After three episodes of building often-times bloody tension, Lovecraft Country’s main duo — Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors) and Letitia Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) — have had sex. Mercifully, a CGI snake didn’t fall out of Tic’s pants, as second episode “Whitey’s On the Moon,” burned into viewers’ minds via nightmare magic. Instead, the pair share a mutually desperate hookup in the bathroom of Leti’s boarding house in third episode “Holy Ghost.”
Both Leti and Tic seem like two people who remember the balm of intimacy and after the horror of the last three episodes, are aching for that connection again. Then, 15 minutes later, you realize how incorrect that assumption is. Leti’s bathroom romp was her “first time,” as she tells Tic days later. That is why she bleeds after the encounter and cries once Tic leaves the room. It’s a character reveal that rebukes every over-sexed trope and stereotype of Black women littered throughout pop culture.
“Yeah, she’s comfortable in the way she struts. Yeah, she’s got some full hips. She’s got no problem pressing them up against the guy when she’s dancing,” Leti’s portrayer, Jurnee Smollett, said of her character while talking to a group of reporters over Zoom. “Doesn’t mean she’s actually gone to bed with him.”
Tic learns that exact lesson over “Holy Ghost,” serving as a societal surrogate. Before Tic and Leti finally hook up, he sees her dancing with a friend at her housewarming party. You can watch the resigned jealousy fall over Tic’s face as he jumps to countless conclusions about Leti’s intentions with a man who isn’t him. It’s obvious that his knowledge about Leti’s past traveling around the country has influenced his beliefs about her sexual history, despite never speaking to her about it.
Even when Leti bleeds after their hookup, Tic doesn’t fathom the possibility that she had just had penetrative sex for the first time. Tic quickly accepts her menstruation excuse, convinced that is the height of gentlemanly behavior. Then Tic leaves Leti alone to process what has just happened. When Tic finally learns the truth, he realizes just how harmful his behavior — and painfully incorrect assumptions — were for a woman he never tried to see honestly.
“I think of Leti as the virgin goddess. The one who owns her sexuality and makes her own choices. Why do we think because she owns her seuxality that means she’s sexually promiscuous?,” Smollet asked. “Why does one equate to the other? It's our own ignorance as a society, the way that female sexuality is owned by everyone but Leti.”
Smollett sees a lot of her own experiences through Leti’s sexual journey and the way others try to label it from the outside. “Growing up, I was incredibly free in my sexuality and my sexual being. But I was a virgin until I got married,” Smollett explained. “I had done love scenes with people … And actually hadn’t had sex.”
While Smollett recognizes that one scene won’t fix decades of misogynoir laced-depictions of Black women on screen, she is excited to at least start some much-needed conversations. “As a society, we have real perverted beliefs about the female body and particularly, the way we’ve over sexualized the Black female body. It’s something I’m very aware of,” Smollett said. “I don’t have a solution for it. But it was interesting to explore within Leti.”