When I was growing up, scary stories were something that had always interested me. My family had traditions revolving around scaring kids into behaving with stories of La Llorona taking you away if you played near a river at night, or The Coco Man coming to steal me away if I kept misbehaving. These stories were more interesting to me than they were scary, and I kept looking for new scary stories to keep myself up late at night during the Fall. I owned just about every “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” book. And heaps of books and printouts about haunted areas in East Tennessee. This love of reading eventually lead to me reading some of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, whose weird and surreal cosmic horror stories drew me in.
It was later that I discovered the atrocious anti-semitic and racist views of Lovecraft, and the sinister meanings behind many of his horror stories. I soured on his works, and while the “Eldritch Horror” genre was still interesting to me, his influence on some of my favorite writers and artists such as Steven King, Guillermo Del Toro, and George RR Martin is evident, I could not get into his stories like I did when I was younger.
This is why I was pleasantly surprised to find that HBO was producing a show called “Lovecraft Country” based on a novel of the same name, headed by Misha Green who wrote for two of my favorite shows “Heroes” and “Sons of Anarchy” and served as showrunner for the critically acclaimed “Underground.” Lovecraft Country is also produced by the amazingly talented Jordan Peele as well as JJ Abrams. The show is not a love letter to the bigoted H.P. Lovecraft. It is instead a period piece exploring Jim Crow America with the twist of Lovecraft’s cosmic horror framing the development of the protagonists. The fact that the show stars BIPOC who are the protagonists in this show when Lovecraft’s stories usually had members of various minority communities as villains is a driving force behind why this show stood out to me.
I was intrigued and tuned in to the first episode, which drew me in almost immediately. It was a great start to what looks to be another major hit from HBO. The show was successful in viewership with its numbers nearly matching those of the acclaimed “Watchmen” premiere earlier this year. For my blog post this week, I decided to see what the social chatter around “Lovecraft Country” looked like through the lens of Social Studio.
I began work with a simple topic profile of posts containing “Lovecraft” and “Country.” I explored the analysis of the last two weeks, which includes the run-up to the premiere and the second episode. I was happy to see that there was a substantial amount of chatter, with more than 74 thousand tweets, most of which were created leading up to and after the premiere episode.
With the show airing at 9:00 p.m. on Sundays, it makes sense that most post-show chatter would occur on Mondays, with both episodes seeing a lot of activity during the show and immediately after, and comments on reviews were coming the next day.
The top words provide a look into what people are talking about the most; obviously, the main words have to do with the topic profile and people’s reviews and breakdowns of the show. However, a few observations stand out. The first is the term “sundown,” which alludes to counties in which black people could not be out in public for fear of being lynched. There are many other words associated with the racism depicted in the show, overshadowing any references to eldritch or cosmic horror. That is precisely the theme of the show. The protagonists had to deal with the horrific racism of the Jim Crow era, and the fear of what the racist people would do to them overshadowed the fear of what the literal monsters that were leaping out of the woods would do. The discussion about the racism depicted in the show is similar to the discussion around the Tulsa Massacre in Watchmen, many people are hearing about these issues for the first time, and that spurs discussion online.
Like many of HBO’s shows (Game of Thrones, Westworld, Watchmen, etc.) Lovecraft Country has many mysteries to unravel, fan theories abound, and people look to the internet for breakdowns of what happened, especially after episode 2, which ended with many more questions unanswered than answered. You can see this reflected in the top words where “theories” is a significant word as well as “explained,” “explanation,” and “breakdown.”
Overall, it is exciting to see this new take on a genre that I was soured on by people that I respect immensely. It’s great to see that the show is carving out its fandom that is forming a community online to discuss and break down what looks to be one of the best new shows of Fall 2020.