Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Lovecraft Country Radio: I Am. | Episode 7 | HBO

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NARRATOR: You're tuning in to Lovecraft Country Radio.

There's some strong language and spoilers ahead. Buckle up.

HIPPOLYTA FREEMAN: We are here

because we did not believe them when they told us...

our rage was not "ladylike."

We did not believe them when they said

our violence goes too far.

We did not believe them when they said

the hatred that we feel for our enemies is not godlike.

They say that to women like us because they know

what happens when we are free.

Free to hate when we must. Free to kill when we must.

Free to bring destruction when we must.

That is our freedom. That is our prayer.

No matter what they think of us after we grind them

into the dust, that is our love!

(ALL CHEERING)

ASHLEY C. FORD: I'm really mad at you, Shannon.

SHANNON HOUSTON: Why are you mad at me?

ASHLEY: I'm mad at you...

-because... I'm in tears. -SHANNON: Yes!

ASHLEY: And my heart is so full...

-and it's your fault. -(SHANNON LAUGHS)

ASHLEY: And maybe I didn't wanna feel anything today.

Maybe I just didn't wanna feel anything this big today,

and you left me no choice.

SHANNON: This is episode seven, baby.

All the feels. All the feels.

ASHLEY: Let's get into it. Episode seven: "I Am."

♪ (THEME MUSIC PLAYS) ♪

Welcome to Love Craft Country Radio.

I'm Ashley C. Ford, podcast host, writer,

and horror enthusiast.

SHANNON: And I'm Shannon Houston,

a writer for the HBO series, Lovecraft Country

and mother to three free, Black children,

and also, mother to a turtle named Jonnevelli,

who my youngest child told me I absolutely have to shout out

today on the podcast. So, hello, Jonnevelli.

ASHLEY: Hello, Jonnevelli.

So, this is Hippolyta's episode and also your episode, Shannon.

-SHANNON: Yes! -ASHLEY: I'm all the way here for it.

SHANNON: This is so wild to me.

I can't believe we're at episode seven.

I co-wrote this episode with our showrunner, Misha Green,

and it's very Shannon-centric.

And it just feels so good to dive into all of the things

that Hippolyta and our other characters

experience on this wild, wild ride of an episode.

ASHLEY: So, this is an episode about the guiding of Black women.

And there's such beautiful odes to Black women as adventurers.

Right when Hippolyta starts her own adventure,

she runs into Bessie Stringfield, which freaked me out.

As soon as I saw her, I knew who she was.

I wanted a motorcycle for so long.

I've had motorcycle dreams for many, many years,

and seeing her was amazing.

She was the first Black woman to ride her motorcycle alone

across the United States.

And then over in Paris, we see Josephine Baker

become Hippolyta's mentor,

who was an American-born entertainer in France.

She was also really involved in politics

both here and abroad,

and she's played beautifully here.

SHANNON: Yes. We're gonna talk about Josephine.

We're gonna talk about Bessie. We're gonna talk about Beyond C'est,

who's in the white room with Hippolyta.

We have a lot to get into, and obviously we're gonna talk

more about this epic adventure that Hippolyta goes on.

But if you'll allow me, Ashley, I wanna go on

a brief tangent first and talk a little bit about

the epic adventure of me writing this episode

with Misha Green, and failing in several areas to do my job.

And the reason I'm sharing this story is because,

first of all, I'm the only one who can give writer's room tea,

so I was like, "Let me give a little tea."

And let me talk a little trash about one of the writers

in the room, and that writer is me.

-(ASHLEY LAUGHS) -I just wanna say, like, writing this episode

was obviously incredible and wonderful and powerful,

and it was also really, really, really hard.

And I was pushed in a way that I had never been pushed

in my career, in my personal life,

like everything. It was such an incredible experience

and also terrifying.

And there's also this funny thing that happens

when you're working on an HBO show,

and it's like your third job in the TV world.

And everybody's-- Everybody around you was like,

"Girl, you're the shit. You're doing it."

And you're working on this episode,

and you're just like, "Rah-rah-rah. Black women!"

And you do start feeling yourself, like, to a degree

where it's actually problematic.

And the one thing you don't want to do in Misha Green's writers' room

is feel yourself so hard

-that you think you can turn in your outline late. -ASHLEY: (HOOTS)

SHANNON: So, I had a lot of growth to do while writing this episode.

And my outline was late, and I still had the audacity

to, like, have an attitude when I was called out on it.

Growing is hard and it doesn't always feel good or feed your ego.

And there's some of that in this episode as well.

Sometimes it feels like being trapped in a white room

and having a strange Black woman tell you to name yourself.

But in the end, at the end of the journey,

you're like, "Wow. I fucking did it."

And that's where I am right now. I'm like,

"Oh, my God. Episode seven is coming,

and I fucking did it." (CHUCKLES)

ASHLEY: You really fucking did it.

I wanna tell you that at the end of this episode,

I felt like I was floating.

I felt weightless.

-SHANNON: Yeah. -ASHLEY: And it blew me away.

It absolutely blew me away.

I mean, there were tough moments in this episode.

Gotta have our tough moments.

SHANNON: Yeah. This is Lovecraft Country,

so there's always gonna be some intensity.

But this is, maybe, one of our least uncomfortable,

tense, potentially problematic episodes.

Like, you are supposed to have that feeling of floating

at the end, and I think you're feeling that,

I hope that you're feeling that, because you felt like Hippolyta.

ASHLEY: I did. I did. And that--

That's what was so wild was watching her and, like,

almost, like, having these moments,

these interchanging moments of feeling like,

"It's her. It's me. It's her. It's me."

And compared to the rest of this season, I can handle it.

Like, I could really be okay watching this episode.

SHANNON: Oh, I love it.

I hope that the rest of the audience feels similarly

to the way that you feel.

