In this episode, Janine Engelbrecht is joined by a fellow academic, Courtney Tink, to discuss the topic of her research: Lilith. They discuss Lilith as a feminist archetype, and contemplate whether Lilith might be the first feminist in history.
What’s in Episode 10, “Lilith, the Original Feminist”?
Janine welcomes everyone back and introduces her guest, Courtney Tink. She asks Courtney to elaborate on why Courtney chose to research Lilith and to give some background on the character.
Courtney explains where she first encountered Lilith – the series True Blood. “Suddenly”, Courtney explains, “Lilith was everywhere” and so she decided to research her.
Janine interrupts and briefly explains where she encountered Lilith for the first time. She reveals that she used to be a heavy metal fan and that’s where Janine heard about her.
History of Lilith
Courtney goes on to explain the origins of Lilith in mythology. Here she recounts a fascinating story of how Lilith used to live in a tree with a dragon. Courtney then traces the history of the first depiction of Lilith to ancient Babylonia, 1800 BCE. She explains that Lilith was for the first time here depicted with claws and a rod.
Lilith and contemporary witches
Courtney points out that many of these anthropomorphic features of Lilith can be seen in contemporary witches. One of these is Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent.
Lilith as the original feminist and witch
Janine then asks Courtney if Lilith might not be the first ever witch then, because her origins are so old. She extends this idea by also asking Courtney whether Lilith might not be the first ever feminist. Janine refers to the myth that Lilith was Adam’s first wife from the Bible.
Lilith as a blueprint
Courtney explains that Lilith might rather be a blueprint for many things. This includes the witch, the feminist, and the femme fatale.
Lilith and nature
Janine asks Courtney whether Lilith’s relationship with nature is problematic or could be empowering. Courtney answers by explaining a Pre-Raphaelite painting of Lilith by Rossetti. She concludes that Lilith’s relationship with nature is empowering for her.
Lilith as a mother
Janine asks Courtney about Lilith’s relationship with motherhood. Courtney first explains the Jewish-Christian myth of Lilith. She then talks about the idea of “The Abject” in relation to motherhood.
Lilith and fears about women
Janine asks Courtney what her take is on Lilith as the embodiment of men’s fears about women. Courtney traces these fears back to the Victorian Femme Fatale.
The Femme Fatale
Janine notes that recently femme fatales are not punished for their crimes. Courtney then explains how this happens with Lilith in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina too. She also refers to the femme fatale in the movie, Gone Girl.
Janine asks Courtney about Lilith’s sexualisation in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Courtney and Janine then agree that “postfeminism is a red flag”, which Courtney then explains in more detail.
She goes on to say that Lilith and beauty cannot be separated, and that Lilith still has relevance as a postfeminist character. Courtney elaborates on this by referring to Rossetti’s painting of Lilith.
Janine asks Courtney whether she thinks that Lilith will ever be able to move beyond sexualisation. Courtney’s answer is indeed, no. She goes on to explain though what Lilith’s transformation might look like – the female grotesque.
Lilith and hair
Janine asks Courtney about Lilith’s hair that is always long and black/red. Courtney then explains the significance of Lilith’s hair by referring back to the Rossetti painting.
Medusa and hair
Janine comments on Medusa’s snake hair, to which Courtney responds. Courtney explains that Medusa can also be considered a feminist when her narrative is viewed differently.
Janine relates the story of Medusa to the rebooted Maleficent. She comments on the fact that many female villains are now given movies of their own. The upcoming Cruella film is one example she gives.
Lilith as anti-hero
Janine asks Courtney about Lilith as an anti-hero in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Courtney then explains Lilith’s transformation over the series.
Janine and Courtney finally discuss the redemption arc seen in many recent female villains. They talk about Maleficent, Cruella, Lilith and Emperor Georgiou. Janine and Courtney fangirl over Cate Blanchett, and start wrapping up.
Janine and Courtney thank each other, and they wrap up the episode.
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