excelsis: disney's aurora holding her hands happily (♔ "a woman (you're a-! a!))
[personal profile] excelsis
content warning: rape, prostitution, violence against women, natural disaster

Screen shot 2014-01-12 at 11.20.53 PM

MEG "Sometimes it's better to be alone. Then no one can hurt you."




I would argue Hercules suffers because it does not realize it isn't really a movie about Hercules, but the supporting characters. Primarily: Phil, Meg, and Hades. Much like Superman, Disney's version of Hercules is a character and god to be looked up to. His earnestness to belong is relatable, but he has a heart that sets him apart from human beings, and a glory to match. The movie is more about how he changes others around him, rather than ever being changed himself. He begins naive and strives to hone and control his terrifying strength, but the things he believes in never really change.

And, for a movie with gods everywhere, this is more of a 'pro-humanity movie in the midst of gods using the humans at their mercy' narrative. The background of this world shows humans in a constant tug of war: between the oblivious contentment of the gods on Olympus, and the apathy of Hades and the fates in the Underworld. Disney takes a lot of the atrocious stuff out of the myths like Zeus and Hara's rape rampages and other violent fire, but there is enough left for some uncomfortable subtext.

The best example of this is Zeus casually striking down Phil with lightening, when the satyr is turning down Hercules. It's played as a comedic moment because, to us, Phil is being stubborn and refusing to see that the answer to his dreams is in front of him. But it also is Zeus taking away Phil's agency, because it isn't convenient. When the Titans are unleashed, only one half second of a scene implies people's lives are erased. But it is there. The Rock Titan's monologue shows whole communities crushed under its girth as it moves towards Olympus. (I guess whole towns smothered in boiling lava was too traumatic, and honestly, thank god for the person who made that decision, because Disney traumatizes people enough.) THEN there are the scenes with the fates and Hades, and their attitude towards the souls after their death. OVER 500000000001 SERVED is played for laughs, but the point is clear: human lives are for games, and their deaths are for business.

MEG "You want to be petty and dishonest?"
HERCULES "Everyone's not like that."
MEG "Yes they are."


This line is interesting, considering in this universe the existence of gods is more or less confirmed to humanity. Meg is pretty obviously thinking about not only her own experience with people like her ex, or herself, but also gods like Hades. The middle one is what Hercules picks up on, because he doesn't know of her past or her current life with Hades. [Meg looks at Hercules perception of her more than once with wonder. :(]

But, now to Meg herself. First, she isn't in any sort of position of power for all her spunk! She sold her soul to save a loved one (Winchesters and this girl would get along perfectly), and the price means she is Hades' servant - until he says otherwise.




QUESTION: Is Meg young as long as Hades needs her to be to do his schemes? If so, how long has Meg
been doing this for Hades? Has she actually been this age a lot longer than we think? :( Meg!


Pondering aside, really, Meg represents the control group humanity. For all the background characters' dry commentary, ultimately, humans accept their lives and homes are all just betting chips of gods - Hercules' humanity and Phil's nature being 'special circumstances' or 'extra.' The scene where Hades tells her she can be free if she gives him Hercules' weakness is pretty tragic; freedom is a word that no other main or side character has to worry about, but it leaves her speechless as she symbolically drops and shatters the vase with Hercules' face painted on it. That's right, everyone in the movie has problems, but none of them have Meg's problem. She is completely alone in this, and the isolation is very clear. It's even more heart breaking when Meg snaps and throws the offer of freedom back in Hades face, because the loss of Hercules' blind optimism and sweetness (or his life), driving his heroism, are not worth her freedom. Meg is basically blinding in all her self-worth issues, which she had kept so tightly under wraps until this point.

HERCULES "I didn't know hooky could be this much fun!"
MEG "Yeah... Neither did I."



Meg's hooky is not for Hercules' benefit, she is still looking for weaknesses! Instead, it is for herself. Simply, she could be away from Hades ordering her body around, and be around a boy who values her emotions and opinions and laughter - instead of sex with her. Meg is someone used to being prostituted. She's with the River Guardian Nexus for no other reason than to convince him with her body, and she casually explains rape culture to Hercules before pointing out (and nailing) Phil's own sexism. And this time, Hades didn't just prostitute Meg's womanly wiles for Hercules. He prostituted her emotions, and this is what nearly destroyed her. She is overt in her sexuality when it is false, but when Hercules is leaning in to kiss her and Meg is leaning back, Meg is vulnerable, soft-spoken, and hesitant at the idea of such an act being real, though her sheer desire for it is obvious as she leans toward him too.

I think when the rest of the movie is put into context, the scene of her telling Hades to find another girl, she's quit is huge. For all her bravado, animated scenes shows she is terrified of Hades when he is angry with her, cowering as he erupts in red flames screaming I OWN YOU, because he is the freaking god of death. Quiet rebellions like her break in character to frown at Hercules' joyous reaction to children in danger, applauding Hercules' defeat of the hydra, her smirks while Hades wallows in near defeat, and her righteous joy as she declares Hercules has no weaknesses to Hades, were one thing. Because there's very chilling subtext that even if he ever released her to live a mortal life, she has to play close the vest 24/7, because she would see him again when she died. Because that is the only option for what happens to humans in this canon. So, this scene is Meg all but throwing herself into the river of the dead! She knows full well what being useless to Hades means, but she isn't letting it scare her anymore. She refuses to be controlled and cowed and manipulated. She isn't exactly standing before a salivating hydra in a stadium, but for a human, this is pretty close to flicking one off and throwing away any sword or shield... with a victorious smile on her face.

