Blood of Zeus is the unexpected animated hit on Netflix that delves into the world of Greek mythology. It’s a beautiful and bold bit of escapism, but does it also have a problem with its female characters?
Greek mythology is having a bit of a moment in the zeitgeist right now, as ancient stories continue to be retold through the feminist lens – and we’re loving it.
Madeline Miller’s bestselling novel Circe has been so popular since its 2019 release that HBO is now adapting it for the screen. The book explores the life of the rejected goddess Circe who had witchcraft powers. After being banished to the island of Aiaia by her father Helios, she starts to embrace her differences and hone her occult craft. It’s a tale that tells the “inextinguishable song of [a] woman burning hot and bright through the darkness of a man’s world”.
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Then there’s Natalie Hayne’s A Thousand Ships, which since it’s release last year has been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize 2020. The novel powerfully tells the stories of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective, from the Trojan women whose fates now lie in the hands of the Greeks to the Amazon princess who fought Achilles on their behalf. It reminds us: “This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of them all…”
This fascination with revisiting some of the best and most famous stories ever told helps to explain why a new Netflix series based on Ancient Greece made it onto Netflix’s U.S. top ten most-viewed list this week.
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Blood of Zeus is a strikingly beautiful animated eight-part series that tells the tale of a human peasant, Heron, who learns he’s the son of Zeus. When a half-demon called Seraphim shows up, it opens up a whole can of worms and reignites a huge war between the Immortals of Olympus and the ancient Giants.
It’s completely over the top, it’s pretty gory and you need quite an imagination to run with it – but maybe that’s exactly the escapism that people need right now.
Let’s take a look at the trailer to get a taster:
While it is indeed an incredible story, complete with powerful female characters, there are admittedly a few problems with how these women are written in the series.
Alexia, an Amazonian, is a total bad-ass in the first few episodes, overshadowing Heron and showing him what a real warrior looks like. By the end of the first season, however, she is slowly sidelined. And then there’s Hera – one of the most powerful goddesses out there whose actions are motivated by… jealousy over her husband Zeus’ affairs. Athena, the goddess of war, is also noticeably missing from the war that – judging by her self-explanatory title – she would very much have been involved in.
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With the last episode ending on a major cliffhanger, it’s more than likely that writers Vlas and Charley Parlapanides have a second season in store for us. Perhaps this provides an opportunity to give these female leads fresher arcs and more screen time?
Because, sure, women were treated like crap in the ancient world and this series hasn’t promised to be a modern, feminist retelling. But, as Miller and Haynes have proved, the women in Greek mythology are still waiting for their true stories to be told – and we’re hungry for them.
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