And I was thinking probably the best way

to navigate our conversation about episode seven

is to talk about it in a similar way

to the way we talked about it in the writers' room.

And the way that we talked about it in the room was

our character has suffered immeasurable grief

over the course of this season. She lost her husband,

and I think we shouldn't underestimate

how uncomfortable and terrible it would feel to lose a person

that you love and to not know what happened.

And so, there's a lot of anger wrapped up in this as well.

And so we talked about it like,

"Imagine this character is going through this thing."

-She needs therapy basically. -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm.

SHANNON: And that's the journey that we're trying to take her on.

In therapy, you explore and you interrogate your life's actions

in hopes of reaching this sort of self-discovery,

and that's what we're seeing Hippolyta try to do

over the course of this episode.

ASHLEY: I'm very into that, you know,

from my own experiences in therapy, which are extensive.

I know that one of the first steps is

naming and identifying yourself.

Naming and identifying your feelings.

Who are you really? What do you really feel?

And when Hippolyta does this reflection for herself,

she recognizes the ways she's made herself smaller

as a form of survival. And I love talking about that

because the act of shrinking is a survival tool.

-SHANNON: Ooh. -ASHLEY: Shrinking yourself, making yourself smaller,

thinking of yourself as, like, invisible.

You know, "I'm just an observer."

And it can be true that, like, you are an observer

and a really good observer, but that's not ever all you are.

But it seems easier to survive if we are small

and we can just be looked over verses picked on.

-So yes. Yes. -SHANNON: Oh! I love that.

I love that you're talking about shrinking

as a form of survival, because Hippolyta's the one

who says that she was shrinking herself

and also that people were helping her shrink herself.

But she's not the only character in our story

who has to shrink themselves in order to survive.

So, before we get into all things Hippolyta,

let's talk about one of our most troubling characters,

Montrose, who we've, I think, gone through

a lot of ups and downs with over the course of this season.

And in episode seven, we see that Montrose

is part of a community where there's this attitude

that you have to try to make yourself as normal as possible.

And to do that, you have to try to tone it down.

So, to be a gay Black man during this time--

I mean, it can still get you killed.

Back then, it really meant that there was a double target on your back.

So, this breakfast scene that we see with Sammy

is really interesting, because on the one hand

we're seeing growth from Montrose.

Sammy has spent the night.

They're experiencing intimacy in a way

that they've never experienced it before, and, like,

you're kind of hopeful that maybe they'll get it right this time,

maybe he'll be able to open up.

But the minute that he finds out that Sammy ran into a neighbor,

the whole energy of that scene changes in a big way.

ASHLEY: Yes. And Sammy's not having it, to be fair.

-SHANNON: Right! -ASHLEY: (CHUCKLING) You know, like,

Sammy's like, "You know, you don't have to play me

for Boo Boo the Fool for too many times.

Like, if I'm not wanted I can be gone.

We don't have to do this."

And, you know, the way he asserts himself,

you know, "You've gotta change or I'm done,"

like, setting that boundary,

just like seeing Sammy, in that moment, set that boundary

felt really powerful for me and his dynamic with Montrose.

-SHANNON: Yeah. -ASHLEY: But,

Montrose has had this secret for so long,

and it's coming to a head in this episode.

We see that especially when Atticus finds out.

So, I'm gonna ask you about this scene a little bit.

I know how it made me feel, but talk to me about

Tic's reaction to finding out, um, that Montrose is gay.

SHANNON: Yeah. I mean, this was another long conversation

in the writer's room because--

for a lot of different reasons.

And I think it speaks to what the show is attempting to do.

There are a lot of uncomfortable scenes

-in Lovecraft Country. -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm.

SHANNON: Uncomfortable is, like, me putting it nicely.

And the question that we would often ask ourselves is,

-"But is it true?" -ASHLEY: Mm.

SHANNON: Meaning, we don't want Tic to call his dad a faggot.

We don't wanna hear that word from the, quote-unquote, "hero" of our show.

We want him to be more understanding.

We want him to be-- Really--

And when we talked about it, we were like,

"Well, what we're asking for is for him to be

an ideal Black man in 2020 who isn't homophobic."

But we constantly had to remind ourselves.

"Okay, but during this period of time,

what would Atticus' actual response most likely be?"

-ASHLEY: Right. -SHANNON: "And wouldn't he be furious?

And wouldn't he be uncomfortable?"

Just like with everything else in this family,

it's another secret that Atticus is crashing into.

And, of course, he's crashing into it

in a moment when he's already, like, tense

and looking for answers about a different problem.

So that is who Atticus is looking at

in that scene in the hallway,

and that's who he's calling a homophobic slur

because he's angry...

MONTROSE FREEMAN: I'm still yo goddamn daddy!

And you will respect me!

-Get out of here! -ATTICUS FREEMAN: You get out!

Don't you ever call me out on my fucking name!

SHANNON: And I love that scene with Leti where he's like,

"Here's the thing. Like, this guy was beating my ass,

and telling me to man-up, and basically telling me

that I was too soft 'cause I had my nose in books

all the time. And really, that wasn't about me."

And I think, again, going back to the conversations we've had

about violence in our families and generational trauma,

it's that thing of like, "What the hell was happening?

And I don't even know what was happening.

And the whole time, I thought you were beating me because you thought I was soft,

but really, you were beating me because you thought you were soft,

and you didn't know how to talk to me about that."

And then, of course, there's also the other big lie,

-which is, "Did Mama know?" -ASHLEY: Yeah.

-SHANNON: Is what he asked him. -ASHLEY: Yeah.

SHANNON: And this is devastating,

because it's like, again, in Atticus' head,

it was always, "My mom was good, my dad was bad."

SHANNON: Right? And now you've got

some information that complicates that.

"I couldn't trust my father, and now I have to question

whether I should've trusted my mother?"

That's devastating.

