Happy Scribe Logo

Transcript

Proofread by 1 reader
Proofread
[00:00:09]

You're tuning in to Lovecraft Country Radio. There's some strong language and spoilers ahead. Buckle up. Hello, my name is Ashley C. Ford, I am a writer, podcaster and horror enthusiast. And I am Shannon Houston.

[00:00:32]

I'm one of the writers for HBO's new series Lovecraft Country.

[00:00:36]

I'm also a film and TV critic at Paste magazine, a parent of three free black children, amen amen, and a person who watches at least one episode of Buffy Season three every week. So we are here to welcome you to Lovecraft Country Radio, the official HBO Companion podcast.

[00:00:55]

As we start to dive into this, I just want to start by saying, actually, I'm fuckin scared. I am literally scared of the show that I worked on. I watched this episode, especially the ending when the monsters came out. I was literally watching it through my fingers, like total scaredy cat, please. You have to help me get through this. This is part of your job.

[00:01:20]

I'm here for you. I am here for you. Listen, I'm going to be your horror doula.

[00:01:26]

I am going to hold your hand and walk you through a beautiful, terrifying experience with life.

[00:01:37]

And it's going to be amazing.

[00:01:40]

We're going to have so much fun. And you are going to be I feel like my horror sommelier.

[00:01:47]

Oh, I like this. I like this. I'm going to, you know, lovecraft country. We like to remix things on the show. I'm going to remix that and I'm going to claim Lovecraft sommelier, right?

[00:02:00]

Yes. I'm here to connect you and our audience to the writers room and the writers experience and to kind of like give you guys all the references and the themes and the conversations that we had, the arguments that we had about themes that will get into.

[00:02:15]

Oh, yeah. And I'm also really excited for this to be interactive. Right. Like, I'm excited to talk to you every week from here on out until the series finale. But I'm also excited for our listeners to like us on Twitter and follow us and then unfollow us because they disagreed with that one thing we said, like all of those things I'm so excited for.

[00:02:38]

Yes, let's get heated. Let's get passionate. Can we let's have fun. Yes, absolutely. So each week, rather than take you through the episode plot point by plot point, we're going to break it down by themes.

[00:02:52]

The pilot got us thinking about family history, black joy and of course, monsters. So we'll do all that and then we'll call out specific references. Those Easter eggs you may have missed. Are you ready?

[00:03:05]

Because it's time to talk about episode one Sunday. Let's do it. So what's that book you've been reading about the princess of Mars?

[00:03:19]

It's about this man named John Carter, who goes from being a captain in the army in Northern Virginia to becoming a martia n warlord. Starts with him running from Apaches and hiding in this magical cave and gets transported to the Red Planet. That's when it starts to get good.

[00:03:35]

How long you say the hero was a Confederate officer? Ex-Confederate. He fought for slavery. You don't get to put an X in front of that. Stories are like people. Loving them don't make them perfect. You just try and cherish, overlook their flaws. The flaws are still there. Yeah, they are. OK, Ashleigh.

[00:04:00]

So later on, we're going to talk more about the use of James Baldwin's words in this episode and this question that's haunting the episode. What is reality?

[00:04:11]

But I kept thinking about it in this opening scene too, what the fuck is happening and what is reality? What did you think about that scene?

[00:04:19]

I really love this scene and I loved it mostly because of that moment of relating and feeling like it is very clear to me that Atticus does not usually talk to people about what he's reading, but he thinks about what he's reading and he thinks about what it means.

[00:04:41]

And that is inescapable because of who his father is and how his father would have treated him regarding his books and his inclinations towards sci fi. But another thing that I really love about this scene and sort of like further into the scene is that there's this moment when you realize how much of an observer Atticus is. Atticus sees everything, he sees everything, and he prepares for everything. And to be perfectly honest, he really is like the perfect person you'd want on an adventure.

[00:05:20]

If you've got to go be a fugitive or you've got to go on some adventure and try to disappear a little bit, you want somebody who knows how to see what's coming. And I think Atticus is really, really good at seeing what's coming.

[00:05:36]

And I think that this is just the beginning of noticing how well prepared he is, if a little reckless and emotional at times.

[00:05:47]

Yeah, I think it's like, you know, that double edged sword, right, of a person who feels like they're in control and feels like they can handle almost any situation. And, you know, we're going to see over the course of the show, there is a whole bunch of situations that he has not been prepared for.

[00:06:03]

And we're going to watch him struggle with that. And I mean, look at this. We just spent like two minutes talking about this little tiny scene at the beginning of the pilot, because there was so much there and there's so much more to unpack in this episode, so many layers.

[00:06:16]

I really think it's important for the listeners, especially people who are coming to this podcast right after they watch the episode to sort of understand the world of Lovecraft and specifically how that comes out in Episode one.