Because, again, Meg believes Hercules can stop Hades.  At some point, no matter how entangled Hades orders and her emotions became, she believed this, and continues to, even after Hercules rejects her when Hades drops the truth bomb. She believes Hercules is a hero to beat Death, and foil his plan to overthrow the gods. In other words, Meg believes Hercules is the real deal, unlike any other god she's been long disillusioned by, and can save humanity. She won't put herself before that. She looked at her own freedom, and saw nothing as important as Hades defeat.




HADES: You sold your soul to me to save your boyfriend's life.




HERA "(Hercules) You were willing to give your life for this young woman."
ZEUS "A true hero isn't measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart."


Meg was already a hero, but she's the hero where nothing ended up working out for her. It's not a parallel of Hercules' youth where he tried heroics as well, because Hercules' stakes had never been as high as what Meg had 'sold' to save her loved one's life in her youth. Arguably, no one ever sacrifices what Meg had for love. She gives and gives on screen and off: her life and her desires and her soul - and got Hades.

Hercules, we are told by Zeus in the first act, already has the capacity to be a god; so to the movie, his trials are seen as more of a formality at times, a riddle he just has to figure out. Even the test of giving his life hadn't ever been something Hercules had qualms against, so that his sacrifice was not any sort of character development. It has unfortunate implications, if anything, again, of the gods' standards considering Meg and other humans sell their lives to Hades frequently for equally desperate, noble reasons as often as selfish ones, and have no such blessings.

Meg accepts that she is human, and Hercules is a god, above her in every way. She doesn't delude herself thinking he would like her when every other god would see it as being tied down, when every other god only comes among mortals to use them briefly. Plus, like, Aphrodite. Hercules proved a god she could believe in, but that doesn't mean she can look to any of the others any more than she had before.


MEG "Congratulations, Hercules. You'll make one heck of a god."



And Meg is totally ready to let Hercules go.


HADES "Meg, a deal's a deal sweet cheeks. You're off the hook."


When Hercules articulates this deal with Hades will result in humans being hurt, Meg is emphatic for him to listen to this and value this more. It's super telling that soon as Meg becomes literally unchained to Hades - as soon as she has her agency free at last, the want which has been driving her, she uses all information she has to help Hercules/the world. She's disgusted and near tears when Hades physically drapes her around, and tries to get Hercules away from him. She is horrified at Hercules' broken heart, at seeing his ideals being humiliated. She runs after Hercules that he can't fight without his strength, ie, he has to find a way to get it back. When he pushes her away, she rushes to free Pegasus so he can find Phil.


MEG "I know what I did was wrong, but this isn't about me, it's about him! If you don't help him now Phil, he'll die."


Meg is terrified, but she is determined, and sees the larger picture past herself. She gets Pegasus, Phil, and Hercules' priorities in order to do the same. She rescues Pegasus. She snaps at him to stop focusing on his hatred for her, she tells him Hercules is in danger, and she tells him the best way to get through to him is to find Phil. She's the one who talks sense past Phil's own hurt feelings, so Phil can spur Hercules to fight. Finally, Meg's established, sound desire to be free for a life of her own - I bet money she figured out Hades' riddle and loop hole sooner - is sacrificed the second she sees Hercules could die. She's the one who saves Hercules' life by shoving him out of the way.  She breaks Hades' deal to give him back his strength, and is not surprised at all when this happens, indicating again that she knew full well. Even as she struggles to breathe, she won't let him mope on her: she tells him to go (she is a damsel; she is in distress; she will handle this). It's only through Meg that Hercules is able to save Olympus. It's only because of Meg's sacrifice he gets driven to the Underworld as he does, and obtains godhood, his power upgrade solidifying Hades' defeat.


HERCULES "You like making deals. Take me in Meg's place."


How did he get this idea? From 'people do crazy things when they're in love' Meg. When she died, he took her lead, and pursued the craziest thing he could think of. Hercules also beat Hades' gambles. Just like Meg did (though her sacrifice led to a sewage-like river, and Hercules' to golden skin and strength (again, another depressing canon for humans vs gods in this movie)).

It is very sad to see Meg watch Hercules with the other gods with a practiced acceptance. Gods do not belong with humans. Meg never saw herself as Hercules' love interest, and she has no reason to believe her place as anything but walking off stage, a prop no longer needed. However, Hercules does not objectify Meg, and rushes back to her. He declares that on earth is where he belongs, because Meg is there. In other words: it's not she who belongs to him, but he to her. Meg dawns with hope, and takes over their kiss enthusiastically and freely. Hercules returns to earth, and Zeus decorates the sky with a new constellation, and Phil gets his dream come true.

I could go on, but you get my point: Ultimately, Hercules didn't save the day. Meg did. Meg made the entire final climax of the movie happen. Not just by 'dying and the male hero has to save her' (another conversation, but for Meg, who never had someone try to save her, my emotions are a roller coaster regarding it). She got everyone from point A to point B, and she got everyone to act their part, with only her own conviction. The myth of Hercules might have been rewritten, but I do not care. The woman who was brutally murdered in the myth made the god damn happy ending: and she got to have it too, even after she resigned the latter to be impossible.

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