Pride Nation Network (PNN) Review: Amazon’s Them, a Disturbing Dramatic Portrayal of Racism in America

By Jake Partyka | Pride Nation Network

My partner and I just finished streaming ‘Them’ on Amazon Prime. Although extremely controversial and violent, we both found the original series, thought-provoking, scary, and enlightening of racism in middle America. ‘Them’ will disturb you and perhaps start or continue the discussion around the rampant, insane epidemic of racism in America.

As a gay man watching this series, it brought back to me the horrific memories of Matthew Shepard; terrifying! How can mankind be so cruel to each other when we are all 99.6% genetically the same? I have so many more questions after watching this series such as, will Americans ever stop hating thy neighbors? My advice to all adults, watch ‘Them’ and continue to work towards finding solutions toward ending racism and discrimination of all kinds of people in America once and for all.

I for one will continue to try and open my eyes and treat others with kindness and not with judgement.

Time Review: The Controversy Around Amazon’s Them Underscores the Trouble With Realistic Violence in Genre TV

It isn’t often anymore, now that we have so much TV on so many platforms, that an upcoming show achieves the visibility to draw controversy before anyone has seen it. But, for better or worse, Amazon’s anthology series Them broke through the static. When a trailer for the first season, subtitled Covenant, dropped in March, many viewers took to social media to express frustration with what looked to be yet another pop-culture product that dramatized Black pain. Its premiere on Prime Video Friday was greeted with the L.A. Times headline “The racist violence in Amazon’s new series left execs ‘shaken.’ Does it go too far?” and a robust Twitter debate over executive producer Lena Waithe’s history with graphic depictions of Black suffering.

The opening salvo from a show that, according to its promotional materials, “explores terror in America,” the 1950s-set Them: Covenant follows a Black family who flee tragedy in North Carolina, only to face new racist threats on the outskirts of Los Angeles. (As this description suggests and many critics have noted, Them overlaps significantly with Lovecraft CountryAmerican Horror Story and Jordan Peele’s Us.) This makes Henry (Ashley Thomas) and Livia “Lucky” Emory (Deborah Ayorinde), along with their daughters Ruby Lee (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Gracie Jean (Melody Hurd), part of the Great Migration that brought Black Americans out of the Jim Crow South in the mid-20th century. The upwardly mobile Emorys buy a house in Compton, which was then overwhelmingly white and anti-integration. This American dream becomes a nightmare when the family’s neighbors launch a campaign of harassment, vandalism and escalating violence aimed at driving them out.

The season’s title refers to the restrictive covenants that barred Black people from buying homes in many communities across the U.S. and remained common even after a 1948 Supreme Court ruling rendered them legally unenforceable. It’s an ingenious premise for the horror subgenre that has been called, most famously by Peele, the social thriller. And while Twitter, the place nuance goes to die, might convince you that the show is either flawless or of harassment, vandalism and escalating violence aimed at driving them out.

But these strengths feel pretty separate from the elements that have spurred such a backlash to first-time creator Little Marvin’s series. Plenty of Covenant’s violence is of the cartoonish, horror-movie variety; in an effective jump-scare from the premiere, for instance, a figure jumps out of the shadows and grabs Gracie Jean. Other violent scenes are more realistic, or at least more focused on the physical and psychological pain of characters who are usually Black. (It’s not that white people don’t get injured or killed, but when they do, the ordeal tends to be brief.) In a flashback that is the show’s most harrowing sequence, Lucky is raped, then forced to watch three white assailants stuff her baby son in a pillowcase and throw him around until he dies.

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