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Mighty, Mighty Mythology: The Living Evolution of Stories

By the time DVD’s eventually become extinct, I really hope that somebody has already figured out how to make their extras avoid that same fate. If not, I’ll really miss discovering gems like the “It’s No Myth” segment on the Immortals disc (which was released about a month ago).

You remember Immortals, right? A quick summary in case your answer is “no”: Theseus… The Minotaur… The Titans imprisoned in Tartarus and a nefarious plot to free them… superhero-style special effects… horror movie-style gore… and eye-popping visual splendor from director Tarsem (Mirror Mirror) Singh.

Okay, so back to the “It’s No Myth” mini-featurette…

Its runtime is only 5:24, but it sure packs in a lot of insight during that brief spell, especially if you’re as excited about the recent resurgence of classical mythology in pop culture as I’ve been.

Love stories, mysteries, action movies—lots of that stuff came out of the stories that Greek mythology [was] part of in the ancient world.

Not a bad beginning, this bit from Richard Rader, who’s identified as a Lecturer in UCLA’s Classics Department. But Rader’s just getting started. After we listen to other scholars hold forth on the mortality/immortality dichotomy, and how, far from being static, mythological characters continually underwent change at the hands of Greek storytellers, Rader returns. That’s when he terms mythology a “discourse” about the “evolution of stories,” and I just go whoa.

This was slowly but surely turning from some kinda interesting highbrow disc-filler… to a surprisingly profound consideration of the relationship between media and mythology.

Because if the implicit parallel to how movies and today’s pop culture represent a new evolutionary stage for ancient myths wasn’t intriguing enough, the segment comes right out and starts riffing on this notion. That is, we learn that just as the Renaissance “re-defined Greek culture,” so too are filmmakers such those who made Immortals. In fact, Singh claims that his approach was very similar to Caravaggio and his peers, who “put in what was hip to their time.” And then Rader brings everything home with:

The fact that we’re still telling these stories now means that mythology is alive.

With this in mind, then, in the coming months Connect the Pop will be returning to mythology repeatedly—looking at everything from old Ray Harryhausen flicks and genre archetypes to branding, advertising, and visual literacy.

In fact, we’ll get started tomorrow, when I’ll post a far-ranging interview about mythology and media with George O’Connor. Certainly there have been plenty of comics creators who’ve done neat things with classical mythology, but as far I’m concerned O’Connor’s recent “Olympians” series of graphic novels has been setting a new high water mark. See you then…

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