Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thursentary: George O'Connor

This is me: if I believe something, I believe it wholeheartedly no matter how many questions I have, and if I don’t believe something, I refuse to believe it until I am sufficiently convinced.

From fifth grade to eighth grade, I loved Greek Mythology, and there was nothing I believed more than this: Zeus and Hera SUCKED.

In all the ways. I mean, if you asked me, I couldn’t even say something I liked about them—it was a long list of this-and-this-and-this-and-this against them. To be fair, a lot of my mythology material supported my opinion:

  • Myth-o-Mania—Zeus is a fat, lying turd and Hera is superficial and whiny
  • Percy Jackson—Zeus is ignorant and rude, and Hera is corrupt and manipulative
  • Pandora—Zeus punishes the protagonist and Hera is the actual antagonist
  • Iris, Messenger—Zeus is a fat bastard on a couch and Hera is his fat, bitter wife
  • Cronus Chronicles—I don’t recall exactly, but by the time I got to the end of this trilogy I believe I was pretty fed up with ALL the gods
  • Hercules (Disney)—well, Zeus and Hera weren’t evil, but Hades was, and who’s going to trust a movie where Hades is the bad guy?

Sure, I read Edith Hamilton’s rendition. I was so myth-crazy I read every page of the Western mythology in my mythology encyclopedia. (It’s small print and at over a foot long; I don’t know what I was thinking.)

Everything just confirmed my fears: Hera was abusive, vindictive, jealous, and idiotic; Zeus was unfaithful, unwise, a major jerk, and ugly. This I believed with all my heart, and NO ONE was going to tell me I was wrong.

Enter George O’Connor.

I picked up the first two books of the Olympians graphic novel series on a whim: Athena and Zeus. Athena I liked, but Zeus? I didn’t have much hope: I fully anticipated the disgusting hatred for Zeus I’d always had.

via Goodreads
First I was frustrated. How on earth could this guy write Zeus like a normal person? Like he wasn’t an immoral poopface and the epitome of boorish, brainless idiocy in human society? Who did he think he was?

I was so confused, I read it again. And again. And dang it all—I got it.

There was something about Zeus. It’s not that he was completely evil, I realized. It was just that he wasn’t completely good. 

Okay, fine, I thought. FINE. I concede. Zeus is okay. Only okay. But no way, no how, by any means or any miracle of God would he convince me in his next book that Hera was anything like that.

via Goodreads
I managed to get through the book with that mindset, scoffing as I finished. But, the author’s note is where he saves the surprises to blow your mind. My mind exploded.

Hera is his favorite goddess.

What the flipping what what? I flipped straight back to the beginning—because no way in Tartarus could this guy consider HERA of all people to be best! Had no one told him about the vindictive jealousy? Did he not realize that he drew Hera being a complete *censored* to the whole Olympian population?

But… Again… It isn’t that Hera is completely evil. It’s just that she isn’t completely good.

Zeus was a father. A husband. He loved his family and wanted what was best for everyone—he sought justice and peace and compromise; he did great things. Hera was a mom. She made Hercules into a hero. She had her girlish days. She hurt on the inside but she never let it break her—she was strong.

What I’d never stopped to think about in the mythology fiction I read was that some authors commit terrible, terrible crimes by sorting the gods into two parties: “good guys” and “bad guys.” But that’s not how Greek philosophy worked. The gods are imperfect, because humanity isn’t perfect, either. What I find in every one of George O’Connor’s books is not some story about good and evil, but tales of heroes, gods, and monsters.

No perfect men. No perfect gods. No perfect ending. 

We can’t limit the gods to one simple ideal or opinion. Because they’re ambiguous. Because we’re ambiguous, too.

There are only a handful of authors who have given my perspective a 180, and this is one place I never expected it to happen. But, if we expected it, perhaps we wouldn’t change. That begs the question:

Have you ever read anything that completely changed your perspective on something? Who was it and what changed? (And, just for kicks, do you have a favorite/least favorite Greek god?)

15 comments :

  1. Woah this was such an interesting, amazing post! I love the idea that we sort into 'good' and 'bad' too quickly and that you disliked Zeus and Hera because they weren't fully good. I think Greek mythology is interesting in that it's Gods are as imperfect as humans. Almost no other religions have that (and I must say the concept of a perfect, eternally loving god is a lot more comforting that one who is only sometimes good.) I think hinduism does a bit from what I've done on it at school but I don't really know. I'm not fully sure, but I've definitely had my opinion changed about people. I think The Yiddish Policeman's Union (which I just wrote an English essay on) changed my mind a bit about Jews fro selfish violent people to people who have been hurt and are too scared to consider what Israel might mean for the palestinians. Thanks for this post! XD

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    1. Glad you liked it. :) I think realizing that the source of my dislike was irrational really helped in changing my mind! Greek mythology is interesting like that, because there's no real idea of salvation in the end (whereas in other religions it's more or less the desirable goal). I'm not an expert in Hinduism but I wouldn't be surprised.

