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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lovecraft Country is a horror-drama series heavily focused on the racism of the 1950s. Featuring a primarily African American cast, the show portrays the widespread bigotry faced by Blacks during that era. Racial slurs, including the "N" word are used, and White characters -- including police officers -- frequently harass, taunt, and torment the main characters. Segregation and sundown towns are also depicted. There's some gun violence, including Black characters being shot at because of their race, as well as plenty of blood and gore. The latter is most prominent when the Lovecraftian monsters graphically attack people. Sexual acts, including oral sex (showing a man's bare buttocks), are also depicted. Profanity is frequent, including "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," "hell," and "ass," and characters flip the bird. Characters are seen drinking in social situations.
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What's the story?
Based on the novel of the same name, LOVECRAFT COUNTRY sees protagonist Atticus Freemen (Jonathan Majors) searching for his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). Joined by his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), Atticus' quest leads him on a dangerous road trip through 1950s New England. The trio face ugly, mythical monsters inspired by Lovecraftian lore, but it's the era's rampant racism that often proves the most threatening.
Is it any good?
While it certainly includes its fair share of macabre mysteries and things that go bump in the night, HBO's latest pulpy serial is so much more than a gore-soaked frightfest. Given its title, you could be excused for expecting Lovecraft Country to be a straight-up horror series inspired by author H.P Lovecraft's tales of tentacled terrors. For starters, it subverts expectations at nearly every turn, frequently nudging you to the edge of your seat ... only to pull the rug out from beneath your chair. Most notably, it thoughtfully explores the hate in the notoriously racist author's heart as much as the monsters that spawned from his mind. Its 1950s setting pulls no punches in laying bare the bigotry that plagued the era, unflinchingly portraying the ugliness that African Americans faced just for existing.
Of course, it's the layered, nuanced performances delivered by Lovecraft Country's cast that make these injustices feel far scarier than any creatures their characters encounter in the woods. Atticus, Letitia, and George are fleshed out more in the first episode than most characters are in some series' entire runs. Long before the trio sets out on a perilous road trip to search for Atticus' missing father, we've become invested not only in their shared adventure, but also in their individual arcs. We spend so much time getting to know the core characters, cringing at every hate-filled human encounter they endure along their journey, that it's easy to forget about the slow-burn genre scares building in the background. By the time multi-eyed beasts begin tearing limbs off the bad guys/racist cops, you might be questioning what you signed up for ... before eagerly queuing up the next episode.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about racism in the era Lovecraft Country takes place in. How were African Americans treated in the 1950s? What is segregation? How have things changed since then? What can be done today to continue to fight racism?
How does the series celebrate the work of H.P. Lovecraft while also addressing the author's racist views? Is it OK to enjoy and appreciate an artist's work even if you strongly object to their personal beliefs? How is the author viewed today in popular culture?
How does Lovecraft Country differ from more traditional horror series? How does it balance its horror genre elements with its depiction of real-life struggles and challenges? How are its monsters different from -- or similar to -- the humans that wish the main characters harm?
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