We’re all familiar with movies hiding easter eggs throughout their films sending winks and nods to pop-culture references. Sometimes it will be a tip-of-the-cap to an author, actor, or creator. Sometimes it is paying homage to an inspiring series, book, or film that’s near and dear to the director’s heart. This week I’ve seen a first. A T.V. series that has several easter eggs depicting segregation and oppression that only eagle-eyed aficionado’s of the black struggle might have caught on to.
Lovecraft Country is littered with important details that would fly over many people’s heads, and as I watched it again, I caught more nods to the true oppression of many African-Americans during the post-World War II era.
As a film buff, nothing makes me happier than watching a review, breakdown, or hidden easter egg video on a TV show I enjoy. Yesterday I did the same with Lovecraft Country, and while many of the melanin-deficient reviewers on youtube touched on the themes of literature, horror, and fantasy, many understandably missed some of the most important historical references.
Here are 10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1.
1. H.P. Lovecraft’s little poem.
While we all know H.P. Lovecraft as an innovator of modern horror, fiction, and fantasy in literature, many people (including myself) didn’t know about a poem he wrote that spoke horribly about African Americans. Lovecraft Country alludes to the poem, but never recites it. Once they mentioned the title, I went straight to my Google Search. Below is the poem called: On the Creation of N*****s (1912)
When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceived a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a N****r.
I’m sure Jackie Robinson beating the S**T out of Cthulhu at the beginning of the episode was a collective middle finger from the black community to Mr. Lovecraft.
2. Seating for Black People
While this may not come as a surprise to many of you, a lot of people are ignorant to the fact that, yes, black people were made to sit in the back of the bus. Many know the story of Rosa Parks’ defining moment, but for decades this was the way of life for black people. Where insult to injury is predicated in the show is when the bus breaks down and the bus driver gets a local pick-up truck driver to ride the stranded passengers into the city. Immediately in the next scene, the only two black passengers were seen walking down the road into Chicago.
3. Propaganda for the Negro Soldier
In Lovecraft Country, the above poster is not shown in this episode, but instead, it’s a black soldier telling other young black men that if they enlist, they can see the world. While Atticus walks by the soldier, there’s a glance of recognition as if Atticus was once one of those impressionable young men, and he knows their being lied to. Black men had to be enticed to enlist by different methods than whites because it was hard to show patriotism to a country that still to that day had kept them oppressed. So, they would show a poster of Joe Louis joining the fight…why don’t you? Get to see the world! Little did they know seeing the world would involve PTSD, death, and despair.
4. The Negro Motorist Greenbook
The synopsis according to IMDB.com is: “Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Black as he joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father.” While this is true, it’s not the whole story. Why are they embarking on this trip? It’s to help update what many people may know as, The Negro Motorist Greenbook. Yup, just like the movie, The Greenbook. If you don’t know, this book was originated by Victor Hugo Green as a travel bible for African Americans. It provided details of safe roads to travel, places for food, repairs, and lodging where they wouldn’t be turned away or even worse, assaulted.
5. James Baldwin’s monologue on racial divide
During one of the scenes in Lovecraft Country, we see a montage of our protagonist’s road trip. In the montage we see different moments where they face discrimination, others facing discrimination, and the hardships of ignorant people with all the privilege in the world monopolizing on their entitlements. Usually, during movie montages, a composer would play a score to envoke emotions during the collection of scenes. Lovecraft Country went in a different direction. Instead, they played the monologue of James Baldwin’s renowned speech at Cambridge University where he debated with William Buckley on the subject of the United States racial divide. James Baldwin was a brilliant playwright, novelist, speaker, and activist that eloquently described the plight of the black man as it still stands today. Merged with the scenes during the montage, it speaks volumes about the state of America.
