At the end of Episode 8, Montrose breaks into the garage room to find Dee swinging a metal rod at thin air. He hugs her, thinking she is having a hysterical fit. But, she is actually fighting the "piccaninny" caricature twins. When Montrose restrains her to 'protect' her, they slash away at her with their claws as they dance around her, infecting her.
This episode is one for nightmares because the twins, Topsy and her lighter-skinned twin, are not only horrible racist caricatures come to life but they also represent the full extent of hate directed at little Black girls. Topsy is the imagery used to denigrate Black girls (like Dee) in 1950s America -- including in verses sung by little blonde White girls -- who imagine her as a monster.
Topsy first turns and looks straight at Dee from the cover on the book, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', with her unkempt hair, her raggedy clothes, her too-wide red mouth, and her beady, glassy black eyes. In the book, Topsy is the wild, illiterate savage child who lies and steals and can't speak properly.
Dee, on the other hand, is not only an accomplished artist and storyteller, but she is also intelligent, brave, and resourceful -- she is the antithesis of the Topsy caricature in her beautiful white dress and neatly tied hair. Her worst fear is that she will be seen as nothing more than a 'lost cause' Topsy and be killed or silenced like her friend Bobo, aka Emmett Till. And it is these fears that come true -- first, when Captain Lancaster assaults her to ask about her mother and then cursing her with his spit so as to keep her silent about the assault and next when the ghoulish twins finally succeed in slashing her and thereby infecting her.
Her family is unable to protect her, unable to provide her with what she needs. She is in a way invisible to the adults -- seen as a child acting out -- even as the adults' problems supersede any horrors she might be facing. It is a tragic ending to an episode that sees Dee fight bravely to the very end to avoid her curse, but as Naomi Wadler’s 2018 March for Our Lives speech reminds us, how many Black girls escape their violent fates?
In the preview of next week's episode, we see Dee is turning into a Topsy-like ghoul as she spasms from the wound on her arm inflicted by the twins. This is the third phase in her nightmare where 'representation' becomes fact -- because she is seen as a monster, she becomes one.
It is also alarming that Captain Lancaster thinks she will be dead "soon enough", meaning the curse he placed on her was a killing one. She will just be one more dead Black girl to add to the "numbers".
This lack of empathy is also tackled with Christina choosing to get murdered like Emmett Till to dip her toe into Black suffering to understand -- only her privilege protects her. She comes back to life as soon as she is drowned because of her magic. She doesn't stay dead like Till.
Yet, it is a step up from Captain Lancaster since she seems to be making an effort with Ruby's words hitting home. But the question is, will Dee be able to break the curse with Christina's help in Episode 9?
'Lovecraft Country' Episode 9 airs on October 11 at 9 pm on HBO.