ASHLEY: It's also, to me, a scene that's about

this thing that we keep talking about,

which is the tools that we use to protect,

and the tools we think we're using for protection.

And this is more of that continued idea,

that violence, in some way, protects,

which it obviously doesn't. Like those of us

who have had violence visited upon us

know... (CHUCKLES) ...that it did not protect us.

And yet we continue to do it, even verbally.

Like, you know, he has accosted his-- Montrose, at this point,

physically, verbally,

like we see it and there's this anger.

And we see why, and we know why.

Like we have these ideas about why.

So many of them, but at the end of the day

the real question is: Is any of it actually working?

SHANNON: Right. And I think that that's such a big question,

and the answer is very scary.

Because the answer is basically: No.

-ASHLEY: Yep. (CHUCKLES) -SHANNON: And that's scary because then it's like,

"Well what do we do? You know, we have to find new tools."

And actually, I think Hippolyta's journey is part of an answer

to, like, "Here are some tools

-that actually might be more useful." -ASHLEY: Right.

SHANNON: "Or some tools that we should be exploring."

And I also love this scene with Leti and Tic

and Sammy and Montrose, because it's also what leads Leti to stay with Ruby

-when she sees her at Hippolyta's house. -ASHLEY: Right.

And she apologizes to her.

LETI LEWIS: I should've told you about the money

coming from Mama.

All this time I've spent...

thinking about all the things I hated about her,

it never occurred to me that I could actually become her.

I may not be a hustler like her, but I tried to hustle you.

And I'm sorry.

RUBY BAPTISTE: I never heard Mama apologize in all her life.

So maybe y'all aren't exactly the same.

SHANNON: And, of course, it's an apology

that also still holds back truth.

She doesn't tell Ruby where Atticus is heading,

and she also doesn't tell her or anyone else

about the dream that she had in which she was pregnant.

-ASHLEY: Nope. -SHANNON: 'Cause, you know,

-sometimes it feels like-- -ASHLEY: You know,

I might keep that to myself, too. (LAUGHS)

-SHANNON: I might hold on-- -ASHLEY: I might hold on to that info

until it felt more relevant, that's true. (CHUCKLES)

SHANNON: For sure, for sure. I also love that moment

because Ruby is sitting out on the balcony,

with the shades on, and she's sunbathing

and we definitely did that on purpose,

because we're still trying to complicate the idea

that Ruby is a Black woman who moonlights

as a White woman. Because, in case anyone

wanted to suggest that Ruby hates herself,

or hates her skin, that's not what's happening.

That's not the case.

I just love seeing Ruby there because I'm like,

"Man, if there's one motherfucker

who doesn't shrink themselves--"

ASHLEY: Not at all. She is sunning herself,

and she is unbothered, and, baby, she is in that window

and, "You can look but you can't touch,"

-is the vibe that you're getting from her. -SHANNON: Yes.

It's always the vibe. She's very clear

on her bad-bitchery. Like she's, like,

"I've got no qualms about this body,

and this skin color." And I also think--

ASHLEY: She does not shrink herself.

SHANNON: She does not, she's not a shrinker.

And the end, you know, again, where-- all of our characters

are different, so Hippolyta is different

because we've always gotten this sense

that she was shrinking herself. She always wanted

to do these road trips for the travel guide,

and George, though we love him,

-was not having it, you know? -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm.

SHANNON: And obviously this isn't an uncommon story.

We see this a lot

with Black women, especially Black mothers,

whose job is to care for the children

and care for the family. And even if you work,

you don't really get to think of yourself

as an adventurer. And, of course,

George being George, has always been trying

to protect her, but again,

it's this issue of when are you protecting somebody

and when are you shrinking them?

So it's really important for her to name

this feeling that she's having. And, like we talked about

in therapy, you have to name these things

that you're feeling, before you can even start

to address them. And so that's also why

the title of the episode is, "I Am."

Because that's, uh--

Well, it's what Beyond C'est says to her in the white room,

when Hippolyta asks her, "Who are you? What are you?"

And she says, "I am." And the reason that

I loved that sentence is because "I am..." what?

"Everything... Any possible thing

that you can imagine, I can be."

And she needs to hear that as she's entering

on this new stage of her journey.

And for us to kind of get into that,

and the pleasure that comes along with this journey,

me, I can't talk about Black women and pleasure

without reading this poem that I just recently read,

um, in the book, Pleasure Activism,

by Adrienne Maree Brown. So, I'm gonna start with this

to kind of get us in the mood for Hippolyta's journey.

ASHLEY: Mm.

SHANNON: This poem is called "A Prayer for Pussies."

"Grown women know that feeling. You a little girl

under all that skin. All of that life

and holding back. All of that grey coochie hair.

And planted placentas under the tree the kids climb

when hiding from spankings. Under piles of unpaid bills

and expired lottery tickets, in your shadow

sits that girl within. Wise and wild,

quiet and unforgiving, indignant and quick.

Clitoris driven. An emotional wreck

with soulful perfection. Plotting on wildness,

you start thinking, 'Remember when I was all

one hot heat? One red ferocious flash.

One smooth, sweet licorice? One free, flying, unknown.'"

-ASHLEY: Mm. -SHANNON: And that's a poem by Junauda Petrus-Nasah.

Um, Hippolyta is uncovering that girl within.

And in seeking out pleasure, we're able to explore

how pleasure can be a radical form of healing.

And we start with Paris.

WOMAN: (VOICE ECHOING) You are not in a prison,

if you don't want to be.

(HIPPOLYTA GROANING, WHIMPERING)

WOMAN: Name yourself.

(HIPPOLYTA LAUGHING)

WOMAN: Name yourself!

HIPPOLYTA: (LAUGHING) What are you talking about?

WOMAN: Where do you want to be?

Name it. Who do you want to be?

Name it! Name it!

HIPPOLYTA: I want to be dancing on stage in Paris

with Josephine Baker!