      *nods* I haven't heard about the Yiddish Policeman's Union, but learning to have a little compassion for others can go a long way. :)

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  2. I have to admit, I'm with you. In the past I've found it very difficult to like Hera and Zeus as much as the other gods, even though I loved Greek mythology. I guess that most tales portray them as these big, powerful beings and not like real people at all. But their faults, when you come to think about it, aren't any worse than any of the other gods really. I mean, Aphrodite and Ares were carrying on an affair behind Hephaestus' back, yet they're still very popular gods.

    When it comes to my favourite god, I'd have to say Hades. Poor dude gets the short end of the stick when it comes to realms. Considering he had to kidnap a wife just to persuade someone to marry him. Sure, he's not perfect either, but I do feel rather sorry for him and wish that more people would paint him in a good light. Though people might be doing that and I could be missing the books. I'd love to have a go writing a book about him sometime myself.

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    1. Absolutely; they just didn't make me happy, but you're right—they're no better or worse than anyone else. I mean, all the gods treat human life flippantly, and they all mess up all the time. I guess it is because I've come to expect more from my leaders, which could be good or bad.

      Looks like we're sharing the same opinion, then. :) I always thought he got the most desirable realm, and she did eventually agree to come. George O'Connor put him in a lovely light, and I think the Pandora books do an okay job with him, too—in those books, he is stern and a little distant, but it's because he's overworked and under a lot of pressure. Persephone is his natural pain reliever. (ALL SHIPS ARE GO.)

      Anyway, reading another book about him with him in a good light would be awesome! :D

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    2. If you like Hades- and I do too- you might like the Persephone books by Kaitlin Bevis. They aren't so popular, but Persephone is a teenage girl and Hades is this fabulous urban planner/mayor of the underworld with a mild interest in phsycology (I totally spelt that right) Anyway, just a thought.
      -Shanti

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    3. Hm, I'll have to check that out, because it sounds right up my alley! :) Thanks for the recommendation, Shanti!

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  3. This post is amazing. I agree 100% with what you said about ambiguity and why the Greek gods are characterized as they are. I can't single out one particular book that completely changed my perspective on something, but I can definitely say that books have changed my perspective on SO MANY issues. It's more of a collective process.

    As for the Greek mythology, I always thought that Zeus was an idiot and caused waaay too many problems because he couldn't keep it in his pants. Sorry if that's a crude way of putting it, but it's true! I'm really curious about these graphic novels now!

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  4. This post is amazing. I agree 100% with what you said about ambiguity and why the Greek gods are characterized as they are. I can't single out one particular book that completely changed my perspective on something, but I can definitely say that books have changed my perspective on SO MANY issues. It's more of a collective process.

    As for the Greek mythology, I always thought that Zeus was an idiot and caused waaay too many problems because he couldn't keep it in his pants. Sorry if that's a crude way of putting it, but it's true! I'm really curious about these graphic novels now!

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    1. Glad you liked it. The Greek gods definitely are interesting in that way. But, I also know the feeling you describe—there are a lot of other books that have completely changed my perspective, but they're buried so deep it's hard for me to remember anymore!

      No, no, you're right. Zeus really did need to keep it in his pants and he didn't. Like, if he had a lesser sex drive about half the problems in Greek mythology would go away immediately. You should read the graphic novels—they're really good!

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  5. We just started Greek Theatre in drama, and we started out by learning about their gods. They certainly are a messed up family! The comics sound interesting- they must be good to change your mind :)

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    1. Ooh, that's awesome! What are you going to study (or perform)? They are definitely different, but the graphic novels are well worth it. :)

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  6. The only book in this series that I've read so far is Hades: Lord of the Dead (it was very, very good). I have to say, Zeus and Hera aren't exactly my favorite Olympians--I sympathize with Hera (a lot) but Zeus...anyway, I'm excited to try these books and see if they flip my perspective, too!

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    1. Oh, yes, that's a favorite of mine. As in, the favorite, Hades being my favorite and all. Even so, I can see what you mean. They're not easy to sympathize with but depending on what we choose to see, I think we can realize that they aren't the worst gods out there.

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  7. I have to say this is probably one of my favourite posts in the blogging world. It changed my perspective on Zeus and Hera, who I agreed was horrible (thanks Wikipedia and Percy Jackson). I have to say though, my favourites have to be Hades and Athena still. :)

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    1. :) You should check out the books, and see if they do anything else for you—but I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Wikipedia and Percy Jackson have been a letdown though, eh? Hades and Athena are pretty awesome though, yes.

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