[00:06:33]

So something that we did a lot in the writers room was discuss different ways that we could use audio instead of music to play out over a scene. Obviously, music is really important to the show, but the audio is really important as well because we were interested in how the power of words and voices from the past can speak directly to a fictional character and also to our audience. So before we get into our major themes, I want to talk more about this Baldwin quote.

[00:07:04]

Mmm. Yes. This fucking incredible quote plays out over the Leti, Atticus and George road trip scene. Right. We're making our way from the Midwest to the East Coast and we're hearing Baldwin talk about.

[00:07:20]

Like how answering any question about America or black America really requires us to give context to the question. Baldwin says it depends on your reality, where you find yourself in this world. This feels so true to our show because I think part of what we're grappling with is like reality being this fixed thing. Right. And we're saying no. Reality isn't this fixed factual thing. Think about the cop saying in the cabin, "there is no such thing as monsters", even though they all were just staring at monsters.

[00:07:53]

And this whole show is about, on the one hand, reality shifting in a massive way for one group of people in Chicago who learned that magic and monsters exist. But it's also about this idea that what we call reality is so dependent on what white supremacy tells us is right, true and possible. And I think this show is here to say, among many other things, fuck the reality you've previously been presented with as truth. Fuck it, the show does this not just through Baldwin.

[00:08:26]

It does this through some really amazing characters.

[00:08:30]

You know, it's so interesting to me when you talked about the cop saying there's no such thing as monsters, which in the show is extra ridiculous given what the cop has just gone through and seen with his own eyes.

[00:08:48]

But it's so reflective of the real life horrors that people face in the reality that we share that there's always something happening that we see.

[00:09:03]

There's video and somebody is still claiming it does not exist. It is not a problem. Don't believe your own eyes. Don't believe your own ears. Believe me. Trust me. Because I'll take better care of you than reality. Yes. I'll give you the fantasy. Absolutely. Yes. And that question, what is reality? It is a question that is haunting all of our characters. So let's dive into like these people and these family dynamics and really get into like what reality is for our Lovecraft characters.

[00:09:37]

I feel like at its core, when you strip back the monsters and some of the more compelling visual elements of the show, what you really have is a story about family and not just any family, but like black family and given family, chosen family, biological family, whatever it is.

[00:09:59]

There is a lot of story here about the way we relate to one another when we feel like we are in a real community with another person.

[00:10:12]

Yeah, I love that you said that because in the writers room we would talk about this all of the time. Like this show is going to be amazing. The monsters are going to be amazing. The effects are going to be crazy. HBO gave us five billion dollars an episode, unheard of and then we would go, "Now, forget about all that and just imagine we have no monsters and no budget and we're just trying to tell a family story like, what is that story? And how can we make that as compelling, if not more compelling, than the monsters who are going to show up at the end of the episode?" So it was really important that we got the audience invested in this family immediately.

[00:10:54]

And so that that, of course, when the monsters come out, it's all the more fun and all the more scary. But there's already drama happening.

[00:11:01]

Yes, absolutely. I mean, way before you see a monster in this episode, you see monstrosity.

[00:11:10]

And the drama, right? It starts with a dynamic between Atticus and his father. We meet Atticus coming back home from being away for a long time, living in Florida for a while, having been in a war, coming back home, looking for this father that he has a fucked up relationship with. Montrose has made his son feel like sort of a failure, partly due to like his love of pulp and genre, this particular art form that he loves, this particular style of storytelling that he loves, and also because I have him enrolling in the army.

[00:11:45]

Right. So I love that we're establishing this dynamic between the two of them, because on a personal level, I like really need to unpack my mommy issues. And I'm like, oh, yeah, I know what it's like to have a parent who's like, "That thing you love isn't black enough and isn't militant enough. You're reading poetry, but you need to read this poetry. You're reading the babysitters club, but you need to read, you know, open this book from my library."

[00:12:12]

Mom, I'm eight years old. Like, I don't necessarily want to sit here and watch "eyes on the prize" with you.

[00:12:20]

Followed by Rosewood, I'm 10 years old, going to school, very angry now, very upset, and I feel like I feel really connected to Atticus and that way of like, can you please just let me love the thing I love and I will fight white supremacy later.

[00:12:35]

And your parents are like, no, you're going to do both. So we have that problematic setup and there's layers to that relationship. And then we see this other, like, incredible relationship that Atticus has with his uncle George. And this is really important to us, too, because, again, in thinking about family dynamics, it's not always as simple as absentee dad or shitty dad or mom who makes you watch Rosewood when you're nine.

[00:13:01]

Right. And also, like, I love you, Mom, but seriously, it's like we also have other people.

[00:13:09]

That's what they call the village. Right. It really shouldn't just fall on the parents. You have to have a village around you. And so Atticus has that village and he's like walking back into the drama with his father, but also this uncle who loves the same kind of things that he loves, who also wants to go on this adventure with him. What else did you say?

[00:13:30]

Let's start here. I'm an older sister with a gorgeous younger sister. Like. Maybe too pretty for her own good, whatever that means, like just gorgeous, she always has been, and I know what it's like to stand beside your sister and people will tell you you're beautiful, you know, whatever.