ASHLEY: Mmm, we do start with Paris,

the city of light, shining a light

on all that Hippolyta has been missing out on so far.

She's drinking, she's being sexy on stage

with Josephina Baker, baby. She's smoking,

and it's so indulgent. It's so fun.

It's so, like-- There's like the tittering

of, like, voices and the clinking of glasses

and pearls shaking around people's necks,

and you hear all of it. And there's Josephine Baker.

Why Josephine Baker?

SHANNON: So many reasons, but one reason, just first off,

I think we wanted to incorporate a woman

who Hippolyta would obviously be a fan of.

-Like she's basically Hippolyta's Beyoncé. -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm.

SHANNON: But also a woman who was a complicated, Black figure.

Uh, in so many ways, up until this episode,

Hippolyta has been the picture of Black female respectability.

And so we wanted her to be led by a woman

who was often not that. And, obviously,

Josephine Baker was also an expat,

and Hippolyta has to learn that, like so many Black people

and Black creatives, not just Josephine Baker,

but James Baldwin, Nina Simone, and so many others,

they learned, "You might have to leave

this fucking country to find yourself."

You might have to be a fugitive, to a degree, and get out,

so that you can figure out what other forms

of freedom look like. We talk about imagination

on this podcast a lot, and it's like,

you can't imagine it if you haven't seen it or experienced it.

So, we needed her to go to Paris,

we needed her to be with somebody

who's not like Hippolyta, but who's going to bring out

those things that Hippolyta has always wanted to do.

And we also kept going back to the idea that

even though your circumstances change in big ways,

you're still you. So even though you find

a multiverse machine, you killed a cop,

you go through the multiverse machine,

not a time machine, 'cause that's basic,

-this is a multiverse machine. -(ASHLEY LAUGHING)

-SHANNON: You go through-- -ASHLEY: Yes!

SHANNON: ...the motherfucking multiverse machine, and then you meet

an otherworldly figure named Beyond C'est.

Even then you still might not be ready to change.

So, Josephine is here to help our Hippolyta

with that change.

And it's also interesting, I love that the change

for Hippolyta starts with movement.

-She's dancing on stage at the Champslysées. -ASHLEY: Champslysées.

SHANNON: Yes. She's on stage dancing and it's that idea of like,

you've gotta get in your body.

Like, you're in your brain a lot, you're gazing up

at the stars, like, get in your body,

get with Josephine Baker, and these incredible backup dancers,

and then you'll be able to start

further naming yourself.

When she said, "I want to be dancing

on stage with Josephine Baker," what were your thoughts

when you actually saw her dancing on stage

with Josephine Baker?

ASHLEY: I mean, first of all,

the costuming was so gorgeous--

SHANNON: Yes! ASHLEY: ...and I don't know if you know this about me,

but my first major in college was fashion design.

-SHANNON: (GASPS) No! -ASHLEY: And I wanted to be

a fashion historian at some point.

Turns our there's no major for that.

-SHANNON: Oh, my God. -ASHLEY: Uh... (CHUCKLES) ...and that's not what I do.

But-- So seeing the costuming

immediately blew me away. The actresses, the dancers,

it was so visually stunning,

and then I thought, "Okay, she's going to be here,

and she's going to pop back out." Like, I thought maybe

she's just getting a glimpse at something beautiful,

but then she got to stay.

-SHANNON: Yes. -ASHLEY: And when she got to stay,

I got-- it's almost like I got scared for her, weirdly.

-SHANNON: Mmm. -ASHLEY: 'Cause I'm like, "This is too good."

It's almost like--

It's kind of how I imagine certain illicit drugs.

-That if I took it-- -(SHANNON LAUGHING)

ASHLEY: ...I would be searching for that for the rest of my life.

And nothing else would ever feel good enough

or feel right, or like everything

would feel a little less pleasurable because of it.

And I kept thinking, "Oh, no Hippolyta,

the longer you stay here, the more unbearable it will be

to return." But I also couldn't help

but love every moment she was having,

and wishing that I was there beside her doing the same thing.

SHANNON: I know! She's-- And again, she's all the things

in this episode. She's a captive at first

in the white room. Then she's a backup dancer,

then she's, like, living this delicious life in Paris.

She's smoking, she's sniffing coke, that shocked me!

-ASHLEY: Yes, she is! -SHANNON: That wasn't in the original draft.

I was like, "Oh, my God!"

Um, she's flirting with men and women in that scene.

She's all of these things.

-ASHLEY: She's bobbing it out. -SHANNON: She really is the bob,

like, all of it. What you just said

is a really good point about how pleasure--

immense pleasure can also be a form of escapism, right?

Like you're not living in the real world,

and there's a danger there. That is definitely

what we were trying to get into,

because I think that the idea of escapism

is also in conversation with the idea

of Black fugitivity. And there's also

some Afro-pessimism elements here.

Just the idea that, in a way, Black people already

-don't belong in America. -ASHLEY: Right.

SHANNON: And Hippolyta already doesn't fit

into America. And so then she has to escape

and go to Paris.

And she kind of is fitting in there, but,

because she's an American,

she's still thinking back to that time there

and what this now means in the context of America.

Basically, the idea is, "Oh, my God,

I just experienced something so delicious

and so pleasurable, I didn't even know

-that it could be like this." -ASHLEY: Oh, yeah.

SHANNON: "And that's what was being kept from me over there?"

And this is also what then leads her

to having-- to realizing how angry she is

because all of that joy that she's feeling,

that drug of escapism and fugitivity,

and Josephine Baker, is reminding her

of what she's escaping from. It's reminding her...

of how much she missed out on. And it's in that conversation

that she has with Josephine Baker at the bar,

-where we hear her name this anger for the first time. -ASHLEY: Yes.

SHANNON: And there's this line that, like, haunts my dreams,

where she says, "I feel like they just found

a real smart way to lynch me without me noticing the noose."

