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The Lovecraft Country Shot That Means More Than You Think

It hasn't even aired a full season of stories, but HBO's daring genre mashup Lovecraft Country has proven a beastly treat for fans of the horror-fantasy realm. But even as blood-thirsty creatures, nefarious wizards, and spooky spirits continue to wreak havoc over the series' intricately woven narrative, a far more sinister evil continues to be reign supreme. 

That evil is, of course, the institutional racism that divided America in a rapidly de-segregating society in the fifties, sixties, and beyond. This division was largely the result of despicably deployed Jim Crow laws, which dictated "separate but equal" doctrines in cities across the country. For most persons of color in the era, the word "equal" was nothing short of an outright lie, with white America making their struggle to attain true equality an undertaking as perilous as battling Cthulhu himself. Said struggle remains very real for too many Americans today, and that's a big reason Lovecraft Country (produced by Get Out's Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, and created by Misha Green) is resonating so deeply with modern audiences.

Green and her creative team are clearly banking on viewers seeing parallels between their historical drama and the racial and economic divisions which still run rampant in America today. Those parallels have only added to the series' near pious prescience. And to date, the Lovecraft Country team has utilized everything from futuristic narrative flourishes, and modern pop music, to bring horrors past and present together. Their coup de gras, however, may be in recreating era-specific photographs to showcase the brutal realities of Jim Crow America for present day viewers.

Some savvy Lovecraft Country fans have recently discovered the series even used an iconic shot from legendary pioneer of "blaxploitation" cinema, Gordon Parks, to that very effect.

That stunning Lovecraft Country shot was inspired by a real photograph

The shot in question was recreated in Lovecraft Country's season debut, and depicts an African American woman and her daughter standing beneath a neon sign illuminating the "Colored Entrance" to a small town movie theater. The shot itself speaks volumes, but it also arrives with a soul-piercing monologue from famed author and civil rights leader James Baldwin: The combination of words and image soundly hammer home the disgraceful nature of both the sign and the glaring socio-economic divide that enabled it.

For the record, the image is almost an exact replica of one Gordon Parks snapped in 1956. Titled "Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956" Parks' original also found an African American woman and child standing under a "Colored Entrance" sign, this one obviously taken in front of a store. And yes, that original photo is every bit as stunning today as it was when Parks took it. 

It's also just one of hundreds the man snapped in that era, depicting the Black struggle in America. Though he's probably best known for his work in cinematic ventures like The Learning Tree and Shaft, prior to helming those flicks, Parks spent much of the sixties directing documentaries about poverty in America, after dedicating years to documenting the plight of Black Americans first hand, and through the lens of a second-hand camera. 

Needless to say, if you like what Misha Green and crew are doing with Lovecraft Country's horrifying, racially fueled narrative, you really should check out Gordon Parks' photos, films, books, and music. As for Lovecraft Country, it can be seen via HBO and HBO Max Sunday's at 8pm ET.