[00:13:56]

But you know that if you took a picture of the two of you standing next to each other and you ask someone who's more beautiful that they are indoctrinated to choose the other.

[00:14:13]

Indoctrinated, I love that.

[00:14:16]

And I felt that immediately between Ruby and Leti. There is this hesitation-ugh, this actress plays this role so well-There's this hesitation in her interactions with Leti. Ruby really wants to let Leti in, but she does not trust Leti.

[00:14:40]

And Letty really wants to be trusted, but has not proven herself trustworthy to her siblings.

[00:14:48]

I love that we're talking about this because when we talked in the room about this particular relationship, we always talked about the trust issue, like what it's like to be the older, basically, for all intents and purposes, more responsible sibling. And what it's like to have somebody like Letty flitting around, traveling the country, popping in and popping out of your life, not going to her fucking mom's funeral like what it's like to be in a house with somebody like that.

[00:15:14]

But as you're saying, when that scene starts and I think because of so many important conversations that we're having about colorism right now, particularly colorism in Hollywood and the fact that we still have like colorism deniers or whatever you want to call them, but it's like that scene now has extra levels to it that you're seeing and experiencing in a particular way and that I'm seeing and and experiencing in a particular way, too.

[00:15:40]

And then you go and set that story in nineteen fifty four.

[00:15:47]

Girl! It's like it's the idea of value.

[00:15:52]

And we talked about this heavily in the room, especially because I'm not going to lie. I came in and I was like, I don't want a light skinned woman in the lead.

[00:16:01]

We can't do it. Like No I love Jurnee, I love underground. I love everything that she does.

[00:16:07]

But this is problematic. And we got into this huge, huge discussion like 45 minutes to two hour long discussion about colorism.

[00:16:16]

And a lot that we talked about was like it's not really how black people see each other. It's about the white gaze that we are then interpreting our own skin tones. Because you're describing a light skinned sister. I'm laughing because my older sister is dark skinned and I'm the light skinned little sister in that story. And I'm like, but I never fucking think about that when I'm on the phone with my sister or when I'm talking to my sister.

[00:16:43]

I'm never like, wow, this is a deep moment due to colorism.

[00:16:46]

Now, that's my sister. She's fucking gorgeous. I'm fucking gorgeous. It's when you're out in the world, when you think about who's going to get the job at the department store, like things like that, we know that it exists, but it doesn't exist without the white gaze. And I struggled with this as a writer on the show, resisting the white gaze and resisting the urge to speak to it and invoke it all the time. When you're telling a story that is in part about racism is really fucking hard.

[00:17:14]

It's a it's a million different colors that we call black in one family. And it's only when we start interrogating white gaze and like this desire for white people to know exactly what percentage of black we are so that they can know exactly what percentage like to be afraid of us, which is fucking insane. That's what makes us like be mad about who's on a movie poster and who's not on a movie poster. So I think one way that we did fight against it was by, yes, giving you Leidy and then also saying Leidy has a sister who looks like Ruby and then they have a sibling that looks like Marvan. And we don't really have to explain too much about it. You know what it is? They have different dads, OK? We all know what that's like. Like let's move on. Right. Because that's what we do within our families. Like you said, you and your sister, you're not invested in colorism until you step out of your home.

[00:18:06]

And I think about that so much with specifically Leidy, who clearly, even as she loves her siblings and she comes back and relies on her siblings again, it definitely gave me this reminder that. Leidy maybe, due to the color of her skin, maybe not, seems to have allowed herself a bigger imagination about what is possible for black people in the world and specifically and the way this starts for everyone is what is more possible for me.

[00:18:48]

Right. You know, and I I can't help but think about how her color and how the world reacts to her because of that color would have changed her perception about what was possible for her life and would have expanded her imagination about where black people could go, even as her siblings obviously consistently like, "Uhhh, you're a little crazy", like, you know, like you are you are not on the up and up, if that's what you think. You are being unrealistic. You are not living in reality.

[00:19:27]

I'm not cleaning house. So what then, you think you're going to go downtown and get a job in one of those department stores? Yes, I do. You think it's that easy? Yes, I do. You know I've been applying for years. Well, if I get the job, it'll be enough money for both of us to move. I'm fine where I am. We could have our own rooms, for once, hell our own house maybe. There's a lot of colored folks pioneering into all white neighborhoods these days. Then maybe you should ask one of them to put you up...Or go to Marvins. Two nights, Leti. That's it.

[00:19:57]

Once again, because you think it can be different, that means you are not living in reality, or at least you are not living in my reality. And I think I did keep wondering if that was the thing between Ruby and Letty was not just Ruby saying, you know, as an older sibling, I get it. We do have to be the responsible ones. I think there's also something there for Ruby that isn't just you're irresponsible. It's also the world is not the same for me as it is for you. And I know that you are still a black woman. You're my sister. But we are going to have different experiences in the world, and I think she wanted a little more acknowledgement of that. Yeah, yeah.

