveal at the end to tie it all together, but they haven't seemingly broached that subject really at all yet.
 

cmad1977

Hero
I’m enjoying it. Some episodes more than others. It’s like watching people play “Pulp Cthulhu”.

The finale was good, if not particularly surprising. But you don’t need to give ” me a cliffhanger with every finale.

2 tentacles up. If the viewer is squeamish about gore... at times it might be a difficult watch.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
It didn't exactly become bad, but it did run out of that special kind of WTF steam.

Perhaps it kind of had to in order to tie up a proper ending, but still, episode 8 was the last literally amazing ep.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I found the finale.. unsatisfying. I found it stepped from subverting the genre tropes to just outright contradicting the genre tropes.
 

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