Sunday, April 4, 2010

Now, THAT'S Perseus.

Perseus holding the head of Medusa, sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini. This statue is located in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence, Italy. Note the details: winged cap, no horse, a specific blade given by Hephaestus. Not included in the sculpture are the other iconic parts of the myth: the purse that could expand to hold Medusa's head, and Athena's highly polished shield, which allowed the hero to see and slay the only mortal Gorgon.

I find it a bit of a coincidence that the last two movies I saw have both been riffs on the myth of Perseus: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and Clash of the Titans [2010].

What did not surprise me was that both movies got the story rather...wrong. The current generation of moviegoers doesn't know their Greek myths, and no one cares enough to get all the details right.

Coming out of the theater where I saw Clash with my partner tonight, I accidentally listened in on a girl as she enthusiastically explained to her companion that the movie was a riff on the Christ theme. This is probably due to how Perseus was presented: the only demigod on earth, therefore a "son of god" and a savior. Proves my point in the previous paragraph, really....

At least Percy Jackson made it a central part of the plot that the gods simply could not keep it in their royal pants and kept producing so many half-divine children.

When I was a kid one of my favorite books was Edith Hamilton's 1942 book Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. I had been given a paperback reprint copy for some occasion or another, and basically read it near to shreds. And one of my favorite myths was that of Perseus.

I've been cringing a lot at all these remakings and revisitings of the Greek, Roman, and Norse tales. I have loved these tales of tragedy and triumph for many years, and to see them get mucked around with through accident or design really rather hurts quite a bit.

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