[00:20:46]

That's such a great reading of the scene. So I'm excited for you to watch their relationship get, like, really fucking crazy over the course of the next few episodes.

[00:20:57]

Yeah, I'm excited. So we can't really have a conversation about black family dynamics without zooming out a little bit and exploring the communities and the history of black people in this country so far.

[00:21:12]

So this show is set in Chicago during the Jim Crow era, which was really important to see on the show, because I think it's Chicago in that time was segregated. But I feel like the idea of like black people in the city and the block parties and the joy all of that gives us like this sense of safety, like this real sense of community and safety.

[00:21:42]

And I think that starts to break apart a little bit when we get to that James Baldwin quote, once we get to the they're in the car with the James Baldwin quote, we're getting some scenes and some things that are showing us that, like the joy is there.

[00:21:54]

But it's qualified, right? It's qualified. I love that. Yes.

[00:21:59]

And as they move toward Lovecraft country, which means they inevitably, inevitably come into some sundown towns, which are places where black people are violently encouraged not to be when the sun goes down or really ever.

[00:22:19]

But as that's happening, you very quickly go from feeling safe to seeing the danger all around you.

[00:22:28]

Right. We feel so safe in this black community. We're at this block party.

[00:22:32]

We love Uncle George. We love George and Hyppolyta, like all of this magic is happening.

[00:22:40]

And then it's time for the road trip, which is also like fun and exciting and an adventure. And I want to say, like, as you were describing the sundown towns, I also just thought, like, when you get to the sundown towns and we see the police and we have those interactions, I think we forget about the white people at the gas station. We do. I want to talk about these fucking people for a second. Because I personally hate the word microaggression.

[00:23:10]

I am ready for it to be abolished because there's nothing micro about it now. No, I want Tic to go off on that Buddy Holly looking motherfucker. I know.

[00:23:21]

I mean, I felt it too, right? He throws the banana peel and then they have to get in the car because you could literally die for throwing a banana peel at a white person. And as we see later, you can literally die for doing literally anything

[00:23:34]

sitting in a booth

[00:23:34]

due to white supremacy.

[00:23:35]

So there's there's that, too. Like, it's not just the cops. It's not just the monsters. It's everybody. It's all around you. It's haunting you. You're doing or you're on a road trip trying to find your father, reconnecting with old friends and literally Minding Your Business. And a white person very desperately needs to remind you that you're black and that they have a problem with it and that that's like a little small thing that is a part of the horror that's not necessarily less horrific than what we see happen later.

[00:24:09]

And that's why we have like all these little pops, right? We have Aunt Jemima on the billboard, we have that highest standard of living, those kind of visuals to remind you that, like, again, what is reality? America is always saying it's this one place. America is always saying freedom, liberty, get your new car. And our characters are living in that, but also living in a completely different reality.

[00:24:39]

Yes. Yes. And you know, the thing that is really interesting to me and I want to take us to that diner and there's like that obvious hostility when they walk in, between them and the one customer, and the clearly terrified soda jerk. I felt like watching the soda jerk and his actions in that scene and like the subsequent scenes that have to do with the diner, I was like, this is the white moderate. Yeah. This is the white moderate who's like, but I didn't chase them. Right. I didn't shoot at anybody. Right.

[00:25:17]

I just called these people because if I didn't, they would have come after me. Yes. You know, so I really didn't have any choice. You know what I like? It's that simpering like idea that this is what I have to do. Right. And then when he says, tell me again about why the White House is white, yes. And the way that scene came together, because Imma be real. I didn't know. Yeah, I didn't know.

[00:25:49]

I thought when he asked the question, I was like, what? Where is this going? what kind of question. is this? And by the end of that scene, when Leidy comes running, and says, we got to get the fuck out of here?

[00:26:03]

I was just like, yes, run!

[00:26:05]

Yes. I want to take a moment to acknowledge, like, I fucking busted out laughing when Leti came running through screaming. I don't know what it was. It was just really funny. But also Jurnee Smullette, like Leidy is kind of everything in this scene. My favorite moment, one of my favorite moments in the pilot is when they're walking into that restaurant and they pass by those two white women and Leidy just like tips those sunglasses down.

[00:26:30]

And if you missed it, please go back and watch it, because it's like this little acknowledgment of I fucking see you and you see me and we're going into this restaurant.

[00:26:40]

So what Uncle George is doing here is he's investigating this restaurant not because it used to be black owned, but because it was owned by a white person who did serve Negro customers.