HIPPOLYTA: All those years, I thought I had everything I ever wanted,

only to come here and discover that all I ever was

was the exact kind of negro woman

white folks wanted me to be.

I feel like they just found a smart way

to lynch me without me noticing the noose.

-JOSEPHINE BAKER: Don't it just make you angry? -HIPPOLYTA: Furious.

ASHLEY: Yes, she said that. She said it.

I felt it. I understood.

Here's why I understood, and I don't want to say, like--

Because first of all, feelings are not facts,

and we need to, as human beings, be able to understand

that we will feel things,

especially when we are in places of great rage and anger.

And those feelings are information.

-They are not directions. -SHANNON: Right.

ASHLEY: So, just because we feel a certain way does not mean

we have to behave a certain way, but wanting to

or feeling that desire, it should be explored.

-You should figure out where does that come from. -SHANNON: Yes.

ASHLEY: Where is that coming from inside of me?

What do I want to do about it?

Can I do anything about it? Like--

All of that is part of the conversation,

but in that moment, you just gotta feel your anger.

SHANNON: Yes, and that's exactly what Hippolyta's going through

because she's-- And we talked about this in the room.

She's going, "I'm a Black woman."

Um, "I've got a great husband. I've got a beautiful daughter.

I have a telescope." You know,

"My husband runs his own business.

We're helping the community. I'm fine. I'm good.

I'm actually better off

-than a lot of Black people in America"-- -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm.

SHANNON: "...and I should be satisfied with that.

-So, why am I not?" -ASHLEY: Mm.

SHANNON: "Why am I asking to go on these road trips?

Why am I angry?"

And then-- And again, it's not until George is killed

that she's-- that's kind of the beginning of the unlocking

-of, "Hold the fuck up." -ASHLEY: Yes.

-SHANNON: "Something ain't right." -ASHLEY: And I think for her,

also, it's this idea of like,

"I waited for him to allow me to come.

I waited for him to invite me,

so that I didn't make his life hard."

You know what I mean? Like that thing.

And it's that anger at self and anger at him, like--

And also, "What kind of person thinks

that they should be allowed to invite me

or to allow me?"

-SHANNON: (SIGHS) Yep. All of those things. -ASHLEY: All of it.

SHANNON: So, there's a lot of anger that's been sitting in there,

and it's not until Josephine brings it out and says, like,

"Name it." Like, "What are you angry about?"

And she's like-- Again, our definition of lynching is

-strung from a tree. -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm

SHANNON: And this-- I think the reason that that line, like,

I love it, but it also makes me uncomfortable

is because it's like somebody like Hippolyta

is not supposed to say that she's being lynched,

but we are saying this is a form of lynching,

and it's really smart.

And it's really powerful because, again, it convinces you

that-- that if you're not happy, that's on you.

So, she takes that rage and that anger,

-and she names herself Hippolyta. -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm.

SHANNON: And she get transported to the Kingdom of Dahomey.

These were the warriors who--

they were called the Dahomey Amazons,

and they were the inspiration for the Dora Milaje in Black Panther.

Um, but this scene also came from the idea that Hippolyta

is named after the Queen of the Amazons in Greek mythology.

So, when she screams, "I am Hippolyta,"

she's naming herself an Amazon warrior in two different ways:

the Greek Amazon warrior and also the Dahomey Amazon warrior.

But, of course, this is Lovecraft Country,

-so, you know, where-- where everybody's Black. -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm.

SHANNON: And she has to learn how to be a warrior.

She has to learn to fight, and she has to train for this,

which is another-- again, going back to this idea

that just because you're in a new situation--

and we really wanted to focus on this with this episode,

it's magic but it's not magic,

meaning just because you name yourself Hippolyta,

you're not ready for this life.

So, she has to be trained by Nawi,

and she has to become

the warrior that she wants to be.

And so, she's getting all this anger and rage out,

and it's only through this that she's going to be able

to effectively communicate to George.

But I wanna talk a little bit about these warrior scenes,

-because I love them and they're amazing. -ASHLEY: Me too!

SHANNON: And also, there's this idea of, like,

when she defeats the Confederate Army...

and she names George, where I think what we're--

what we're trying to say is, like, Black women are fighting a war

on several fronts.

So, there's these racists coming at us,

and then when we go home, we have partners

who are shrinking us, whether they know it or not.

And they're doing that--

like part of that's coming from the patriarchy and sexism.

And then, there's capitalism, and there's all these things--

these battles that we're fighting,

and, of course, that's why there are so many Black women

on this journey guiding Hippolyta to where she needs to be.

ASHLEY: I love that, and part of the reason why I really love

this interaction between her and George

when she, you know--

You know, she asserts herself and she says,

"You helped me, George."

Like, "I've been shrinking myself, and you helped me."

And he is-- he is, initially, a little defensive about that,

and then he stops and he thinks and he goes,

"Wow. You're right."

You know, and he understands how he's been doing that.

And I think that this is so important

because there is a dynamic in relationships, I think,

that comes up a lot for people,

um, who are used to being very assertive in the world

or sticking up for themselves in the world in a certain way. Or, like,

their partner would never think of them as a person

-who shrinks themselves or diminishes themselves... -SHANNON: Mm-hmm.

ASHLEY: ...but they have these things where it's really hard

to stand up for yourself with somebody you love

-and somebody who treats you well. -SHANNON: Yeah. Yeah.

ASHLEY: Like, that's when it becomes really hard

to stand up for yourself because you feel like you're--

you feel like somebody has handed you cake,

and you ask for extra frosting, when really,

cakes are supposed to be frosted,

-let's not fuck around. -(SHANNON LAUGHS)

ASHLEY: Like, the frosting was supposed to be free.

It was supposed to come with it.

You have to, like, get charged extra for frosting.

It's, like, that's not how it works.

