Atticus Freeman scores a historic win against the powers-that-be as horror drama Lovecraft Country bags several nominations at this year’s Emmys a little over two weeks since HBO cancelled the show. The series is tailing other streaming exclusives for a shot at the top prize, with a whopping 18 nominations for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor (for Jonathan Majors), and Outstanding Lead Actress (for Jurnee Smollett), just to list a few. The Misha Green-led miniseries enjoyed raving critics’ reviews during its initial run, only to be axed midway through production on its second season, Deadline reported on July 2. Talk about poetic justice.
It truly boggles the mind how something as ingenious as Lovecraft Country was so easily cancelled by HBO just as showrunner Misha Green was reportedly developing a retrofuturistic version of America for season two, entitled Lovecraft Country: Supremacy. The original story, published in 2016 by Matt Ruff, retells racism from the purview of author H.P. Lovecraft, redefining for the modern-day American what eldritch monsters are in the real world: not frightening reimaginings of classical beasts, but white primacy. Humans have always been the worst kind of bogeyman. There’s no sense cowering in fear before the specters of the mind, but reality, on the other hand, is a living menace. And there is nothing more horrifying than a fact any of us could be subject to.
The novel adapts this level of racial subsistence through the eyes of Atticus Freeman, a science fiction lover who journeys across the 1950s United States at the height of the Jim Crow laws, which were enforced by Southern Democrats in the mid-19th century to justify racial segregating. The system operated under an “equal but separate” policy, a legal loophole still considered hypocritical for its time. There’s no racial equality in a cloistered society that attempts to misrepresent the population as only one shade, rather than the full spectrum, and Atticus realizes this to great effect as he combed neighboring towns for his missing father, coming face-to-face with people whose entire way of life embraces this ideology. The Jim Crow laws persisted till 1965. Jonathan Majors (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) played Atticus Freeman in the cancelled series.
Green was careful about retracing this socio-political dichotomy for the small screen, resulting in a body of work just as layered and thought-provoking as the novel that inspired it. See, Lovecraft himself was racist, and his writing embodied his beliefs, and yet he crafts monsters in a way that’s familiar for a victim of racism. The cancelled HBO show defied expectations and was easily the most Promethean show of the pandemic era. It joins other streaming greats at the Emmys, which includes Netflix’s The Crown and Disney+’s WandaVision and The Mandalorian. The only question now is, does HBO have the good sense to revive a show executives assumed wasn’t good enough, or will another streamer take over, just like how Netflix saved Lucifer? One season is obviously not enough time to expatiate on the struggles of working-class Black Americans in the 50s, and certainly insufficient for a man of Atticus Freeman’s tenacity.