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Greek Myths: the Remake

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I love it that we imagined descendants of Classical Civilizations continue to retell Greek myths. Xena was like my favorite show EVARRR and going with my fellow Classics majors in college to see Troy and laughing at all the wrong times together was way fun.Helen, played by Kruger in Troy My favorite mythically inspired movie is, without question, O Brother Where Art Thou and who doesn’t like Mary Renault’s The King Must Die?

Obviously, these are not generally intended to give an accurate portrayal of what ancient Greek myths looked like or meant to ancient Greeks. And why should they? There aren’t any ancient Greeks around to appreciate such efforts anyway! There are, on the other hand, plenty of people like you and me who are finding ways to make those stories relevant to our lives in entirely different and equally “valid” ways. It’s a great opportunity for social introspection.

On the other hand, sometimes it drives me nuts. Instead of looking at how Disney’s Hercules made Hera our hero’s birthmom (to take one tiny example) and saying, “How fascinating that they refuse to even allow the hint of Zeus’ infidelity, this really says something about our culture’s approach to raising children,” people smile and nod as their kids reel off the version as definitive. The problem here is that these stories become privileged. They start getting cited as proof of correct behavior because “it’s always been this way.”

It ain’t Disney’s fault any more than its Mary Renault’s fault or my fault as creator of paleothea.com or even your fault, dear reader. It’s how stories work. It’s why they are so powerful, so important.


Comments

2 responses to “Greek Myths: the Remake”

  1. When students come into class, they refer to the Hercules movie or TV series, the Percy Jackson books, Age of Mythology, or some made for TV movie that they saw. This is indeed a double edged sword in that they are excited that they know something about what we are learning but some also get frustrated because when we learn the “real” version it doesn’t mesh with what they thought it was. I’m weird about it too. I’ll sit down and watch Clash of the Titans, which is about as off as you can get and still be mythology inspired, but then I’ll watch a TV version of Jason and the Argonauts and get irritated by the inaccuracies. I thought maybe it was just some English teacher nerd thing.

  2. omg, totally.

    And I can’t believe I forgot to mention games! Totally influential. And I am MUCH more likely to get annoyed at inaccuracy! Hah! I’m a curmudgeon.

    I am glad for teachers like you. I wish I’d had one!

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