It's official! One of the next monster villainesses slated for a Maleficent-style makeover is Medusa, the snake-haired Gorgon of Greek myth—most famous for being raped by Poseidon, beheaded by Perseus, and then giving birth to a flying horse. Sounds like an animated comedy to me!
The film will be helmed by My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic producer Lauren Faust (infinite huzzahs for female directors!), who hopefully won't shy away from the fraught gender dynamics inherent in Medusa's story. As we learned in Maleficent—which played out as one extended rape/revenge metaphor—the oldest stories aren't particularly sweet or fun or kind to women. To truly "reclaim" those narratives, women can't just retell them. We have to dig them up completely. (Disney also has a live-action Cruella movie in the works. I can't imagine how they'll spin "deranged puppy-skinner" into something empowering, but I AM CERTAINLY CURIOUS.)
I'm not super confident, though, based on the shadow of a synopsis we've been given so far. Via IndieWire:
Here's what they apparently came up with: an animated origin story about one of the least liked and likable female characters in the Western canon: Medusa. Though the Gorgon hails from Greek mythology and not the Grimm brothers, the tale of Medusa, who was punished with a head full of snakes for being too proud of her pre-ophidian beauty, shares with European fairy tales a warning against the dangers of female vanity.
...After accepting a pitch from Todd Alcott and Holly Golden, Sony Animation tapped Lauren Faust to helm the film.
"I was excited by the idea of showing the comedy behind an otherwise horrific monster, and I was really drawn to the writer's unique re-imagining of Greek mythology," Faust said. "In our story, we meet Medusa as a young human, who, like so many of us, is overwhelmed with trying to fit a certain mold to please others."
The "dangers of female vanity"? Seriously? When you look at Medusa's backstory (certain versions, anyway), is that really the issue that stands out? Setting aside the fact that female vanity is inherently a side effect of female objectification and perhaps it's distasteful to teach people sanctimonious "lessons" about how they're mishandling their own victimization (COME ON, THO), I'm really more interested in the part where Poseidon rapes Medusa and then she's blamed and punished for it.
I don't give a shit about female vanity. Excessive self-esteem is a male problem, not a female one, from where I'm sitting. How fucking narcissistic do you have to be to believe that your desires entitle you to other people's bodies? That's dangerous vanity.
Even if rape isn't a plot element you want to explicitly address in your cartoon comedy (it's hidden in plain sight in Maleficent, though, for a model), male entitlement is a much riper target to lampoon than stuck-up bitches. (That's not "subverting" anything, anyway—that's just the regular way we talk about women everywhere all the time forever.)
If it's approached the right way, there's definitely potential for something meaningful here:
A different story also reports Medusa's beauty was so stunning that many men courted her, but she became a priestess in Athena's temple. Her golden hair and her beauty attracted the lustful eyes of the sea god, Poseidon. They coupled in Athena's temple, a terrible violation of a sacred place. Stories differ as to whether he raped Medusa or she enticed him first. Either way, she got pregnant. When Athena learned what had happened she flew into a rage and cursed Medusa with snakes for hair, a body of a dragon and a face that turned those who looked at her to stone.
Eventually, a Greek hero named Perseus promised to kill her. He borrowed (some stories say he stole) Hermes' winged sandals and Hades' cap of invisibility. He carried a powerful scythe and a mirrored shield. His speed and invisibility allowed him to get close to her. He used the mirror to "see" her without becoming a stone and beheaded her.
Medusa's filmmakers have the opportunity to make a movie about female power instead of female folly. I hope they take advantage of it.
Image via Getty.