6. Ice Cream stand Scene
In one of the scenes in the montage, we see a black man and his children waiting at an ice cream stand for service. Right over them is a sign that says “colored” and on the other side of the stand is a group of white people with ice cream being tended to by the servers. This scene looked extremely familiar to me. When I did some research, I realized this scene was based on a famous photograph by Gordon Parks, photographer and journalist who well-documented scenes of the segregation and civil rights era. Years ago I saw his work in its full brilliant quality at the High Museum in Atlanta. The color and detail brought a realism that a black-and-white photo could never do. It made this a real thing.
7. Mother and daughter under the neon sign
This scene once again pays homage to another photograph by Gordon Parks. A mother and her daughter dressed elegantly as if they were going to church, standing under a large neon sign that says ‘Colored Entrance’.
8. The billboard across from the gas station
While Atticus and company are at a gas station filling up their car, they are approached by a gas station attendant pretending to be a gorilla to mock them. Leticia holds Atticus back from approaching the man as the attendant intensifies his ignorant behavior and she forces Atticus into the car. As they pull off, you can see a Billboard for Aunt Jemima in the background. Aunt Jemima has always been a misrepresentation of black culture through the lens of the white man and advertised to his fellow man as the overall perception of black people. The image of Aunt Jemima is a source reflection of the learned behavior of the gas station attendant.
9. Sundown towns
Two years ago was the first time I’ve ever heard of a Sundown Town. No, not through a history book, but as a warning about staying too late in a little town in Texas that exists today! If I didn’t hear about this first hand, I would’ve thought it was a theme of the past, but no. There are currently county’s that do not condemn the abuse of black people once the sun goes down! While the billboard here might be a relic from the past, Sundown Towns are definitely alive and well across America!
10. White walls
Not only is this one telling, but it also holds all kinds of subliminal messages. While the group finds a Green book safe haven for dining called Lydia’s, they are surprised to find the restaurant is now called, Simmonsville Dinette. Still, they walk in and are greeted by unwelcoming faces. While the server goes to the back for what seems like their coffee orders, Atticus realizes that the walls are painted white. He asks his uncle to remind him why the white house was white. His uncle tells him about the war of 1812 when British soldiers torched it and when slaves were tasked to rebuild it, they had to paint it white to cover up the burn marks. This tells us two things. Lydia’s restaurant was burnt down and rebuilt by trespassers (obviously for being a safe haven for blacks in this all-white town) and the blackness of this restaurant was erased and covered up by the ‘white’ paint. My goodness, I could go on and on about this one!
I was expecting this series to be littered with easter eggs, but knowing they have incorporated easter eggs specifically about the black movement and struggles has me fired up to see what else is in store for these characters. Did you see any easter eggs that I missed? Comment and let me know.
Chadwick Boseman Forever!!
It is clear that Chadwick Boseman chose iconic roles like Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Black Panther with deliberate intent and for a specific purpose. In an age where positive roles for Black actors is often sparse, Chadwick managed to land and portray historical figures that made most respect his talents if not revel in his ability to transition effortlessly for one character to another. Even I had to give his African accent a solid B+ (It’s the highest grade the Nigerian Standards Bureau can give for an African accent to a non African FYI.)
Holding out and preparing for these dynamic roles came with both great frustration and incredible resolve I’m certain. Not to mention the taxing ordeal of battling Colon Cancer as the grueling scheduling of filming and increasing responsibility for positive representation loomed. Even under extreme duress, Chadwick’s commitment to others appeared to outweigh his own tribulations, unbeknownst to us all.
Black Panther may have been just a movie to some and that may be because some can easily rattle off 10 movies with a king of non Af-Am origin. It represented a lot more to others. Albeit imagined, imagery on cinema often accomplishes more to augment the social narrative and society itself than actual reality. If negative stereotypes influence perception then positive ones absolutely have the same converse effect.
Even in jest, the cultural misappropriation of raisins in potato salad on SNL skits directly spoke to the tampering of black culture to which T’challa championed, represented and aptly responded “Oh hell Nah Karen!”
If you don’t understand the relevance of representation, it’s probably because you are thoroughly represented. After all, no one is ever grateful for every breath they take until they are gasping for air.
