Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Guest Post by Drama Girl: Myths in the Media

    I would be the first to admit that Hercules was probably my favorite movie when I was younger. In this Disney film, you got your comic relief, in the form of the adorable minions Pain and Panic, your romance, with Meg and Hercules, and of course, the villain--Hades.

    But why does Hades always have to be the villain? In this film, he is portrayed as a power-hungry maniac, while sarcastic and witty, still wants to rule the world and overthrow the gods of Olympus. But besides going against the very basis of Greek Mythology, this depiction of Hades is only one of many that have sought to use him as a scapegoat for all that is evil.

    The first problem with this film is obviously the title. Anyone who knows the tale of this hero knows that the Greek form of his name is spelled Herakles, or Heracles. While this wouldn’t normally bother me, it is the fact that this mistake is so easily rectified that makes me wonder who got dropped on their head at birth to come up with the title.

    But back to Hades. He is obviously the villain, with his ominous blue fire hair and villainous voice. But all of his motivation throughout the entire movie is based on something that while interesting, is nowhere near anything resembling Greek mythology.

    While there are always differences in every myth, such as how many brothers and sisters Cronos had or the exact pronunciation of Menelaus, there are basic storylines that must be followed.

    The Hades in this film breaks not one, but two of these widely accepted myths.

    The first is his motivation and sense that he has to overthrow Olympus and rule the world. Say what you will, but Hades certainly does not want to overthrow Olympus. Besides his loyalty to his brothers and sisters, however unapparent, there is the fact that his sense of duty keeps him in the Underworld. He is content to bring the outside world to him, in his kidnapping of Persephone, his wife who is never mentioned in the movie.

    It is this same sense of duty that would never let him release the Titans. Their imprisonment in Tartarus goes back before his birth, and that is truly his primary purpose in the Underworld--to keep them there. Along those lines, the depictions of the ancient Titans in this movie is shudderingly inaccurate. They are portrayed as puppets at the hands of Hades, a strange sight indeed since they were once in a war against him, and all.

    In the end, I feel that although this film does need a villain, as every story does, Hades is far from the perfect candidate. The fact that he was chosen is even more agonizing for us myth junkies, because let’s all think of the story of Heracles--doesn’t he already have a driving force, in the form of a demented king who sends him on impossible tasks and may or may not go by the name of Augeas?

    But that is not my only beef with Hollywood at the moment. It has come to my attention that in the soon-to-be released film The Avengers, the main villain is Loki, a trickster god of Norse mythology.
    Before I go into his part in the film, let me tell you what I think of Loki. He is unique in the way that he does not have a direct counterpart in other mythologies. What other tale describes the story of a half-Chaos ball of fire, blood brother to the king of the gods? The fact that Loki is so unique makes it so much worse for me to see him become the villain.

    There is also the fact that, while unlike any other god, Loki is not black and white. In fact, his primary quality is that you do not know whose side he is on, or if he is even on a side. My opinion of Loki is based on a quote I read in a book whose name I have forgotten; “He made even the goddess Skadi laugh, as she was mourning for the death of her father.” This is a story I have seen echoed in various places--Loki, while he plays tricks and irritates the gods of Asgard, is at heart a playful comedian, despite the fact that his pranks may sometimes take a turn for the worst.

    But again, we see a complex character made into a villain. Though I have not seen the film Thor(because I am sure I would talk through the whole movie) to my understanding, The Avengers features Loki as the bitter villain from that film, bent on ruling the world. Oh, that sounds familiar.

    All this is leading up to my opinion of myths in the media these days. I believe that if a director or screenwriter chooses to base a character off of one in mythology, they do so for two reasons--the first is to tell the tale as it is in the myth, a simple matter of storytelling. But the second is to use the character, and the popular ideas centered around their name, to avoid coming up with original characters with their own backstory. In this case, the writers simply draw from popular belief, such as that Hades is evil because he deals with dead people or that Loki wants power because he stirs up trouble among his friends, and they take those beliefs and expand and exaggerate them to fit whatever story they are telling.

    The fact of the matter is, the characters of mythology are never black and white. The writers have two options--they can either use the names and stories associated with someone in mythology with proper respect to their story and complexities, or they can simply get off their lazy butts and come up with their own villains.

2 people stopped folding laundry to write:

Kandra (mindboggld) said...

Well put! Hercules is one of my fave Disney movies - even now. I love Pain and Panic (reporting for duty!). I love Meg and her I don't care/ whatevs attitude. I think Phil is hilarious and the muses make the movie for me! Yes I'm 36 and have a thing for Disney cartoons :)

With that said, I agree - the spelling always bothered me too! I also always wondered why Hera wasn't the villain. I mean, we're talking about Heracles! Right? And the whole unleash the titans thing bothered me too!! hahaha :D

Denise P said...

The most interesting thing to me, if you know the myth well, is what is changed and what is left out for the time period and audience. The Disney movie totally leaved out the whole, cheating/illegitimate child thing.

And, in any case, I still like Disney's Hercules much much better than Disney's Pocahontas, which has lots of it's own fact issues, and isn't nearly as funny!

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