The new Amazon original series Them is getting slammed on social media for its depictions of violence — particularly against Black Americans. The series intends to shine a light on the horrors of racism and the unspoken truth of racist violence in the U.S. However, in the context the show presents, many viewers complain that the series is more likely to fuel violent fantasies for some, and reassure others that only heinous acts constitute real racism.
Them is a series by screenwriter, actor and producer Lena Waithe, which is set in the 1950s. It stars the Emory family, who move from North Carolina to Compton, California to escape Jim Crow laws. However, even in a liberal state they find themselves facing violent racism — with a supernatural twist. The series hit Amazon Prime Video on Friday, and it was the subject of debate and displeasure on social media throughout the day on Saturday.
Many of the show's outspoken critics were already not fans of Waithe, who has been criticized for heavy-handed writing and insensitive portrayals of Black Americans. She is best known as a star producer on Dear White People, a writer and co-producer on Queen & Slim and for playing Aech in Ready Player One. She also appeared in Master of None, Transparent, Westworld, The Chi and Big Mouth.
Them premiered on Amazon Prime on Friday, April 9 with all ten episodes dropping at once. The series is still streaming now, though critics are making a strong case to skip it altogether. Scroll down for a look at what they are saying.
Lena waithe makes shows for racists with hate crime fantasies https://t.co/zOcsQCenFY— MeghanMarkleSupremacy #Archewell (@ArchewellBaby) April 10, 2021
Some users speculated that Waithe's work would appeal more to racists than to people who share her own political beliefs. They thought that Them missed the mark it was aiming for.prevnext
I’m tryna see a well written ass Sci-Fi/action movie about black people fighting space llamas but Lena Waithe wanna be Jim Crow-Del Toro SO BAD...😐 pic.twitter.com/eUIN3hqUt6— UNG/Pepsi-Man/Kong Pack got my chest hurtin. (@NickJRow) April 10, 2021
Many critics complained that they would rather see Black stars cast in sci-fi and fantasy productions where racist violence was not the centerpiece of the story. They thought that Waithe's writing style would be better-served on these kinds of projects, too.prevnext
Again, Lena Waithe is going to hell. pic.twitter.com/iMlz2gDQFP— exhausted. (they/she) (@yikesdotedu) April 4, 2021
Lena Waithe said:
Dark skinned= working the field picking cotton
Racially ambiguous= true beauty, young, sexy and just beautiful https://t.co/CRj1TR24EH— I appreciate you (@DeeLaSheeArt) April 6, 2021
Some users were surprised to see Waithe being criticized so harshly on Saturday, saying they hadn't heard complaints about her before. Her critics responded by summarizing all of her controversial moments of the past.prevnext
Once again we have a piece of media that believes Black trauma porn is Black horror. This is why Peele is a top dog. He knows how to blend Black horror & social commentary effortlessly. Twice Lena Waithe has proven she has no business screenwriting Black stories. https://t.co/U13AI2hQjh— biscuit baptiste (@StorySorcery) April 10, 2021
everyone called Them a Jordan Peele knockoff, but it’s WORSE than that, because Jordan Peele makes horror and Lena Waithe makes trauma porn. https://t.co/gMYeOEATsT— me, lucy! 🔪 Ⓐ ☭ (@thelucydoherty) April 10, 2021
Critics could not help but compare Them to Us, even joking that the titles seemed to go together. However, they thought that Waithe the new show had failed to live up to Jordan Peele's lauded horror film.prevnext
lena waithe feels like some middle age white comedian freaky friday’d into a black woman’s body and is doing their best impression of blackness lmaooo— misandry doll (@sadeotw) April 5, 2021
Some joked that the social justice angle in Waithe's work feels forced and disingenuous.prevnext
WHO DID THIS TO THE LENA WAITHE WIKIPEDIA PAGE LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/vZiC8vC5Dh— FORKLIFT in Attack Mode! (@ChumpCrumpler) April 10, 2021
Lena Waithe like a lot of bourgeoise black artists uses black trauma to give their work depth that they are too lazy or incapable of providing.Too often people treat a piece of work as profound because black people are being victimized and Waithe doubles down to seem profound.— America The Ghetto (@LizzMurr56) April 10, 2021
Others said that they were genuinely concerned about Waithe, believing that her work hinted at some real mental health issues which needed addressing.prevnext
Little Marvin right now looking at people go after Lena Waithe
(She didn't write or direct any episode of Them. She's just ONE of the NINE Exec producers. Aim that anger towards him ESPECIALLY for episode 5) pic.twitter.com/2106a5dGPv— Built By OGs, Not IG (@improvian) April 10, 2021
Finally, some critics of Them said that too much of the outrage was falling on Waithe personally, and that more should go to series creator Little Marvin, and others involved in the series.prev