R.I.P Chadwick Boseman. Thank you for breathing life into the possibility of Black excellence.
What Am I Doing Wrong?
Knowing something is an important step. It’s the key that opens the possibility of doing something. But it’s the doing that’s the hard part. Anyone can know something, just try doing something sometime and let me know how it goes.
Open your mind to being truly objective.
We all know diet and exercise are integral to a fit and healthy life but how many of us do something about it? We all know there’s poverty, hunger, and corruption in the world – how many of us do something about it? Knowing is cute and all, but doing is everything.
Sometimes knowing is easy. Let’s say you weigh twice as much as you should. You can feel it. You can see it. But what happens when knowing isn’t so obvious. For example, how do you know when your thinking is toxic? And why is that important?
It’s important because undiscovered bad behavior is unmanaged and therefore uncontrolled behavior. Uncontrolled behavior snowballs over time into a grotesque compound. Into something you can never hope to control. Maybe you implode. Maybe you explode. Either way, it ain’t pretty.
To put a finer point on it: if you don’t know you have a problem, you can’t solve the problem. Problems tend to get more complicated the less you control them, until they are too big to solve. Here are three tips to learning “if it’s you.”
1. Quiet your mind
First things first, you have to quiet the noise upstairs. The mind is filled with frustrations and pressures, facts and figures, bad news and fake news, assumptions and recollections. Opening your mind to being truly objective is probably impossible, but you have to get as close to it as you can. You must be so objective that if someone stated that “the sun is a square” you would hear them out before making a final judgement. Like I said, it’s not easy to get there, and that’s one of the reasons humans meditate. But you can quiet the mind in other ways, too. Do something exhausting like laps in the pool. Concentrate on something easy but complex, like cleaning that dusty chandelier. Take a long hot shower or listen to music while driving. Whatever it takes. Fill your life with these things until you can more easily identity those moments when your mind isn’t racing. It’s much easier to be self reflective when you quiet the mind. You’ll be less prone to self-deprecation as well, which is just another way our brains force status quo. Status quo is the arch-enemy of change.
…undiscovered bad behavior is unmanaged and therefore uncontrolled behavior.
2. Ask direct questions
Find someone you trust and ask them direct questions. Tell them you need them to be 100% honest. That lying to you will not help. That no matter how they answer, you promise to not get angry. That you’re creating a safe space for honesty.
Then ask your questions. If you have any sinking suspicions, go ahead and ask directly. Do I have anger issues? Do I have a nervous tic? Am I shrill? How bad is my breath? Do I drink too much? I don’t smell funny to you, do I? What about here?
Knowing is cute and all, but doing is everything.
If you’re brave, you can throw out a wider net and ask something like “Is there something about me no one wants to say to my face?” The answers may not always be helpful, but the possibility for teaching moments are many. At the very least you’ll learn who you can trust for honesty and maybe a little something about how you are perceived.
Feel free to get the feedback of more than one person. In fact, that’s how you should do it. Extra points if one of those people is a psychologist.
3. Emulate researched behavior
Research humans that have their act together and examine their behavior. Then use that quiet mind we talked about to make comparisons to your own choices. Emulate some of the best behavior you see, especially from those that know what it’s like to re-right the ship. Maybe some are friends and family. Maybe some are strangers. Writers, artists, athletes. There’s nothing but opinions and commentary on the internet, and plenty in libraries and bookstores if that’s more your thing. So many folks that have done the hard work of becoming happy and healthy have blogs you can read, podcasts you can listen to, or books you can buy. Absorb it all, find something that strikes a note of truth in you, then apply what you’ve learned to change your thinking and ultimately your behavior.
All change requires commitment. That one sit-up I did a month ago didn’t benefit me at all. Had I done 30 every morning since then, I bet I’d be feeling the benefits now, and probably be eager to add more repetitions to my regimen. Doing fosters more doing. Doing is everything.