To say that I “like” Greek mythology is an understatement. In fact, in order to fully demonstrate how hilariously understatement-y that is, let me start by explaining that if you’re someone I consider to be a close friend, there’s a 99.99999% chance that you know one or all of the following things about me:
- I woke up every morning in high school to Arcade Fire’s “Funeral”
- Why my personal blog’s named “moonshine girl”
- That I wrote my college common app essay on Greek mythology
So, yeah. My obsession with Greek mythology is one of those things with which I self-define. Some people share Buzzfeed posts like “27 Things All Awkward People Can Relate To” or “15 Things You Know if You’re A Ballet Dancer”? Yeah, if someone wrote something like “9 Reasons Why Greek Mythology is the Shit,” I’d share it in a heartbeat. (After fact-checking it to death, because pop culture hasn’t necessarily treated Greek mythology very well.)
But for all my Greek mythology luvin’, there’s one very culturally visible hero that I’ve never really gotten into. While I love me some Perseus and Hippolyta and the shenanigans that went on pre-/during-post-Trojan War tales, I am less than pleased about the fixation upon, the trumpeting of, Heracles.
Wait!, you might say, That isn’t how you spell “Hercules”! That’s right — but the modern-day Hercules is derived from the ancient Greek hero Heracles, and just because the Romans redid everything from the Greeks doesn’t mean that this original spelling should too be lost to the infinite annals of time.
It’s kind of a shame that I’m not “into” Heracles more. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Disney movie as much as the rest of the world, but when I heard that there are two movies about this divine hero in the works — starring
The Rock excuse me, Dwayne Johnson and Kellan Lutz — I just kind of stared into the distance and thought “Well geez.”
It’s not to say that the story isn’t compelling: the labors of Heracles are some crazy stuff. But the fact that out of all the rich mythology that exists out there, studios are choosing to focus on this one, annoys the heck out of me. Yes, the Percy Jackson novels (which, amazingly, I haven’t read yet) are out there and doing some interesting story things with mythology, and I suppose “Clash of the Titans” and its ilk exist, but there’s still this obsession with the Big Damn Hero, and Heracles neatly fits that bill in as large a way possible.
Why, exactly, could this be a problem? It’s not the inherent premise itself, but rather the idea that of course the suffering mega-buff male hero is the most popular guy this side of Olympus. And that’s true of all the stories from this mythological era that people seem to draw from: it’s “Troy,” and “Immortals,” and the aforementioned “Titans,” and “300,” and on and on and on.
It’s not that I don’t love me some sweaty, bloody, totally ripped, steely-eyed capital-M Man men. But rather that there’s so much more from these stories that also lend themselves to the kind of narrative plundering of which our modern times are so fond. Like, hello, what about the story of Persephone doesn’t scream “This is epically tragic and totally compelling”? Or if someone were to base a modern femme fatale off of Clytemnestra — that’s some soap opera-level plotting going on. Or hell, if you’re gonna get Olympian, then how about shining a spotlight on Hermes, on Apollo and Artemis, on Athena?
If it sounds like I’m salty ’bout it, I am. But hey, just because the big bucks are going in one particular direction doesn’t mean that it always has to be that way. Or at least, that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself while a superhero film featuring a goddamned Amazon princess never gets made…