I’ve been hearing about Amazon Prime’s Them on Twitter. At first, I foolishly assumed that people were talking about a remake of the 1950’s horror film about giant radioactive ants. I was wrong. There are monsters in this world, but not all of them hide in closets or under your bed. Some monsters live in suburbia, in houses with white picket fences.
Created by Little Marvin, Them slightly covers the great migration of black families moving out of the South to find a better life for their families. One of those young families is the Emory family and this ten-episode series covers what happens each day after the Emory family move into their new home. Henry Emory (Ashley Thomas) his wife, Lucky (Deborah Ayorinde) and their two daughters, Gracie Lee (Melody Hurd) and Ruby (Shahadi Wright Joseph) move into a white neighborhood. While owning a home in Compton Los Angeles is a dream come true for this family who had suffered a tragic and horrific loss of a child while living down south, the new neighbors are anything but welcoming.
The Emory family soon face belligerent and racist neighbors led by a very uptight Betty (Alison Pill) who is determined to rid her section of the world of any black people who dare to hope for the American Pie of home ownership, good schools, and decent paying jobs. Pill plays her Betty as a vindictive monster. The things she puts the Emory family through are purely demonic. Henry is going through his own crisis at work with a jealous and vindictive boss.
Now I often wonder what makes people so hateful that they can easily dehumanize another person. We are not born racist, so what makes a person hate with such venom? It seems that Betty is fighting her own demons which include family incest at the hands of both her parents, and a husband who is stealing money from the bank account.
Speaking of demons, this series offers some really scary spirits. Each one of the Emory family is seeing different spirits, or maybe, it is the same spirit taking different forms for the family. For Lucky and little Gracie, they see a character from a book. Ruby is befriended by a mysterious girl in high school, and Henry is tormented by an apparition of a blackface performer. We are never told why this evil entity or entities are attacking the Emory family, but it had previously attacked other black families in Compton. The evil spirits in this series are worthy of a Stephen King stamp of approval. I don’t think Holy Water or a crucifix would drive these creatures away.
This is an extremely hard series to watch because we realize, or I hope we do, that racism has always been the barbed-wired fence to equality. What happens to the Emory family may seem exaggerated, but it is exactly what has been happening in this country for many years. In episode five of the series, we learn what happened to The Emory’s infant son…It was very upsetting for me to watch, and I needed to wait a whole day before I was able to finish watching.
As someone who has been seeing the dead since I was a toddler, I truly believe that our hatred can call forth demons, the same way our gentleness can call forth angels. What we put out into the universe comes back to us, tenfold. When you get a group of people intent on dehumanizing another person only because they don’t fit their profile of what is acceptable…you create monsters. I saw that monster in the eyes of the officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he was dead. I see the monsters in the eyes of politicians who try to prevent people of color from voting.
I would suggest you watch Them. Be prepared to be shocked and upset. Like I said in the beginning, this is a very hard view on racism. Then when you are done watching the series, go look at yourself in the mirror. What do you see? Angel or Demon?