In Lovecraft Country’s fourth episode, “A History of Violence,” Atticus, Leti, and Montrose journey to a Boston museum where, unbeknownst to most of the general public, a secret vault containing a number of Titus Braithwhite’s pages from the Book of Adam is hidden deep beneath the ground. When the intrepid trio manages to enter the vault, they find Titus’ pages, but that’s not all.
Atticus, Leti, and Montrose are horrified enough when they see that Titus’ pages are trapped beneath a mummified corpse that’s eerily seated at a table within the vault. But the episode becomes that much more alarming when the corpse begins moving and transforms from an emaciated husk back into a living, breathing person: Yahima (played by Monique Candelaria), a two spirit character who wasn’t in Matt Ruff’s novel but was added to the show as a means of building out Lovecraft Country’s mythos.
When Atticus convinces Yahima that he’s nothing like his ancestor Titus—who entrapped Yahima in the vault and murdered their family as part of his quest to translate the Book of Adam—they agree to leave with the group, and for a moment, it seems as if Yahima might end up sticking around with the Freemans as the Lovecraft Country plot thickens. But once the newly formed quartet returns home to Chicago, “A History of Violence” takes a turn in its final moments when Montrose, who’s left alone with Yahima, suddenly chooses to slit their throat.
In Montrose’s mind, killing Yahima was a way he might potentially keep his son from further looking into the existence of magic, which Montrose believes to be dangerous for a number of reasons. But the way Lovecraft Country unceremoniously killed the character just moments after introducing them into the series only came to be even stranger as the season’s progressed. The show essentially just moved on from their death with no consequences for the killer, making it seem insignificant.
Upon the episode’s airing, there was a lot of critique over the mistreatment of the character—not the least of which was Montrose saying “What are you?” upon seeing Yahima and the way their body was put on display. When asked about Lovecraft Country’s handling of Yahima via Twitter recently, showrunner Misha Green was frank about how she wanted Yahima’s portrayal to speak to the realities of how marginalized people can still marginalize other people.
This is a theme that’s popped up in a number of other places within Lovecraft Country’s storytelling—like in Montrose’s arc, as a man who’s lived his entire life in the closet, and physically beat Atticus as a child the same way Montrose’s father beat him, and in Ruby, who takes a potion that transforms her into a white woman, lashing out against another Black woman working at upper-class department store Marshall Field.
But by establishing Yahima, an Arawak person, as two spirit and then almost immediately killing them off, Lovecraft Country ended up featuring violence against a Native person that, ultimately, didn’t add much to the story at hand beyond shock value. It’s good to see that Green understands why this plotline left some people uncomfortable and that she’s comfortable owning up to an unintended mishandling. If more creative types were that receptive and empathetic about why fans speak out about problematic representation, we’d all probably be a lot better off and have a more interesting time consuming this kind of content.
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