Thursday, October 6, 2016

Assignment for Thursday, 10-13-16

Dear Mythologists,

For Thursday, October 13, please do the following:

(1) Watch the following episodes from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, widely acknowledged as being among the TV series' best:
  • (2.8) "The Other Side" (George Mendeluk, 1995);
  • (5.3) "Resurrection" (Philip Sgriccia, 1998); and
  • (6.8) "Full Circle" (Bruce Campbell, 1999).
In addition to the DVDs being reserved at the library, the series is also streaming on Netflix.

(2) Read the excerpts from Chapter 2 ("Mythconceptions") of Gideon Nisbet's book, Ancient Greece in Film and Popular Culture (Liverpool University Press, 2008). Nisbet is that rare scholar who offers more than a descriptive appraisal of H:TLJ, and his analyses here will help us make sense of Hercules in the 90s and beyond.

(3) Remember by noon on Thursday to comment on this post with your choice of sequences from TWO of the three episodes to view in class.



  1. I would like to watch the scene from the first episode when Persephone and Hades are in the Underworld and Hades is attempting to persuade her to stay (~00:13:08). Before this scene, I was shocked because I thought the episode was going to illustrate the "rape of Persephone." Instead this scene shows that Hades and Persephone are actually "star-crossed lovers" and that Hades' kidnapping of Persephone was the only way they could be together. I believe this was a way for modern media to deal with such a dark topic; they didn't want to highlight the rape so they made it a "kidnapping of love." Also, it's a very Renaissance/Romeo and Juliet scene with Hades wearing armor and Persephone in a Renaissance style dress.

    The other scene I want to watch is from episode 3 from season 5. Of course, I loved this season because - though it wasn't accurate- it was a blending of Celtic and Greek ideas. The scene I wanted to look at was when Hercules first meets Mabon (~00:11:00). I thought this was an interesting difference between how we have seen Greek gods portrayed in the past and how a Celtic god-like figure is portrayed in the show. Mabon is depicted as a child who is both wise and patient. His innocence is almost polar opposite from the Greek gods we see in the show - especially Zeus, Hera, and Ares. I thought this was just an interesting bit of characterization.

    ~Sophie Heath

  2. I'd like to return to episode 2.8 around (-17:50 to -16:42). This is Hercule's rather epic fight scene in the Underworld when he's trying to save Persephone as well as the pigs that she seems to care about significantly. I thought it was terribly amusing how he used the pig in his fight, as well as literally kicking someone's head off at one point. It also intrigued me that this scene seemed to follow a lot of what we noted from the Peplum genre in general, where Hercules showcases his extreme strength and has the ability to easily best most of his challengers.

    I would also like to watch episode 6.8 from around -10:00 to -6:44. This is the final fight scene in the episode, where Hercules is simultaneously trying to defeat Hera (who has regained her memory thanks to Ares) and Atlas, who is trying to collapse Olympus. I thought it was interesting how they managed to bring in Atlas in such a way as to explain how he's holding up the world for eternity, and there were those cut shots that went from Atlas holding up Olympus to Hercules holding up a column, which seemed to me to be a nod to part of Hercules' traditional myth.

  3. In the episode "The Other Side," I would like to watch the scene when Hercules sees Charon in the Underworld. From the films we have seen so far, Charon has always been portrayed as a silent skeleton. However, in the episode Charon not only talks to Hercules but has a casual conversation with him. He also uncharacteristically brings Hercules to the otherside without payment.

    In "Full Circle," I like the scene when Hercules is explaining to Iolaus what would happen if Olympus fell onto Earth. Despite the fact that Hercules is explaining how dire the situation is, he is able to loosen the tension by breaking the fourth wall when he says "folks... my partner."

  4. Season 2 Episode 8:
    The sequence (starts around 20:40) when Hercules starts chasing a pig has an interesting transition. It starts with the light-hearted, well lit pig chase and abruptly shifts to the dark, misty "other side" of the other side (21:22ish) with eerie chanting. It is an obvious, yet satisfyingly simple, way to show contrast.

    Series Finale:
    (1:36:ish-1:38:22): This is the sequence when Hera starts attacking Hercules; it would be nice to watch again because of the way the writers incorporated the Atlas myth. The deflection of Hera's power into the Titan was a fun solution for the destruction of the column.

