TW: Discusses Sexual Assault
With a catchy sing-song title and a wholesome and learned host, Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby! offers listeners a humorous and critical perspective of Greek and Roman mythology. Host Liv Albert uses her English Literature and Classics background to create a podcast for lovers of mythology and the ancient world to learn about their favourite myths, gods and goddesses as well as real historical events and people. Albert narrates the origin stories of everyone, including Zeus and Apollo, and tells well-known stories like Oedipus’ unfortunate tale of incest and murder and the story of Hades and Persephone.
Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby! began in 2017, and over the last five years, has recorded over 250 episodes, though I could be wrong on that as my grasp of Roman numerals isn’t as strong as it used to be. This podcast is perfect for lovers of Greek and Roman mythology, or those who want to learn more about it. In Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby! Albert reads classical literature (with plenty of critical and witty asides) including the works of Homer and Ovid. I know personally that despite being an avid reader, ancient literature can be onerous and cryptic, and Albert does an amazing job at presenting these intricate narratives for a contemporary audience.
As someone familiar with well-known tales like the Trojan War and Heracles, I was aware of the unavoidable issues modern audiences have with these stories. Almost all include rape, misogyny and violence in varying levels, and for fans of the ancient world and Greek or Roman mythology, it makes these stories difficult to digest.
What Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby! does best, and what I would wager is the reason for its success, is the integration of critical and diverse perspectives that are often absent from retellings and analysis of mythology and history more generally. Albert herself presents these stories with frank and considered commentary that highlights the concerning frequency of goddesses and female characters being subject to horrific behaviour. One example is the in-depth reading of Medusa as a survivor of sexual assault, and as a metaphor for the treatment of women. Spoiler alert, her head was cut off. Albert points out that male characters resented her power and treated her as a monster while she was alive, and only really valued her insofar as her corpse assisted them in their little quest.
The podcast also has conversation episodes, where Albert and an academic or historian discuss the complex and challenging themes and perspectives reflected in mythology and historiography. These diverse and inclusive views problematise the mythologies and versions of history we came to know. For instance, Albert invited Justin Lorenzo Biggi to chat about Athenian citizenship and disability in ancient Greece. Albert makes sure to release LGBTQ+ specific episodes that considers same-sex relationships in Greek mythology like Callisto and Artemis, and queer characters like Heracles and Apollo.
Albert endeavours to present critical retellings of myths that expand the discussion of ancient understandings of gender and sexuality, and challenges the historiography in its attempts to perpetuate heteronormativity and censorship of trans and non-binary characters. While embracing her complicated love of mythology that many from her audience share, Albert manages to integrate strong and balanced criticisms into the podcast. She touches on a range of important issues around claims to truth and the regulation of knowledge, and the pervasive misogyny in the Greek and Roman mythology community. Problems of translation and limited sources highlight how myths have been manipulated to promote certain values and erase themes and characters that didn’t fit the societal ideals at the time.
This is a fun and informative listen for all audiences. If you love storytelling with a humorous and critical twist, I would recommend Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby!