Lena Waithe Faces Backlash Over Scenes of Graphic, Racist Violence in 'Them'

Following the release of the horror series Them on Amazon on Friday, writer and actress Lena Waithe, who executive-produced two episodes, has faced some backlash on Twitter due to some scenes depicting racist violence.

People on Twitter appeared to be reacting to a Los Angeles Times piece about the series, which noted that "the most shocking horror lies in the in its more realistic scenes of racist violence, which are arguably more disturbing than the vivid images in its recent predecessors."

The highlighted portion of the review goes on to point towards a moment depicting the murder of a young Black child and a sexual assault of his mother in the series' fifth episode, and the ninth episode in which two Black people's eyes are gouged with hot pokers.

Waithe, who is perhaps best known for writing and acting on the Netflix series Master of None, only executive produced two episodes according to her IMDb page. She only executive produced the final two episodes of the series "Covenant II" and "Day 10," the former of which contains the eye-gouging scene. She is not credited for the fifth episode of Them, which is also mentioned in the highlighted portions of the review.

The review does not name Waithe in the section that people on Twitter have been reacting to, but does list the Emmy-winner at the end as one of the executive producers when noting that Amazon had ordered a second season of the series.

Regardless, people on Twitter have criticized Waithe, mainly for the scenes. One person on Twitter called her "unwell" and asked about her background and inspiration, while anothe referred to her as "sick & twisted."

Lena Waithe is unwell. Her art is telling me things I don’t like. Where did she grow up, go to school, hang out with? What inspires her art? These projects she’s putting out....eh.

— AshleyStevens (@The_Acumen) April 10, 2021

Lena waithe is sick & twisted for this https://t.co/ywkY5V15yK

— in a panoramic (@haaniyah_) April 10, 2021

When I log on and see Lena Waithe trending because y'all are dragging her to the depths of hell, where she belongs. pic.twitter.com/PIkcGf5ySC

— The rocket scientist with the pocket wine list. (@bigthighgemini) April 10, 2021

Many other people called the moments in the series "Black trauma porn," which Waithe's previous film Queen & Slim also brought up discussions about and stirred a similar controversy. "She seems incapable of being attached to projects about Black people without reveling in Black pain--especially when she is in charge," one person wrote.

It is worth noting, however, that Waithe only produced two episodes.

To be clear this is peak Lena Waithe. She seems incapable of being attached to projects about Black people without reveling in Black pain--especially when she is in charge. Play on the name, use one of the same actresses but expressly torture Black bodies. https://t.co/qF6gUqcrHr

— red velvet (@RedVelvetAches) April 10, 2021

Can Lena Waithe producing something that isnt Black trauma porn. pic.twitter.com/v9OQ0ouVfQ

— She (@SheAndFilm) April 9, 2021

Some people also took the time to distinguish Waithe from director Jordan Peele, noting the Get Out director's skill at effectively combining social commentary with horror movies that put Black characters at the forefront. One person said that Them shows that Waithe "has no business screenwriting Black stories."

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

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

Them has received mixed reviews since its release. Rotten Tomatoes indicates that the series has received a 66 percent rating from critics and a 44 percent rating from viewers.

Newsweek reached out to Waithe's publicist for comment.

Lena Waithe Emmy Award Them
Actress Lena Waithe poses in the press room at the 69th annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty Images