[00:26:53]

Right. And she was punished for that. And now this new kid is like, I don't want to be punished for it. I know what happened to her. So it's about like any safe spaces. And then, again, what is reality? The reality is that safe space can be fucking burned to the ground and somebody else can take ownership of it. And now it's not a safe space anymore. I think that this show does a really great job, again, of that balance of like fucked up things happening and our people constantly pushing back and, you know, again, having a good time of it, you know, not necessarily this scene, but the road trip itself, like the idea of black people wanting to travel, because we could have just been like, it ain't safe, we're staying in our houses. And a whole bunch of black people went, hell no! We live here. We fucking built this country whether they want to acknowledge it or not. And our families deserve to go on road trips. So let's figure out the safest way to do that.

[00:27:50]

Also, we are not exempt from the wanderlust that this country is founded on.

[00:27:57]

Yeah, we're not exempt. Yeah. When you say this land is my land, this land is your land.

[00:28:04]

Right? Like we're talking to each other, OK? If this land is your land, then this land is my land too. So what does that mean when in my land, I can't travel from one place to another without my life being endangered for existing. For having the audacity to exist, it's wild to me, it's absolutely wild when you were talking about getting away from the white gaze. This is one of those moments that I did not get away from the white gaze.

[00:28:41]

I will be honest, because I definitely in that moment, one of the first things I thought from that diner scene was, I hope people don't think that this is a TV dramatization. Like I hope they understand that the moment we're seeing, this is how it was, right. This is how it could be now in certain places, sundown towns are not gone. Oh, no. Sundown towns exist. I grew up in Indiana. We have sundown towns. We have places where I'm not going for nothing at all.

[00:29:20]

And I'm definitely not going at night. Yeah. And I think, you know, if you look at the scene again, they walk in. Nobody, like, calls them a nigger and starts beating them like it's not that. It's that phone call in the back. It's the white women's eyes when they leave. It's them pulling into the town and seeing those white men sitting outside the fire station. It's just that feeling, right? Like like the violence comes later.

[00:29:48]

The the cops come come later. And this is how it is. It's quiet and then it's fucking violent and you're running for your life.

[00:29:58]

Uncle George? Remind me why the White House is white? War of 1812, British soldiers put the executive branch to torch. And later, when the slaves rebuilt it, they had to paint the walls white to cover up the burn marks. Get your ass up, we gotta get the fuck out of here now! (Sirens).

[00:30:27]

And I think too, you know, there's there's this other element at play when we talk about these two communities, when we talk about our characters moving from this black community to these white communities, one conversation that, like, just floored me in the room.

[00:30:43]

We were talking about how segregation also meant that black kids were growing up with black teachers. Yes. Black doctors. Yes, black family all around.

[00:30:56]

We had other problems along with it, but we had that.

[00:31:00]

So we don't necessarily have to, like, use our imagination that hard to think about what it looks like for black kids to grow up in a in a safe environment, because that environment, especially the way it's presented in the pilot, again, block parties and just like conversation and comfortability and none of the houses like are mansions or anything like that. But the comfortability doesn't come from wealth. It comes from community and family and a sense of safety. Yes.

[00:31:32]

And a feeling of safety. And I think that's really important, too.

[00:31:35]

I agree with you and I think you're right that there is something to this conversation that we keep having, this conversation about segregation in education and segregation in housing and all of those things. And it's like it's not so much that we need equal representation of all people in all places as much as it is we need everybody to have a place they can go, where they feel safe and where their schools and libraries and put like and sidewalks and all of those things are as funded as anybody else's, as well-funded as anybody else's.

[00:32:16]

Right. And there is something, I guess, like the the icky part, like the conversation that I feel like we did have in the room that we don't necessarily have an answer to is like something was lost when you integrated something was lost when you took black kids out of their neighborhoods and put them into schools that were violent. Right. Like those where the violent schools into schools where they weren't wanted and into schools where they were the only black kids.

[00:32:45]

And something violent is happening today when black kids are growing up in all white schools or predominantly white schools, too, like it hasn't quite worked.

[00:32:55]

And we should start really investigating what was lost. And I feel like that's part of the feeling I have when I'm watching the pilot. I'm like, damn like that. I don't know.

[00:33:06]

The block party makes me think of, like, Women of Brewster Place and like, yes, of course there's drama. Of course there's drama among black people, but it's a different kind of drama. And like there's also all this support and joy and safety. And again, our characters, you feel that fucking shift when they leave segregated Chicago and they start traveling through these other towns. And it's terrifying.

[00:33:30]

It's absolutely terrifying. But there's also a lot of joy on this show.

[00:33:37]

Yes. Yes, there.

[00:33:40]

And, you know, that block party, I think, is one of the first instances of that joy that we see. Well, really, the first instance is, you know, Uncle George, let's get into it.

[00:33:56]

Let's discuss. Let's talk about watching a not older I'm not going to say older, but but an adult woman, an adult, black, darker skinned, gorgeous woman be loved on by her husband first thing in the fucking morning.

[00:34:20]

We don't give a fuck about Diana next door. We're going to do what needs to be done. That black love you charge me.

[00:34:29]

Know why we can enjoy the queen for her affection and look at my work because I feel I've been spending too much time.

