Them is the brand new Amazon Prime Video terror series that you should avoid if you’re tired of watching Black trauma and the same stale tropes on television.
The limited anthology from breakout creator Little Marvin and executive producer Lena Waithe revolves around a Black family who moves from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighbourhood during The Great Migration in the 1950s. Lo and behold, their new home quickly becomes ground zero where malevolent forces, including racist next-door neighbours and otherworldly spirits, relentlessly seek to torment and destroy them. Given everything that has happened over the last year, it would have seemed as though Black people had suffered enough – but apparently not.
In May 2020, the world came together in protest for Black Lives Matter following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police brutality. Black pain and suffering were all over the news for months, with countless real-life horror stories. Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead while he was out jogging. Christian Cooper was birdwatching when a white woman called the cops on him. Kurt Andras Reinhold, a homeless man, was shot and killed by police after he was stopped for jaywalking. More recently, Meghan Markle spoke out about how a member of the royal family was ‘concerned’ about the colour of her son Archie’s skin.
It’s hard to escape stories of Black pain and trauma in day-to-day life, so watching Them while the world is still feeling the aftershock on Black Lives Matter is difficult.
Them focuses on Black trauma (Picture: Amazon)
When the trailer for Them was released last month, many expressed their excitement to be scared out of their wits. However, many Black voices aired their disapproval over the theme of Black peoples suffering being the focus. ‘Movies like this make me cringe and the fact that the torment of Black people is still entertainment just irks me,’ wrote one, prompting another to agree: ‘YES! They need to stop making the same thing over and over. We’ve seen this, we know this.’
The theme of Black suffering and plight has made its way onto the big and small screen time and time again. Jordan Peele achieved worldwide acclaim for his 2017 film Get Out, which took home the Oscar for best picture, as did Steve McQueen’s 2012 Oscar-winning film 12 Years A Slave. Over on TV, Lovecraft Country was met with rave reviews. But these bodies of work excelled because they were groundbreaking and made clever commentary on something that hadn’t already been said.
Them launches on Amazon Prime Video today (Picture: Amazon)
Them, on the other hand, isn’t saying anything particularly groundbreaking. And even if it was, the sheer volume of violence and terror exceeds any profound point. In that sense, the show excels at sticking to the genre and maintaining suspense. But this terror quickly descends into trauma, with some sickening torture scenes, which is where the series falls short. On top of that, it makes use of the ‘crazy Black woman’ trope, which although has an explanation later down the line, is tiring to watch.
Despite criticism of the trauma that embodies Them, there are elements to be praised. The acting from the leading cast is second to none, with Deborah Ayorinde and Ashley Thomas starring as husband and wife Lucky and Henry Emory. The performances of their young children, played by Melody Hurd and Shahadi Wright Joseph, are also breathtaking. The aesthetics of the series – the squeaky clean 1950s suburbia – coupled with the exquisite costume design is is picture perfect.
Them is a testing watch and the relentless Black trauma without a sound message is not worth the heartache.
Them is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video now.
Credit: Original article published here.