HBO’s Lovecraft Country is one of the most talked about shows this year, inviting discussion about race, US history, magic, and horror. A few weeks ago, the show invited a new type of controversy when they introduced a new character, Yahima, a Two-Spirit person, and quickly murdered her and never mentioned her again. But now, showrunner Misha Green has gone on Twitter to apologize for what she calls a “failed” attempt at telling a story about oppressed poeple.
In the episode “A History of Violence,” the show’s main characters Leti (Journee Smollett), Montrose (Michael K. Williams), and Atticus (Jonathan Majors) discover that the Braithwaite family has imprisoned Yahima in their tomb beneath the Natural History Museum for over a hundred years. After being freed, Yahima gives the trio some important and very helpful information. But in the final scenes of the episode, Montrose slits her throat in an action he sees as protecting his son from learning even more.
When a fan on Twitter asked the showrunner for an explanation on why the show treated Yahima the way it did, Green stepped up with a thoughtful apology and response.
“I wanted to show the uncomfortable truth that oppressed folks can also be oppressors,” she tweeted. But then, instead of turning giving an excuse, she went on to admit to her mistakes. “But I didn’t examine or unpack the moment/portrayal of Yahima as thoroughly as I should have. It’s a story point worth making, but I failed in the way I chose to make it."
Indigenous women and trans people face horrifyingly high rates of violence and murder as compared to the general population, with Indigenous women having murder rates more than 10 times the national average. Additionally, more than 30 trans people have been murdered in the United States this year, making it one of the deadliest years on record. Most of them have been trans women of color.
Historically in the media, both Indigenous women and trans actors have often been relegated to playing the role of victims, often ones who die or disappear shortly after being introduced. Many fans and critics saw Lovecraft Country’s portrayal of Yahima playing into those harmful tropes, which often contribute to real life violence.
Of course, in a show full of magic and time hopping, Yahima could potentially come back to the show sometime, but there are no indications at this time that that is the plan with her character.