The Christianization of pagan stories is nothing new. To convince the locals to convert to Christianity, missionaries would often turn local myths and gods into saints instead so the locals could convert but still keep their folk traditions. For instance, some argue that St. Brigid of Ireland was in fact a Christianization of the Celtic goddess of the same name, and rituals surrounding the goddess Eostre were incorporated into the Christian celebration of Easter. This is a form of syncretism (thoroughly explained by Lady Geek Girl here) that was used consciously and deliberately to erase pagan beliefs and traditions and replace them with Christian ones instead. The case of the Disney movie Hercules, though, is a little different. Its Christianization was likely not deliberate, but it ends up reinforcing the hegemony of Christian narratives in our culture anyway.
Disney’s Hercules vastly revised the ancient Greek myth of Heracles to make it more “child-friendly” and more palatable to Western audiences. The resulting story, though, positions Hercules as a Christ figure—probably accidentally. This seems to imply that only stories with Christian morals and understandings of the world are acceptable as kids’ stories, and also shows how Christian influence seeps into everything in our pop culture narratives, whether we intend it to or not.
Find out more after the break! Spoilers for all of Hercules ahead.
A while back, armed with a staggering number of Barnes and Noble gift cards, I took to Google looking for recommendations of good queer YA lit to buy. Most of those books are still waiting to be read in my bedroom, but I did read one immediately because I was so taken with the premise. The Greek story of Hades and Persephone, while oft-romanticized, is one of those stories that has many issues from a feminist perspective. The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer takes the original tale of abduction and imprisonment and reimagines it as a consensual lesbian romance.
From the back cover:
Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want—except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice.
Zeus calls Hades “lord” of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny.
But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself.
Spoilers and a trigger warning for discussion of rape after the jump.
So, the other day, I found proof that the universe hates me.
I am baffled that this is actually happening. For anyone who missed it, the first Percy Jackson movie was nothing short of terrible. It had its moments, and I’ll admit to liking some of it. It was certainly a movie with potential, but it didn’t follow the books. It added some unnecessary romance between Percy and Annabeth—because why the hell not?—it completely cut out the actual main antagonist in order to make Hades the bad guy—again, because why the hell not?—and it took just about every opportunity to disregard what made the books so great to begin with.
Percy Jackson was a unique retelling of the Greek Pantheon because it modernized everything. While I did find the books remarkably similar to Harry Potter in a lot of ways, which only served to worsen my opinions of the books—special place for special people (Camp Halfblood/Hogwarts), trio of three main characters, etc.—Percy Jackson still managed to be its own story. I didn’t love the books, but I could respect the writing style, the original characters, and a unique spin on an already well-known mythos.
But the first movie changed all that. It ruined the uniqueness. By changing the villain, it created plot holes, by adding the romance so early on it wasn’t true to the main characters, and by un-modernizing the gods, it ruined what made the premise justifiable and not overdone in the first place.
While this trailer for the sequel certainly looks better, as though hopefully the director and writers learned from the mistakes of the first movie, I don’t have high hopes. How can I? It’s been so long between films that I had actually thought this one would never happen. I’d have much rather seen the first movie rebooted. So here’s me not being excited to go see this.
The sad tragedy of storytelling is that many of our old myths, legends, and fables are built off sexist tropes and ideologies. The sexy vixen, the wicked witch, and the damsel in distress are all classic tropes in storytelling that have been ingrained so heavily in our culture that the everyday person can easily pick them out and identify them. These narratives that so often portray women as weak or evil are especially harmful when we continue to indoctrinate future generations with these sexist tales.
Can we ever undo what these past stories have done to women? Sadly, probably not, but perhaps we can lessen the effects by re-telling and re-interpreting these same stories from a feminist perspective. The advantage here is that writers can take tried and true narratives and characters that people already like, and then make them more complex. The characters and plots of the original stories are often stereotypes or flat, archetypal characters. Reinterpreting these stories with more complexity has the benefit of causing people to like them more than the original by updating them for a modern audience.
There are many stories that have been reinterpreted over the years through a feminist lens, like Cinderella (Ever After), many of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Once Upon a Time, Fables, etc.) and many more, but there are so many other stories that need a feminist revamp. So here are five stories that I would love to see get a feminist makeover for a contemporary audience.
It’s Trailer Tuesdays! This week’s trailer is Wrath of the Titans.
The original Clash of the Titans is a classic. The newest one is considered a piece of shit that promised me awesome 3D effects that ended up being terrible. Furthermore, the new Clash of the Titans could have had promise if they had done the one thing that the original didn’t: actually follow Greek mythology!
I never understood why so many people felt the need to change Greek mythology. The original myths are filled with so much sex and blood shed you would think very little would need to be changed to get audiences in to the theaters.
But if the trailer for Clash of the Titans‘ sequel Wrath of the Titans is any indicator, I would say it’s because we think we can do it better than the ancient Greeks. You know, those long lasting myths that endured for forever and interest people even now, clearly Warner Bros. writers can do better than that.
This not at all anticipated sequel seems to basically be a rehashing of the first one. Here is the premise of the movie as stated by Wikipedia:
A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is attempting to live a quieter life as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year-old son, Helius. Meanwhile, a struggle for supremacy rages between the gods and the Titans. Dangerously weakened by humanity’s lack of devotion, the gods are losing control of the imprisoned Titans led by Kronos: father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus (Liam Neeson), Hades (Ralph Fiennes), and Poseidon (Danny Huston). The triumvirate had overthrown their powerful father long ago, leaving him to rot in the gloomy abyss of Tartarus, a dungeon that lies deep within the cavernous underworld.
Perseus cannot ignore his true calling when Hades and Ares (Édgar Ramírez) make a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The Titans’ strength grows stronger as Zeus’s remaining godly powers are siphoned, and hell is unleashed on earth. Enlisting the help of the warrior Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Poseidon’s demigod son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and fallen god Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), Perseus bravely embarks on a treacherous quest into the underworld to rescue Zeus, overthrow the Titans and save mankind
As you can see this throws out all semblance of actual Greek myth and replaces it with crap. Hades and Ares are evil! Never would have seen that coming. This is a personal pet peeve for me as Hades is my favorite Greek god. Seriously, read the myths. Hades is the only god that is actually kind of nice. It is nice to actually see Hephaestus be a main character, but I doubt he’ll be a crippled burn victim like he is in the myths.
So, thanks, Wrath of the Titans, for giving us yet another predictable stereotypical action movie. If that’s how you like your action movies and don’t mind the poor understanding of Greek mythology then this movie is for you. If you want to see something good this March, I suggest you go see The Hunger Games, or hell, maybe stop rotting your brain and pick up the book series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, as that’s entertaining and accurate to Greek myths, while still doing something new and interesting (do not under any circumstances watch the movie though).