Sunday, March 28, 2010

demigods and demons!

It was Angus' birthday yesterday - his twelfth! I find it hard to think that he will be gearing up for his first driving lessons in just over five years' time. And possibly moving off to university just another 18 months after that. They say children keep you young: However, it is in the counting of their years that you start to feel old. The fortunate thing is that this sense of impending senescence can be shared quite freely with friends and colleagues.

 He wanted a fairly quiet birthday - no parties, no jelly and ice cream - so we went to the cinema instead. Actually, it was an early introduction to the cinema that probably hastened his birth. Nur and I went to see Face/Off, and the volume on the thing was cranked up so loud (a typical feature of Turkish cinemas) that he started kicking and moving around violently in his mum's belly. He was born a few days later. Anyway, we went to see Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, the first of what bodes to be a long series of films. Angus has read the books, and had really wanted to see this. I wasn't too sure about it, even though I'm a great fan of anything fantastical and mythological, but how could I possibly disappoint my son on his birthday?
 I have to admit, I struggled somewhat through it. For starters, and for various reasons, I'd only had an hour and a half's sleep the night before, so you can imagine how I struggled against the morphean dark and warmth of a cinema. The film itself - hmm. Perfectly decent teen fodder, actually, although at odds with the book, as Angus couldn't help loudly pronouncing at various points throughout. However, I couldn't help but get annoyed by some of the extraordinary liberties taken with Greek mythologies. The worst was the portrayal of the Underworld as a place of burning torment. The ancient Greeks saw it as nothing such - rather, the place, with the exception of the lucky few who made it to the Elysian Fields, seemed to be rather like a particularly dismal office party somewhere in Croydon, except everyone had forgotten why they were there. This is still a step up from the Sumerian view of the Afterlife, however, where the soul was seen a limed bird, scratching futilely at dust forever. And I thought the portrayal of Hades as a dissolute ageing rock star was one of the laziest pieces of stereotyping I've seen in ages - you know, rock is the Devil's music etc. Obviously done with an eye on the pious God Botherer market, just to cater to their perception of what the underworld is.
 Two other things bothered me. Firstly, it was way too much Harry Potter, but with Ancient Greek Bits. It was the Destiny of the Orphan Boy story, where he is revealed to be far more than he thought. Now, this is a great meme - it has universal appeal: After all, who hasn't dreamed that they are some kind of Secret Prince, waiting to be revealed? Apart from Prince William, possibly. Which leads me into the second botherment, if you can survive such an ugly neologism. Why do we need Special? Why do we need Demigods? Why Gods? Why are we so ready to abrogate responsibility? Why do we need to to find the Get Out Clause and say 'I need a Hero?'
As far as I can see, the vast majority of Heroes in mythology are generally impetuous, not prone to introspection, eager to dole out violence, and mostly a bit dumb. But not quite as stupid as those who follow them, or look to them to solve their problems. You see, that's the problem with people - they're perfectly happy to hand over responsibility to some loud shouty fellow who says, 'I'm a leader, I've got the answer', rather than decide things for themselves, simply because they're a) lazy, b)busy with the minutiae of their immediate concerns, and c) stupid. After all, you wouldn't hand your valuables to a theif and expect him to look after them for you, so why hand over something far more valuable to someone who claims to lead - namely, your responsibility and your freedom?
This is precisel why I'm such a cynical bastard. I have no heroes. I never will. That doesn't mean I don't admire and respect people: I'm just aware that they are people, and thus frail. And they more they protest their strength, the more I see their vulnerability. I follow no flag, I follow no leader. I'm on no-one's side per se, since to do so would be to unfailingly accept all that they proclaim to be true, and that I can never do, for the reasons above. You might be on my side - but I will always point out my own doubts and weaknesses, and your own, too, and always this one phrase:
The Buck Stops With YOU. Deal with it.

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