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Film and TV

Lovecraft Country creator admits she ‘failed’ iconic Indigenous two-spirit character Yahima

Emma Powys Maurice October 13, 2020
Lovecraft Country

Two-spirit character Yahima, from HBO's Lovecraft Country (Twitter)

The creator of American horror drama Lovecraft Country has admitted she “failed” in her presentation of the Indigenous two-spirit character Yahima.

The thrilling new HBO series set in a racially segregated America has earned praise for its diverse cast and crew, but not all minorities have been handled sensitively.

Many viewers raised issue with the episode “A History of Violence” which introduces the character of Yahima, a two-spirit Indigenous person played by the straight cis actor Monique Candalaria.

Yahima exists outside the gender binary but is referred to as she/her by the other characters. Unfortunately we never learn their chosen pronouns, as they are immediately and violently killed after just ten minutes on screen.

It had been a promising introduction of a minority character that is all too rare in the television landscape – but their senseless death left fans disappointed.

Many saw it as yet another example of the tired ‘bury your gays’ trope, a common cliché in which LGBT+ characters are viewed as more expendable than their heteronormative counterparts.

“My heart was broken at Yahima’s murder. They managed to exist between worlds for so long, yet killed in moments,” wrote one viewer.

“It was not lost on me that they were Indigenous and therefore ‘disposable’. How much more could a spirit of such beauty and history have added to the story? A waste.”

The blunder was all the more surprising as it came from a show that’s determined to bring dignity to the oppressed. One fan confronted Lovecraft Country showrunner Misha Green on Twitter, asking for “an explanation” on why she’d chosen to portray Yahima so off-handedly.

Green gave a thoughtful answer, admitting she was now aware that the episode was problematic.

“I wanted to show the uncomfortable truth that oppressed folks can also be oppressors,” she wrote in her response.

“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.”

Many Lovecraft Country viewers responded well to her honesty. “Thank you for this. For giving an honest answer and being accountable for your decision,” a fan replied.

“I wish more showrunners and producers were mature enough to publicly accept and address constructive criticism. Also, it’s definitely something that can expounded upon in season two.”

Others found fault with the “concerning” fact that the mistake had been allowed to pass by a major TV network.

Green’s response also sparked further discussion about the way Indigenous two-spirit people are treated in real life as well as in the media.

“Yahima in my opinion is a good example of how Indigenous and/or transsexual people are treated by heteronorms: they are afraid of their power, so they murder them and/or lock them away,” suggested one viewer.

Another commented: “As a two-spirit person, I completely understand the reasoning behind her death but at the same time it was very triggering. I’ve only seen three examples of two-spirits in film and TV and it’s always us dying.”

More: HBO, indigenous, Lovecraft Country, Misha Green, two spirit, Yahima

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