Spoilers ahead for the Lovecraft Country episode “Strange Case”
Montrose Freeman is perhaps one of the most mysterious and misunderstood characters on Lovecraft Country. His sudden disappearance to Ardham sparked the show’s entire sequence of events, yet it felt like viewers knew little to nothing about him… until now. “Strange Case” took a deeper look into Montrose’s life with a story that is equal parts heartbreaking and liberating. His journey so far is certainly worth a closer examination.
The Foundation of Trauma and Secrets
The show has been slowly peeling back the layers on Montrose’s painful and complex past since its first episode. The crux of Montrose’s characterization centered on his fraught relationship with his son Tic. It’s a verbally and at times physically abusive connection with years of painful memories and interactions. Tic desperately wants his father’s love and approval and internalizes the pain of feeling constant rejection. Montrose is emotionally distant, abrasive, and spends much of his time hanging out at a local bar.
Their relationship is the direct result of generational trauma, which Uncle George loosely details for Atticus. George says their father took most of his abuse out on Montrose, who was younger and smaller. There’s a lot of residual guilt from George over his “failure” to protect his brother and he often defends him when others, like Tic, talk about Montrose’s flaws.
Later on, a conversation between George and Montrose hints at why Montrose was abused as a child. George recalls memories of Montrose drawing colorful signs and cheering on Negro league players as they came into town. He asks Montrose why he stopped doing that and Montrose says their father beat him after discovering him with a sign in hand.
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Montrose doesn’t offer more details but it’s clear that his father beat him for doing something that could be perceived as “unmanly.” Making signs and cheering is a common activity for cheerleaders, which many people see as something that “women do for men.” The notion that art and cheering were somehow wrong for a boy completely squashed young Montrose’s passion for art. It deadened his happy and loving spirit. Montrose grew into a man who is afraid to show affection and copes with his pain through drinking alcohol.
He’s unable to build a loving connection with Tic, thereby passing on the same trauma he got from his own father. Montrose is certainly accountable for how he treats his son but he’s also operating from a place of hurt and trauma. And as the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people.” This revelation also speaks to the dangers of pervasive homophobia and ridiculous patriarchal standards. The belief that certain things or actions will “make a person gay” (as if that’s a horrific thing) leads many to crush childhood dreams or try to beat a child into a heteronormative box.
Tic, Leti, and Montrose’s Indiana Jones-esque adventure further cements Montrose as a man with secrets and perplexing motivations. He’s almost constantly withholding information and trying to dissuade Tic from learning more at every turn. Some of his reasoning may simply be concern for his son but there’s certainly something deeper that he’s keeping to himself. Montrose kills Yahima and burns the Order of the Ancient Dawn books, which leads to Tic brutally beating him.
It’s an incredibly heartbreaking scene considering how emotional Tic became when his father said he was proud of his bravery. The adventure overshadows a brief moment with Tic and Tree, who suggests that Montrose is in a romantic relationship with local bartender Sammy. To be fair, Tree isn’t the most trustworthy person considering he lied about his sexual past (or lack thereof) with Leti. And he likes to stir up unnecessary drama. So, it’s not surprising that Tic mostly brushes his words off.
The Emancipation of Montrose Freeman
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However, “Strange Cases” confirms a relationship between Montrose and Sammy. He goes to visit Sammy following his fight with Tic. They have sex, but Montrose withholds intimate gestures like embracing and kissing Sammy. He’s later seen backstage at a club with Sammy, who is getting dressed with several other drag queens for a pageant.
The others ridicule their relationship, pointing out that they haven’t even kissed yet. Montrose stands uncomfortably in the crowd until Sammy pulls him in for a dance. At that moment, it looks like an emotional weight lifts off Montrose shoulders. Montrose begins dancing on his own with an unabashed freedom. He smiles widely as glitter falls from the ceiling. A group comes over to lift up him in the air like a foundation of support for his freedom.
He finally grabs Sammy and they passionately kiss. It’s a liberating and heartbreaking breakthrough to witness. Montrose being unable to openly be himself in the world and finally getting this moment of pure joy well into adulthood is sad. However, it’s beautiful to witness him experiencing joy and, like Uncle George said, allowing the love inside of him to come out.
Montrose’s secrets concerning this magical adventure will continue to be a great story to uncover. However, his personal journey forward is even more intriguing. He may decide to explore his sexuality and being in a space with like minded people in various ways. That journey might continue to be private for a while, or forever. It’s his decision whether he wants to reveal his personal life to anyone.
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The world is a dangerous place for LGBTQ people now but it was even more perilous back in 1955. According to Advocate, LGBTQ people could be arrested for holding hands or showing public displays of affection. This would make it exceptionally dangerous for a Black man like Montrose due to the racism they would already face from white officers. There is also the ever-present threat of physical attacks by those who believe that same-sex relationships are wrong.
History.com also reports that the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a form of mental disorder in 1952, right before President Eisenhower signed an order banning gay people from federal jobs. It was a socially and legally difficult decade to be in the LGBTQ community.
There are also the notions and expectations of what Black manhood should look like. Black men are often expected to present much like Montrose does to the public: as a tough and strong being who doesn’t tap into “softer” emotions. Many have to wear an almost constant mask of masculinity from childhood, shunning anything that could be seen as feminine.
Being gay means others would see them as “less of a man” and someone to be ashamed of. For those with religious backgrounds, being gay could lead to abandonment and condemnation to Hell. All of this would make it quite difficult for Montrose to openly live as a gay man.
But hopefully, he will at least be able to be his full, loving, and authentic self with his son. Montrose and Tic deserve a lot of healing and happiness in their futures.
Featured Image: Eli Joshua Ade/HBO