That's not how it was ever supposed to work.

-SHANNON: Amen. -ASHLEY: So, I think that that's...

Something that's going on here that's really beautiful

is to not only have her talk about what has angered her

and how this man-- how this person that she loves

has also contributed

to the diminishing of her sense of self.

The idea in this scene is, "But we can come back."

-SHANNON: Mm-hmm. -ASHLEY: "We can figure it out.

Just because we name where we've been,

doesn't mean we can't move forward.

Just because we name where we are

-doesn't mean we can't move forward." -SHANNON: Right.

ASHLEY: Like-- And it's so much more special

when you can move forward together.

SHANNON: And I-- I think, again, this is a part

of Hippolyta's therapeutic journey, right?

Of, like, first, it was just pleasure and ecstasy in Paris.

And then, it was getting that rage and anger out

and being like, "Holy shit.

This is what I've been missing out on.

I'm pissed." And in that scene,

she can't name this other person that she's pissed at.

So now, she's with George. And in the writers' room,

I remember we were a little bit sad

because we thought, "God," like--

"First of all, we've been missing George,

everybody else has been missing George.

We just want the scene to be beautiful.

-We don't want them to talk about the shrinking." -ASHLEY: Right.

SHANNON: "Can they just, like, make love and have fun

and go on about their business?" And it's like, "No,"

because, again, in therapy, you learn you have to speak it.

-ASHLEY: Yes. -SHANNON: You have to talk to somebody about the harm

that they've caused you.

And in a lot of cases in our lives,

people are not receptive to that, but George is.

HIPPOLYTA: By the time I met you, I'd already gotten so small.

And I thought you knew how big I wanted to be.

I thought you saw me.

But you just stood by and let me shrink myself more for you.

GEORGE: I fell in love with you because you were so curious,

and I knew deep down inside, there was a...

there was a discoverer in you, but...

You're right.

I let you... helped you...

shrink, so we could have a family,

so I could go and do what I had to do

and know that you were safe at home waiting for me.

I'm so sorry.

I see now what that cost you.

SHANNON: I think we also wanted this scene to happen

because, like, one mantra of the show feels like--

it feels like we're always saying,

"All your faves are problematic,

including all your fave characters

-on this show. -ASHLEY: Right.

SHANNON: So, you love George, and you miss George.

And George was the perfect husband and the perfect dad,

except of course he wasn't.

Of course, George was also complicit.

Of course, it helped George to have

-a beautiful, intelligent wife who had to stay home. -ASHLEY: Right.

SHANNON: Of course, it made his job easier

and his life easier at her expense.

And it's necessary for her to say this.

It also reminds me of the scene in episode four

-when she tells Dee the story about naming Hera's Chariot. -ASHLEY: Yep.

SHANNON: And Dee has to scream it out for her.

Hippolyta is telling the story quietly,

-and it's Dee who's like, "My mama named that." Like... -ASHLEY: Yep.

SHANNON: Hippolyta hasn't quite found the voice to do that

and now, again, she's screaming in so many of these scenes

'cause she's finding that power and that strength.

And now that she's done all of that

and now that she's addressed it with George,

and again, he's defensive first, but then he fucking shuts up

and listens to his wife. And she looks back at him,

and she-- she takes his hand

'cause she's naming herself discoverer now.

And she's also saying, "Now that I've named myself that,

-I can bring you along with me, but I'm leading." -ASHLEY: Yes.

SHANNON: Like, "Come on along on my guide trip.

-This is my journey." -ASHLEY: Yes.

ASHLEY: And one of the things that healing does,

that this scene illustrates so well,

is that it doesn't just benefit the person who is healing.

-SHANNON: Mm-hmm. -ASHLEY: When you are healing, when you are doing the work

of healing yourself and making room for yourself

and standing up for yourself,

you give everybody around you permission to do the same.

-SHANNON: Yes. -ASHLEY: You become a safe place for them

to practice being expansive,

because when you can expand, you can allow others to expand.

Because what you ultimately see is abundance.

And you start to understand that the scarcity state

we think we're in, where, you know,

I'm the only one in the room and if somebody else comes in

that's like me, then they've taken my spot.

Or I'm the only person in this space, or, you know,

in this relationship, I'm the leader of whatever.

When we think of things that way,

when our definition of resources

and also of power are so limited--

-SHANNON: Right. -ASHLEY: ...that we can only think of some people--

having them at a time instead of the shared experience

that I think we were intended to have...

when we can really make room for that

in ourselves and other people,

I think that is a big step toward changing the world

and toward doing that thing that grown-ups always tell us

to do when we're kids. You know, like,

"Be the change you wanna see,"

and it's like, "Yeah, well, y'all do that, too.

-Don't just tell us." But, um... -(SHANNON CHUCKLING)

ASHLEY: But it's that thing. It's, like, if I'm doing this,

I'm making room for other people to do this.

And you think about, like, the Orithyia Blue.

Like, the Space is the Place.

Like, the idea in all of that that, like,

the infinite is where you belong.

It is from whence you come, and it is where you will return.

So, while you are in this vessel, while you're in this time,

while you're in this version of the multiverse,

do your thing, and do it as you

because you're the only one who can.

SHANNON: Yes. And so, that's that last part.

She names herself Hippolyta Discoverer,

and she basically turns into a real-life version

of Orithyia Blue, and I love this.

This, like, warmed my heart because...

she didn't see herself as Orithyia Blue.

-Her daughter saw that for her. -ASHLEY: Yes.

SHANNON: So, I just-- I love that, and I love that

we used this audio from Space is the Place

about how to understand or another way to look

at Black people in society and what happens

if you look at Black people as a myth,

and it's like, well, if you were real

and if you were a real person, then you would have rights

and you have power and you wouldn't have to go to Paris.

But you are a myth, and so what do we do with that?