[00:34:46]

Black love, he said, your mom, what he said, he said, I want to I want my wife. Yes. He kept saying, you know, my wife.

[00:34:53]

There's something about I don't know what that is. I'm not even really a person who, like, loves the idea of marriage or like any of the I mean, I got married, don't get me wrong, but I'm not a person who's, like, married, it's the most important thing that ever happened to me.

[00:35:05]

But there is something about a guy just being like my wife.

[00:35:12]

Yes. Like that's my wife. And I think Courtney B. Vance, Uncle George could have used any other word there.

[00:35:19]

He like my love, my everything, like any like he's saying like this needs to happen and this needs to happen now and I just loved watching that scene and being like, yeah, we are acknowledging grown people making love and grown people being in love, and they I think you feel it in that scene. So we have that black joy. We have Atticus like talking about these books that he loves. There's this tiny moment. This is such a TV critic thing for me to do.

[00:35:54]

But I'm like when he lays the book down on his father's bed, the care with which he lays that book down, you're like, is it about the book?

[00:36:06]

Is it about your father? Of course it's about all of those things. And Ashley, you and I have talked about this, too, like the love of art, the love of literature that's happening with all of our characters, Atticus and his books, George and the books, Diana working on this comic book. And she's got a new version of the comic book, like we have Ruby and Leti singing, like we have so much art happening that is also working directly with this conversation of black joy, because isn't that just the black expe?

[00:36:40]

I'ma be real. I don't know anybody more creative than black people.

[00:36:44]

I mean, can we talk about it?

[00:36:45]

We should probably talk about it. I don't know anybody more creative than black people when I think about how much black people have been able to do specifically in the art space with as little as we have been allowed.

[00:37:01]

Right.

[00:37:01]

It makes in my mind almost every black artist, practically a genius, you know, like almost every black artist I think has to in order to get to the place where they can express themselves fully, see themselves fully enough to express themselves and the world around them and the things we make. Right.

[00:37:25]

And we see this all throughout the episode. They start the road trip and it's like, again, black people minding their business. White people are mad. Why are you mad? Why think about that? Those interactions between the cop and Atticus. Right?

[00:37:36]

He's just like, I don't like you. You're smart. You read books. You just gave me permission to open the trunk. I don't like that. And you guys are just out here being free.

[00:37:47]

How could you?

[00:37:48]

And then, like, it's infuriating, you know, then you follow the speed limit. This is so great, right?

[00:37:53]

Like, I give you these ridiculous parameters and I tell you you are going to die if you don't follow these ridiculous parameters, make a U-turn, drive twenty five miles an hour and try to get out of this town before the sun goes down. And what happens? Black people being fucking incredible and inventive and genius do it. They make it out and it doesn't actually matter. Right. That's the other dark element too, like. Oh, yeah, right. It doesn't actually matter.

[00:38:25]

You can't really win and you still end up with your face in the mud and a gun to your head after following these ridiculous parameters. Because the apathy is the point. That's what they want.

[00:38:38]

You know how people control you. It's not by making you hate yourself, it's by making you not care what happens to you because you feel like you don't have any control over it.

[00:38:48]

Oh, and I think that that's really. What's that like. I mean I mean, it's all racist. It's all racist and motivated by racism. But the cruelty and the desire to crush another human spirit or to take another human life is just it's it's beyond just being a hater.

[00:39:12]

It's beyond just being bothered. It's beyond like being jealous of the community and of the art and of all these things that you can't access is so much more than that.

[00:39:24]

And I think there's another word that is going to be very important for the rest of these episodes. There's another word for racism and it's absurdity. These police are absurd. And that's why our characters can't really properly navigate them, because you can't navigate this kind of like absurd anti intellectual monster like that's what they are.

[00:39:47]

And we're going to see more of that throughout the show, like our characters trying to navigate the absurdity of racism, then the choices that you make kind of become necessarily absurd because you're navigating this absurd space. The way that I think about it is like we have this epic moment in the cabin where one monster turns into another kind of monster. Right? A cop becomes a Shogguth, as in my opinion, the vampire pig.

[00:40:15]

A vampire pig, when that happens, I believe that the world actually gets a little safer for black people.

[00:40:20]

But what's interesting about the monsters is like to me, even the monsters make more sense than the fucking police. Like, we can navigate the monsters, OK? They're afraid of light. Let's get some flashlights, like they make more sense to a degree than these other monsters that our characters are up against. So there's a lot happening. But I also just want to talk about these fucking monsters.

[00:40:43]

Ashley, you are our horror duola. Yes. What did you think? You know, I, like, barely saw them. They were really cool.

[00:40:50]

But I love like I don't I don't need these teeth in my life right now. Like, I don't need this.

[00:40:54]

Listen, I love the monsters. Like I said, I want to be agitated.

[00:40:58]

I want to be surprised. And you want to talk about agitating and surprising? Put a thousand fucking eyes on, like a blobfish and give it some legs and like, the mouth of a giant squid and then also give it the ability to travel in the dirt, like under the ground.