  5. Season 2 Episode 8:
    I would also like to watch the scene Sophie described. This retelling fits with the feminist neo-pagan reinterpretation of the Persephone myth, where Persephone has some degree of consent in her own kidnapping. Interest in the Persephone/Demeter cult was high in the eighties and nineties among spiritual feminists and feminist theologians. Some proponents of the feminist Persephone cult claim their interpretation is closer to the original intent of the myth of the "rape," but most scholars, I think, regard it as ahistorical or revisionist.

    Season 5 Episode 3:
    I'd like to watch the scene where Mabon talks with Hercules about the gods. It begins at 19:02 and ends at 21:30. In this scene, we watch Mabon counsel Hercules through an identity crisis. The questions Hercules raises for himself make the audience seriously consider their opinion on Hercules and his greater role in society/culture. What does he mean? What good is he to us? It ends with a very anti-atheistic interpretation of the Hercules myths, which fits with a series which features a multitude of gods working alongside or against Hercules.

  6. From Season 2 episode 8, I would love to look at the final scene with Persephone making her choice. I think in addition to being an interesting piece from a feminist perspective, it shows a LOT about the tone of this hercules and this piece.

    From season 6 episode 8:
    introduction of the titans and there talk with Ares. This also shows a lot about the tone of the show, but in another direction. It is fun, and I think looking at these depictions is valuable as the Titans are not represented very often. It also allows us to look at a smarmy Ares, which I think is pretty rare.

  7. In season 2 episode 8, I also want to look at the scene Sophie suggested. This sort of "consensual" abduction is such a departure from the Greek myth. I can understand wanting to be more family friendly, but from the rest of the episode, I can tell that wasn't too much of a concern...
    In season 6 episode 8, I can't help but suggest the imaginary dragon scene (about 5:00-6:30). To me, this is a very obvious indicator that this series is going off the rails. This scene even has a meta moment, addressing that they have run out of ideas.

  8. (2.8) "The Other Side" (George Mendeluk, 1995)- (21:25-24:00) I would like to see the scene of “the other side of the other side”. Clearly, the depiction of Hell in the specific scene is highly influenced by Biblical images and ideas (not only the cinematic setting, but also the kind of torture sinners need to suffer in order to pay for their impurities).

    (6.8) "Full Circle" (Bruce Campbell, 1999)- (13:27- 17:30) I would like to watch Hera’s come back from the “scary dark place”. It was an interesting moment because for the first time ever Zeus seems guilty for all his infidelity and kind of tries to make up for it, but at the same time creates an even bigger problem (his all mighty -wise nature is questioned). Also, Hercules is the only one capable of actually challenging Zeus’ actions and the two end up in a father-son clash.


  9. The first scene I'd like to look at is from 2.8, at about 6:40, when Hercules sits with the starving farmer and his family. While we see Hercules from eye-level shots, we only see the farmer from a low angle, which emphasizes how gaunt and desperate he is. Seeing the farmer and his family in this way forces Hercules to intervene in the gods' matters, since he, like Perseus in the 2010 Clash, seems seems to identify more with humanity than with the gods and puts on the appearance of a modest, everyday man.

    The second scene I'd like to look at is from 6.8, at about 40:00, when Hercules and Iolaus make fun of Ares. I thought it was funny how lighthearted Hercules and Iolaus are about Ares, who just tried to have his entire family killed. I think the close up of Ares's teary face and his sniffling as he walks away makes the gods' actions overall seem petty and childish.

  10. I'll second Khang's request for the final scene of 6.8, where Hercules and Iolaus cajole Ares and briefly enter retirement. It's interesting to note that this is the last scene of the show, although it doesn't really feel like it because the writers had a chance to wrap things up neatly but decided to leave things open ended. It also demonstrates the humor of the series, which (in my eyes) is painfully stilted and telegraphed most of the time. Finally, the mockery of Ares' typical lines and discussion about the relationship between Hera and Zeus does manage to capitalize well on the episodic nature of a TV show. This something Hercules has done many times before and it makes his adventures feel more like they do in the myths then they do in the movies we've seen so far.

    1. For my second choice, I want to watch the escape sequence in 2.8, starting at roughly 37:37 and lasting to the end of the episode. (Netflix timestamping is hard). This scene explores the interesting dynamic between Persephone, Hades, and Diameter, although perhaps not in the most compelling of ways. This version of the myth explores a version of Persephone who is either genuinely lovestruck or has stockholm syndrome, and parallels that with the temptation of Hercules joining his dead wife. It's an effort to give Persephone more agency while still retaining a tragic element to the story, and to give Hades some humanity (particularly in his offer to let Hercules see his family one last time).