And I don't think we give a concrete answer

because, of course, we never do on this show,

but Hippolyta is like, "Well, here is one thing you can do."

And I love that you kept using the word "expansion"

because I'm just thinking of, like, again,

your body and your mind,

and then there's this other thing that happens

at the end of the episode

along the lines of expansion and children,

and this was another very big discussion/argument

in the room. In case it's not clear,

Hippolyta does not go back through the portal.

Beyond C'est tells her, "I can send you back,

or I can integrate you into this world."

And Hippolyta says, (SIGHS)

you know, "I'm scared to go back.

That Hippolyta was so small."

She's been on a journey

and what we talked about in the room is,

yes, there's a version where you go on a journey,

and you then go directly home and it helps you

be a better parent to your child.

And then there's a version where you go on a journey,

and it's so transformative and it's so powerful,

you are actually afraid to go home.

ASHLEY: Yes. Sometimes you're on your Under The Tuscan Sun shit.

-SHANNON: Oof. (CHUCKLING) -ASHLEY: And you bought your villa,

-and you're not going back... -SHANNON: Diane Lane.

ASHLEY: ...and I understand.

-SHANNON: Yes. -ASHLEY: I understand, Diane Lane.

I understand the choices that Diane Lane made.

And I understand the choices that Hippolyta made.

SHANNON: Yeah, but the idea is, Diane Lane,

I think she can do it 'cause she doesn't have a child waiting for her at home.

-ASHLEY: That is true! -SHANNON: Hippolyta is not allowed to do that...

Quote-unquote, "Allowed."

And so, I fought for her to stay,

to choose to stay because I just thought let's--

Again, in the world of this show where everybody does something

that we don't like, Hippolyta has to do something

that we don't like, too.

And I wanna talk about, like, this thing that we have

with mothers, on television and everywhere.

Where it's like, a mom can go on an adventure

-but she gotta go home. -ASHLEY: Mmm.

SHANNON: A mom can be Cersei Lannister, but she has to love her babies

at the end of the day, and put them first.

And it's like, "Okay, but no. Sometimes we don't."

And sometimes we are selfish, and sometimes we fuck up.

And sometimes we should be more selfish.

Like, again what's happening in this moment is fear.

Right, Hippolyta's had an epic journey,

but to your point,

she still doesn't quite know how to live in a world

of abundance. She's still like, "There's no way,

that I can go back home and feel what I'm feeling here."

Um, and so, she chooses to stay.

I love it, but I'm a mom with three kids and a turtle.

-So, of course I'm like, "Yes, bitch! -(ASHLEY LAUGHING)

SHANNON: "Stay in that other universe.

Don't come home, it ain't nothing for you here."

But what did you think, Ashley?

ASHLEY: You know, I-- Mm. Hmm.

There is part of me that goes, "Hippolyta...

-now what about Dee?" Right? But-- -SHANNON: Right, of course.

ASHLEY: ...there is also this part of me that understands

how solitary this journey, uh, can really be,

and especially for mothers.

You know, I don't want Hippolyta to be a parent

-who abandons her daughter. -SHANNON: Right.

ASHLEY: At the same time, George was clearly gone

for extensive amounts of time,

the entire time that he was in Dee's life.

-SHANNON: Facts. -ASHLEY: And we will think of him differently

than we will Hippolyta. You know?

And I know that there are so many reasons why,

but it just, it really drove home

this idea that, like...

that caring for a self,

discovery for the sense of discovery,

when that is your thing, when that is who you are,

when you are Hippolyta the discoverer,

how do you come back to Jim Crow America?

-How do you come back to segregated America? -SHANNON: Right.

And I'm also thinking about how this compares to Montrose.

You know what I mean? Like, she's definitely taken

more steps than him when it comes to parenting

and trying to be a good parent.

But both of these children still wind up

with parents who choose themselves.

-SHANNON: Yes. -ASHLEY: You know, Tic and Dee

have ended up with parents

who, in one way or another, decided that they needed

-to focus on themselves in an intense way. -SHANNON: Yeah.

ASHLEY: And when you hide your true self

for so long, for that long,

there's gonna be consequences no matter what.

And I think the hard thing to convince people sometimes,

is that the consequences are worth it.

And right now, we don't know if the consequences are worth it.

And that's what makes us so uncomfortable, I think.

SHANNON: Yeah, and it is uncomfortable,

because of course, there's that last shot

at the end of the episode, Atticus comes through

the portal, and what we see is Dee's comic,

Dee's Orithyia Blue comic right next to the body

of the police officer that Hippolyta shot.

So, we can probably assume that that is important,

and we can probably assume that Hippolyta not coming

right home, while Dee's comic is at the scene

of a very important crime is probably gonna be an issue

later on in the show.

So, yes, there are consequences

for choosing yourself

and choosing yourself out of fear,

which is kinda what's happening in that moment,

and I'm excited to see where it goes.

And again, this is about therapy, right?

So, what we're saying in this episode is that,

therapy is an adventure to a degree,

but it's not all going to be fixed instantly.

Meaning, you're still going to obviously make mistakes

along the way, and some of that will feel good,

and some of it you might feel guilty about.

But I think the other big idea of the episode is

stay-- stay in communication with Black women.

-ASHLEY: Yes. -SHANNON: Stay in community

with Black women in your life,

and it's kind of amazing where things can take you.

ASHLEY: Absolutely, and I have to say, you know, I-- (LAUGHS)

Not too long ago, I attended an intensive trauma therapy,

that I now call trauma camp. 'Cause it's just way easier

to say that I went to trauma camp.

-There were horses. Um... -(SHANNON LAUGHING)

ASHLEY: And I got these videos after trauma camp was over,

because we were all so terrified to reintegrate, I think... (CHUCKLING)

...back into what we called, "the common world."

And one of the things that helped me leaving,

was knowing that those videos were coming.

-SHANNON: Yes. -ASHLEY: It really helped me to not be so afraid.