[00:41:17]

So under your feet can pop up at any moment. Oh, don't worry.

[00:41:22]

It can also climb the trees, go from tree to tree. like now it's like a Tarzan vampire pig. Oh my God. And once it's Tarzan like I mean, I loved that. You know, there is a scene where Leidy really has to take control. She has to do like she has to do this thing and she's got to save everybody by getting to the car. Yes.

[00:41:51]

And she hears these things in the trees. She hears them behind her.

[00:41:55]

Let me tell you a little story about Ashley Ford.

[00:41:57]

Give it to us.

[00:41:57]

OK, when I was a kid and me and my brother would get in trouble, he would run and I would stay where I was and cry.

[00:42:07]

I don't see a different future for myself if a Tarzan vampire pig shows up. I don't like, I think I would give it my best shot for a while. I think I would take off running and then I would remember that I'm flat footed and not very fast. And I would be like, just give up. Just give up. Just die. Just die. And that kind of monster is the exact kind of monster that would make me go, "I'm just going to die" because I think that, like, you know what?

[00:42:39]

Maybe if I had faced Jim Crow era racism, I'd be tougher with the vampire pig. Sure.

[00:42:47]

But because, you know, I you know, I went to college during the Obama years. All right.

[00:42:52]

Like, this is soft in a certain sense.

[00:42:56]

Like, I don't I'm not coming up against that and feeling like I might walk away, like I'm coming up against that and being like, well, this is the end, right?

[00:43:05]

I can't imagine having run out of the cabin. I can't imagine it.

[00:43:08]

Those things were terrifying. Yeah, but I love how Leidy Letty's scared shitless.

[00:43:14]

And what is she doing? She's reciting the twenty third psalm, which I loved. And this might have even been one of my pitches because my mom used to say it when she would always reference it as like what you do when you're terrified, you start reciting the twenty third psalm. And I love like Letty's like saying it under her breath and Atticus's like you can do this, you can do this. And she's like, I'm fucking scared. That scene feels so real to me and true because she's like, I'm going to do this thing because we don't have a choice.

[00:43:43]

But I am terrified and I'm calling on the Lord. I haven't even been to church in a million years. But this is the prayer I'm going to say like that felt so authentic. But what was interesting was when we broke the scene in the room and I love how we broke it, but it was I felt very different watching it.

[00:43:58]

I remember having this strong reaction to the black woman being sent out to save them and feeling a little something about that. So there is that like, again, layers that I didn't even know were there. I'm seeing, too. So it's really exciting to be like, oh, shit. Oh, they sent the black girl. Black woman will save you. Yes, but this is also problematic. But OK, I do like Letty was booking it through the woods and I was like, go leti, go.

[00:44:26]

And I completely forgot that the shoggoths could fly.

[00:44:28]

So I was like, oh my God, they're in the air and the air there in the air.

[00:44:35]

This is all bad everywhere. OK, the shoggoths are everywhere.

[00:44:40]

And I love, you know, when you were talking earlier about, you know, you feel like black people are safer when the cop is bitten and becomes a monster versus when he was a cop, which, hard agree.

[00:44:56]

OK, hard agree.

[00:44:58]

But there is something about that moment when she's deciding to go and the cops are still being weird and racist and on the other side of the room and being like, you know, what if she leaves and you might leave?

[00:45:14]

And all this other stuff, you might get it in your head and it's just like not only did you not need me, you were about to kill me, right? Like 15 minutes ago. Yes.

[00:45:23]

You saying that is so important because it reminds me of how the 20 20 black uprising began, which is collectively, we all went we're in the middle of a pandemic. We're facing a monster like we've never faced before. And motherfuckers are out here still being racist. Right?

[00:45:44]

Y'all still got time to shoot black people in the street. And we are literally again, the monsters are outside. We're stuck in this cabin together. Right. We are quarantined in this cabin together. And you guys still have the energy to be racist. And I feel like that shifted things for us as a culture where we went, OK, that's enough to fund the police. We're done. Right.

[00:46:09]

We were all a little busy. We were just being busy.

[00:46:13]

You know what's strange in that scene, I was also thinking, would I rather run and die or stay in the cabin and wait for one of these panicky white men to let a bullet fly like he's still being racist in the midst of the bull shit outside. I think, do you think we thought that there was a limit?

[00:46:34]

I wonder if maybe we thought there was a threshold where at a certain point white people would have to go, OK, the racist stuff I'm going to have to put to the side while I focus on the more important thing.

[00:46:49]

Right.

[00:46:49]

Which is what our characters are thinking in that cabin. Right? Yes. Like, can you just tell us where the car is? Because we're all going to die and the white people are still hesitating. And yes, I think you're right. As a culture, we went, well, there's a pandemic like surely during this time. So, yeah, something about that feeling in the cabin and being like, come on, are we really doing this right now?

