HBO’s hit horror drama Lovecraft Country has received critical acclaim, especially for its Black representation – but it has some glaring problems, including the execution of the queer relationship between Ruby (Wumni Mosaku) and Christina (Abbey Lee).
The show focuses on Atticus ‘Tic’ Freeman (Jonathan Majors), a young black man who travels across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father, unravelling secrets about his family lineage.
The show is based on the novel of the same name, developed by Misha Green, and executive produced by Jordan Peele, among others. (Spoilers ahead.)
The characters of Christina and Ruby aren’t introduced in a typical meet-cute fashion (which couldn’t possibly be expected given the era) – instead, it’s immediate deception.
Instead of Ruby meeting Christina at a bar she likely frequents, she meets William (Jordan Patrick Smith), a conventionally attractive white man, in a manipulative and not at all coincidental encounter.
But ultimately, Ruby is seduced by William, which leads to her discoveries regarding magic and William’s true identity.
It takes the whole of Episode 5 of Lovecraft Country (‘Strange Case’) for the reveal of William being Christina.
Ruby does see Christina during the episode and the electricity between them is apparent, but naturally Ruby is furious that she was misled.
Their connection starting as deception sets the tone for their relationship, even after Christina explains who William was to her, why she moves through the world in his skin using magic, and the immortality she plans to achieve.
It’s obvious that nothing will end well – one or both will end up dying because of the other, which isn’t surprising given the frequent unfortunate writing of queer relationships.
Despite Christina being a villainous white woman (representing white feminism) on a quest for immortality, there’s something bitter in her being one of the only queer characters and how she seduces Ruby, a dark-skinned black woman.
It’s almost as if queerness is part of what got Ruby killed and her pursuit of putting her own desires at the forefront – something that her sister Leti (Jurnee Smollett) attempts to steer her away from.
By the series finale, when Ruby and Christina finally sleep together in their own bodies, it’s too good to be true.
Ruby finally embracing Christina is primarily for other purposes, mostly to help Leti and keep Christina from achieving immortality.
This betrayal causes Christina to kill Ruby and assume her skin to finally get what she wants.
Ruby being killed off is startling, though not surprising, because dark-skinned characters are often thrown away or mistreated, even in a show that’s meant to centre its Black characters.
Before the season ends, any chance at redemption for Christina is thrown out the window, leaving both her and Ruby dead because of their own personal pursuits.
The overall execution of their relationship isn’t great, and it raises the discussion of what exactly the intention was.
Was Ruby meant to be seen as weak for falling for Christina? Did Christina need to kill Ruby and throw away any genuine feelings between them? Was it necessary to try to pass Ruby off as a villain for putting herself first?
The show continues an endless pattern of queer and dark-skinned characters being antagonistic.
For Ruby, it is her needs and safety being put last for her light-skinned sister’s needs, something she’d known her whole life.
Ultimately, the writers could have written this pairing without all the distorted intentions – what was the point in the first place if they were going to take the obvious route all along?
Australian viewers can watch Lovecraft Country on Binge.