Tuesday, May 29, 2012

#35: Heroes & Pastries

Hercules, 1997
watched May 20, 2012

After two consecutive more serious Renaissance films, Hercules returns us to a more lighthearted, fun movie experience. Stylistically, the film intentionally mimics the sculpture and pottery of ancient Greece, giving it a very different look from its predecessors. The resulting boxy, two-dimensional style isn't my favorite, but I will forgive Disney, if only for the fact that teenager Hercules' ears look exactly like cinnamon buns. Yum.
Greek sculpture & pottery depicting "Herakles" - on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts. I took this picture back in December for the very purpose of posting it on my blog. :)
Seriously. Cinnamon buns!
If I ever had the ambition to pursue a completely useless degree for the sake of pure interest in the subject, I would have studied Greek mythology. Ever since middle school, when we first read stories about Zeus, Hera, Athena, and all the other gods of ancient Greece, I've always been fascinated by them. It's no wonder that Disney chose to draw from this world of dynamic, flawed characters and their intriguing stories.

And Hercules is a wonderful fit for the Renaissance era. He's born a god, but after being orphaned and zapped of most of his immortal power, he lives on earth, struggling to find out where he belongs. This self-discovery journey is quite familiar, as Hercules joins all our other Renaissance heroes and heroines who long to figure out what their purpose is, who they truly were made to be.

In this particular adaptation of the myth, Hercules sets out to prove himself a true hero so that he can return to Mt. Olympus and achieve his god-status. So Hercules does everything he thinks heroism means. He gets buff. He trains hard. He fights the bad guys. He loses the cinnamon bun ears. (They still look a little weird though. Maybe kind of like scones. I could really use a breakfast pastry right now...) On top of it all, he remains humble. No wonder Meg, the ultimate cynic, falls in love with him.

And yet, none of that really matters.

It's easy to be brave when there isn't that much at stake. The stuff we're made of is revealed at our weakest, darkest moments. When we've lost everything, when life is hard. Hercules becomes a hero not through physical strength or even bravery. It happens when he sacrificially loves the one who has hurt him.

It's spelled out pretty clearly for us this time. A true hero is one who loves his betrayer, who gives his life for theirs, who dies to see them saved. Hercules is one of the most obvious, but also compelling Savior figures in any Disney movie, cinnamon bun ears and all.

(Thanks for that low-hanging fruit, Disney!)

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