When I left, like, the last day I was there, I mean,

I really could not stop thinking,

"There's no way this is gonna last.

There's no way this is gonna last." And then I would stop

and remember what I had learned,

but I would always come back to, "There's no way this is gonna last."

And then I got to watch this episode.

-SHANNON: Mmm. -ASHLEY: And, Shannon,

it felt like because this episode exists,

I will always have a reminder

of what I discovered when I was gone.

And when I was in the woods,

figuring out who I am,

and figuring out like why, up until this point

there had been these, like, internal blocks for me,

-um, just in liking myself. -SHANNON: Mm.

ASHLEY: And I like myself now.

And I feel like anytime I watch this episode,

anytime I think about this episode,

every single time I think about Hippolyta,

I'm gonna remember how expansive I actually am,

and stop putting myself into that little box

of personal disrespect. (CHUCKLES)

SHANNON: I'm so glad that it's having that effect on you.

And I'm so glad we got to have this conversation.

Now it's time to wrap things up like we always do,

with some references and recommendations

for our listeners to continue to expand,

and float, and go on adventures

like Hippolyta does in this episode.

So, I want to just give a shout out

to all the amazing Black women characters

we meet in episode seven.

So, Hanna, our girl Hanna shows up in Leti's dream,

and leads her out of the house.

We have Osbertha, aka Bertie, she's the one who tells Atticus

that the book of names burned in Tulsa.

Also, Bertie and Tic's Aunt Ethel became lovers

after their husbands died,

so we have no choice but to stan those women.

-ASHLEY: Yes, we do. -SHANNON: Um... (GIGGLES)

Osbertha's actually named after, um,

Osbertha Harris of Union Baptist Church

in Massachusetts, which is where I went to church,

and she was one of those amazing Black women

in the church, who always had a little candy for me,

always had a little something for me, always checked on me.

She wrote me when I moved away from Boston,

like she just always stayed in touch with me.

Again, like having a community of Black women in your life,

no matter how small their role, is always a really good idea.

ASHLEY: Yeah, I was gonna say, she's got a strong Black woman name, as well.

-SHANNON: Oh, Osbertha. -ASHLEY: I just wanted to pinpoint that.

-SHANNON: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. -ASHLEY: That's very, very strong.

Like I have an Aunt Robertine...

-SHANNON: Mm-hmm! -ASHLEY: ...and Osbertha,

I think, beats Robertine, like, for the strength.

-SHANNON: I think so. -ASHLEY: Just the strength alone and the Blackness.

-Okay, all right, continue. -SHANNON: I think so.

We have Bessie Stringfield,

We have, um, of course, the iconic Beyond C'est,

played by Karen LeBlanc.

We have Josephine Baker played by Carra Patterson.

We have Nawi, played by Sufe Bradshaw.

We also had that epic moment with Frida fucking Kahlo.

Uh, so there's a lot of Black femme,

women of color femme energy

guiding our Hippolyta, and hopefully guiding us

throughout this episode.

So, some light reading:

Afropessimism by Frank B. Wilderson III.

Uh, this article that has, like,

so many great other recommendations

for more reading, it's called, "Afropessimism, Fugitivity,

and the Border to Social Death," by Paula von Gleich.

More Josephine Baker music, obviously you wanna get into.

I also thought about, In Search Of Our Mother's Gardens,

by Alice Walker, because,

you may not have a multiverse machine,

but Black women have always found ways to escape

and to taste freedom, and that book is a reminder of that.

Lemonade, by Beyoncé, we have big Lemonade vibes in here.

Obviously, everything Aunjanue Ellis has ever been in,

you should be watching right now,

including, but not limited to, The Clark Sisters,

and Undercover Brother,

which is one of my personal favorites.

And then, Pleasure Activism, written and gathered

by Adrienne Maree Brown.

And while I was writing the episode,

I don't know what it was, but I kept watching

FKA Twigs' Two Weeks music video...

-(ASHLEY LAUGHING) -SHANNON: Um...

There's an epic video by this group called--

this band, Pillar Point.

Again, not directly related, but you should see it,

'cause I was also watching it while I was working on this.

Kia LaBeija is in this video, it's called Dove,

and it's just beautiful. It's just like,

if you ever wanted to just watch a free Black woman

be a free Black woman, that's that video to me.

Dreams Deferred, Langston Hughes.

We have some Mad Max: Fury Road vibes.

We have Missy Elliott vibes all up and through this.

What else do we have, Ashley?

ASHLEY: The two things that I would tell people to check out,

because these two films did a lot for me

in a similar vein, um, of this episode would be

A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Ava DuVernay,

and Fast Color, directed by Julia Hart

and starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

♪ (MUSIC PLAYS) ♪

SHANNON: That's our show for this week,

thank you so much for listening.

This show is hosted by us, I'm Shannon Houston.

ASHLEY: And I'm Ashley C. Ford.

This podcast was produced by HBO

in conjunction with Pineapple Street Studios.

Our executive producers are Jenna Weiss-Berman,

Max Linsky, and Bari Finkel.

Agerenesh Ashagre is our managing producer.

This episode's lead producer is Jess Jupiter,

and our associate producers are Alexis Moore

and Natalie Brennan.

Our editors are Maddy Sprung-Keyser

and Josh Gwynn.

Noriko Okabe is our engineer,

and original music by composer Amanda Jones.

SHANNON: If you like the show and you have a minute,

you can review and rate this podcast via Apple Podcast,

Spotify, or anywhere else you might get your podcasts.

It really helps people find the show.

You can also stream the podcast on HBO and HBO Max.

We'll be back next week for episode eight,

which premiers on HBO and streams on HBO Max

on October 4th, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

ASHLEY: Can't wait!

♪ (MUSIC FADES) ♪

The Description of Lovecraft Country Radio: I Am. | Episode 7 | HBO