[00:47:09]

Yes, we are. But that's OK because our heroes got out and they arrive at this fucking weird looking castle mansion place. And I believe the line is welcome home, right? Yes. Welcome home.

[00:47:25]

OK, so before we wrap up, we have to talk about some of the references, because I can already tell I'm going to be really obsessed, not just with the show, but with these references, girl! Yeah.

[00:47:36]

I mean, when I saw the moment that made me go.

[00:47:41]

Wait a minute, wait a minute. That's a photo.

[00:47:42]

That's a picture. I've seen that a million times.

[00:47:46]

And it was a Gordon Parks photo that I have seen about a million times with this beautiful black mother in a blue dress and her daughter in a white dress.

[00:47:56]

And I mean, they are dressed to the nines to me. Yes. And they are standing under a sign that says colored entrance. And that photo to me is the epitome of. Black pride. Right, because it is this sense of like you cannot control the regality that I hold, even when you put me into demeaning circumstances, and I think that's the hate factor, that's where the hate comes from, is from the inability to crush and the inability to truly sideline. It's putting all your effort, your history, sacrificing your history, your integrity, your legacies. To really trying to crush a people who will not be moved, yes, they won't be.

[00:49:03]

So I love I love that photo and seeing it sort of like, that shot on film, adding the movement and the depth to it, that film does.

[00:49:16]

I could have cried, like I really could have cried in that moment, because I don't know that I've ever seen such a beautiful reference. And to be perfectly honest, like I don't know that I've ever seen such a beautiful reference to Gordon Parks' work in that way, and it just I mean, it messed with me a little bit. I ain't gon lie.

[00:49:40]

Like, yeah, because I think it's also like we're speaking to again, we are in conversation with Gordon Parks. We are in conversation with these fictional characters, but we're also in conversation with these artist from that time. There's a Curtis Mayfield reference with another Billboard shot. There's the music, there's Baldwin's voice. There's so much happening that we're reminding ourselves, like, I don't know, maybe you got choked up because it's like we're not in this alone, right?

[00:50:12]

It's like, yes, we're not in this alone. We have done this before. We have done it differently. We have created in times of struggle and we will always do that. And I just feel like we've talked a lot about black joy today. Right. And black creation under these strange circumstances that technically should have destroyed us.

[00:50:33]

And along with black joy, there's another word that I keep thinking about when I think about this episode and when I think about the show and it's imagination. And I can't help myself.

[00:50:44]

I have to just force you guys to read this poem, because in thinking about the show and also in preparation for Episode two, I highly suggest reading a poem called Conditions for a Southern Gothic by Ricky Laurentiis, specifically because it ends with these two lines that speak not only to next week's episode, but to the show as a whole.

[00:51:08]

And the line is, "Who among us was made to scratch a myth? Speak if God made us in his image, it was the first failure of imagination."

[00:51:22]

MM! Now, I love me some Ricky Laurentiis, ok? Boy with Thorn is a fantastic poetry collection.

[00:51:30]

So, yes, we can--mm-- thank you for sharing that. And you know, I wanted to offer you something, Shannon.

[00:51:38]

One of the things that I found really helps my friends who want to watch horror films or horror shows but do not want to deal with those moments after when you're sitting there thinking, OK, is that shit coming for me?

[00:51:56]

Right.

[00:51:56]

And you need to bring your heart rate down. And you don't want to deal with the agitation that Ashley is addicted to.

[00:52:03]

You have to find a follow up show. You have to find a show that is only going to give you good vibes that you can put on after you watch Lovecraft country and feel terrified. And I'm going to make a suggestion for you.

[00:52:19]

I think the perfect. Counterbalancing show to this show that's going to keep you in a good mood, but is also going to help relieve you from some of that fear is living single.

[00:52:36]

I was literally going to say living single. I was like, that's my show of like, I just need to, like, kind of laugh and go to a safe space. Yes. Yes, I love that. Yes. So love of country, then. A little living single and probably less nightmares for you and some of our audience members as well. Not so much. Thank you, guys. That's our show for this week. Thank you so much for listening.

[00:53:03]

This podcast was produced by HBO in conjunction with Pineapple Street Studios. Our executive producers are Jenny Weiss Berman, Max Linsky and Barry Finkel. Again, initiatory is our managing producer. This episode's lead producer is Josh Jupiter and our associate producers are Alexis Moore and Natalie Brenin. Our editors are Mattey Sprung Cayzer and Josh Gwinn.

[00:53:27]

Noriko Okabe is our engineer original music by composer Amanda Jones.

[00:53:33]

If you like the show and you have a minute, you can review and rate this podcast via Apple podcast Spotify or anywhere else you might get your podcast. It really helps people find the show. You can also stream the podcast on HBO and HBO. Max will be back next week after Episode two premieres on HBO and streams on HBO. Max on August 21st at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

[00:53:55]

We'll see you then. Bye, bitches.