Ah, Hercules. If Harry Potter was my older childhood, then Disney’s Hercules was my younger childhood, as it came out in 1997. It was one of the few new movies that I didn’t have to wait for my local Blockbuster to catch up on (unlike The Last Unicorn). I was super hyped about it from the moment I first heard it was coming out. Why? Because it was full of Greek people—just like me! See, representation matters!
My parents encouraged this, because even though modern Greeks share hardly anything culturally or religiously with ancient Greeks anymore, they are very proud of their classical heritage. Most Greek kids learn a ton about ancient Greek history and mythology from their families. So my parents had no problem letting me see this movie in theaters and watching it again and again once it came out on video. It’s the story of, well, Hercules, a super-strong son of Zeus raised on Earth who seeks to become a True Hero, and must fight against the evil Hades, god of the Underworld. It’s going to be hard to take off my nostalgia glasses for this one, but I’ll give it a shot in my spoilerific review below!
¡Feliz Día de los Muertos! It’s November 2nd, known commonly in Christian liturgical calendars as All Souls’ Day, and frequently in Hispanic countries as Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) or Día de los Difuntos (Day of the Deceased). Festivals to honor the ancestors are a universal cultural phenomenon, but the expression of “Day of the Dead” in the popular imagination with its characteristic trappings is a confluence of folk Catholicism and pre-Christian Mesoamerican (Aztec in particular) indigenous traditions from parts of Mexico. The 2014 American film The Book of Life, which just opened a few weeks ago, is a rollicking romp set with this backdrop of Mexican Day of the Dead celebration, directed and co-written by Mexican animator and creator Jorge Gutiérrez. Though I am of a different Hispanic descent (Ecuadorian to be exact), I was excited to see a children’s movie celebrating any Latin American culture when the vast majority have backdrops of European folklore. I went in hoping for a lot, and left disappointed and offended.
This post comes from a thought-storm that’s been brewing since I re-watched The Princess and the Frog a few months ago. Such a fun film! After re-watching it, I found some commentaries and criticisms that stuck out to me, namely this one—a quote from a British critic: “Disney may wish to reach out to people of colour—but the colour green wasn’t what we had in mind.” The fact that Tiana spends more time in frog form than human form is a little unsettling if compared to other Disney Princesses who, well, get to retain their natural skin color for the duration of their films. The next catalyst for this post was the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/the Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, a character who, no matter his racial background, will frequently appear shrouded completely in flames, a state which renders his human features practically negligible. Why does it seem so difficult to find genre media creators/producers willing to create media with Black characters who get to show they are Black?
Some of the highest profile Black characters in pop culture media?