The show uses the horror genre to cover an awful and unspoken truth about White supremacy.
I remember former Last Poets member Felipe Luciano telling an audience that art is useless if it doesn’t slap the shit out of you, or make you wanna slap the shit out of someone else.
My guess is that Luciano’s rule would deem the series Them, the series currently streaming on Amazon Prime, has plenty of value.
Some of the criticism I’ve seen on Twitter about Them should remind all of us that White supremacy is difficult to live through, almost impossible for many of its victims to recover from, and certainly difficult to stream its violent artifacts on a 65-inch UHDTV.
And this difficulty is one of several points Them intends to make.
White supremacy respectively emasculates and tortures men and women of color, and even murders its intended targets.
But Them hits on one of White supremacy’s most egregious atrocities that comfortably lives with us today: the damage caused to the minds of its victims — and even its oppressor clients, but I’ll save the oppressors part for another day.
The damage is disguised as self-hatred, Black-on-Black crime, misogyny, White emulation, depression, PTSD, and even shit-talking.
As an aside, Dick Gregory said long ago that oppressed people who don’t have much tend to have the most to brag about.
And how about the braggarts of color who have “made it”? Many of them want to broadcast that they’re not like the other oppressed folks. After all, White supremacy creates a scramble among the oppressed for “success” and broader social acceptance. Wealth and prestigious employment, or the appearance of them, figure prominently among many minds as an ingredient for acceptance.
This strategy can fail miserably in real life. Them captures that failure almost every time Henry Emory, African American father of the besieged family in the story, tells White people that he’s an engineer by profession.
The older Emory daughter doing cheerleader dance moves with a White haint? That’s White supremacy. I won’t give away the plot by explaining further.
The younger Emory daughter’s challenge? White supremacy.
But the mother, Lucky Emory, caught White Supremacy’s most brutal and direct attack. The lingering effects make up most of the show’s most disturbing imagery.
Them reminds us that Black folks today have a tremendous amount of healing ahead — but many need to acknowledge the damage first.
So what’s the counter-proposal for a Black movie or TV show, if there’s so much backlash to Them?
More stories about the so-called “successful” Black woman or man who can’t find a soul mate?
More chit’lin-circuit movies, where all happy endings include an Electric Slide sequence?
More tales about drug gangs, or hoodlums who are loved by their native communities?
More stories told in easy-to-follow linear installations, and without an abstract concept or visual lyric to be found?
I’m just saying Them has a place in the story spectrum, and is arguably one of the most pro-Black documents of visual poetry that you will see this year.
But I could be highly biased. The purpose of this blog is to share hard and unspoken truths, which is what Them — a series that fits firmly within the horror flick genre — has been able to accomplish. The show will always have a place in my palate …
song currently stuck in my head: “guns before butter” – gang of four