Greetings, Fantheon, it has been far too long since last we reconvened. Welcome to the third installment of The Wicked + The Divine Deity Field Guide, detailing brief profiles on the series’ deities and their cultural/historical roots. Though we still know virtually nothing about the elusive final goddess Tara, far too many divine goodies have been revealed to put off this installment any further. In that spirit, let’s dive right into the holy mess that we encountered in the last six issues. Please be mindful that the bio for Persephone contains a major spoiler for #11.
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.
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.