December 3th, 2018
[LS] Int Sem 1: Fake
A Misconception on Medusa
“Medusa? She is a horrible looking monster!” For a long time, a mythical character Medusa has been known for having hair made of snakes and greenish skin, which reminds us of a monster. She has been portrayed as one of the most hideous monsters of Greek mythology in various media dating from the late sixth century until nowadays. The image and symbol of Medusa has widely been portrayed as a monster in all media and therefore covering the fact that she was once a beautiful woman. Medusa is a daughter of Phorkys and Keto known as Gorgons that was born mortal among gods. One day, Athena hears that Medusa had seduced Poseidon in her temple and cursed Medusa’s beautiful hair to snakes and made her face terrible that a mere glance of it would turn into stone. Based upon this story, Medusa has long been known to people as a monster, which is a misconception, through symbols and imageries portrayed in various media including art, fashion, movies, books, and even video games. This representation therefore made people envisage her as terrifying, rather than beautiful. Medusa became a representation for a monster-like female character in folklores and Greek mythologies through continuously changing interpretation of pop culture, beauty, and art despite the fact that she was once a beautiful maiden with golden hair in the past.
The monstrous form of Medusa with snake hair has been one of the most recognized images in popular culture, impacting a lot of people to view her as a monster rather than a beauty, which she was in the past. Pop culture is a set of practices, beliefs, and objects that are dominant in a society so that can impact how people think and act about certain things. Medusa appears as a mythical figure in TV, books, cartoons, video games, role-playing games, usually as an antagonist. For example, the Medusa story was featured in the “Clash of the Titans” movies during 1981 and 2010, and “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” as a minor antagonist also in 2010, where Medusa is portrayed by actress Uma Thurman and killed by Percy Jackson in the story. In comic Wonder Woman, Medusa appears based upon the Greek mythological figure as one of the three Gorgons and a major adversary of the super-hero. The character depicts the appearance of the mythical figure with snake-hair and fangs, which look completely petrifying. Medusa appears as these kind of antagonistic characters in other comics as well, making the monstrous form of Medusa more recognizable to people. In television, which most of people watch, Medusa appears as a Gorgon in Star Trek episode “And the Children Shall Lead”. Because of Medusa’s terrifying looking, characters are created based upon the myth and is mostly used as an antagonist that always get killed by a hero at the end. In video games, Medusa usually appears as a boss type monster with powerful skills. For instance, she has been featured in Dungeons and Dragons and The God of War as a boss or a scary, reptile-like monster. Moreover, the character has been memorialized in song by UB40, Annie Lennox, and the band Anthrax. As proven by these examples, the depiction of her as a monster based on the myth has been widely used in different media in pop culture and Medusa currently became a representation of vicious and malicious figure, which is a big misconception that most people have. This image of Medusa nowadays has been built-up by different media and companies and become a symbol for female rage that inspired feminism in terms of beauty and how women should look.
Because of the monster-like image of Medusa, she has always been representing something completely opposite to beauty, which are rage and malevolence despite her origins as a beautiful woman. In Feminism, Medusa’s face with snake hair has been used as a symbol of rage rather than her appearance when she was exceedingly beautiful in the past. For example, in a feminist journal called Women: A Journal of Liberation, the cover featured the image of the Gorgon Medusa. The editor on the cover explained, “Can be a map to guide us through our terrors, through the depths of our anger into the sources of our power as women”. Moreover, in issue three, Fall 1986 for the magazine Woman of Power an article called Gorgons: A Face for Contemporary Women’s Rage, appeared, Emily Erwin Culpepper wrote that “The Amazon Gorgon face is female fury personified. The Gorgon/Medusa image has been rapidly adopted by large numbers of feminists who recognize her as one face of our own rage.” (W) In the 20th century, feminists reassessed Medusa’s appearances in literature and in modern culture, and this has been represented in the logo of a fashion company Versace. In the Greek myth, it was Athena who punished her and made her into an ugly creature with her eyes bloodshot and and her hair hag like. The cursed Medusa is more widely known to people and it has been representing negative feelings such as rage and malevolence, which contradicts her origins. Therefore people nowadays do not know about the stories of Medusa when she was beautiful, but recognize her as a monster as exposed on all media. These images are used and portrayed in the areas of art as well.
The representation of Medusa in art has portrayed her as one of the most hideous monsters in Greek mythology, and therefore making the monstrous form of Medusa more prominent despite the fact that she was once a beautiful woman in the past. While Medusa was represented as multiple types of mythological record, Medusa’s face, fierce and grotesque or feminine, are often portrayed in most of the media in different contexts. Ancient statuary, bronze shields, and vessels have portrayal of Medusa. In Archaic period, gorgoneion, which refers to the head and face of Medusa, was often used in architecture, vase painting, and metalwork. For example, the biggest example comes from Temple C at Selinunte in southwestern Sicily. Medusa’s face was also used to adorn temples in Sicily, southern Italy, and mainland Greece during the Archaic period. During this time, Medusa was depicted as a monster with hair made of poisonous snakes, wide eyes, an extended tongue, and sharp teeth. Her visage was also shown in a monumental decoration that illustrates the scene with Perseus. Those kind of scenes display Perseus holding Medusa’s head, which tells the story of Medusa being beheaded for posing a powerful feminine symbol and used to buttress the dominion of the male over female. She is portrayed in drinking cups, urns, and contemporary fashion. For example, Versace’s symbol is reflected through the Medusa’s visage as mentioned before. A wide range of artworks about Medusa dating from the late sixth century to the twentieth century has constantly changed and finally created a recognizable symbol for a monster-like mythological character. Famous artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Auguste Rodin, and Salvador Dali, have been inspired by Medusa and the Perseus story.
For a long time, Medusa has been represented or described as a monster through philosophical, beauty, and artistic devices so that most people are familiar with traditional images of Medusa as a terrifying monster rather than a beautiful woman. As a consequence, the representation of Medusa as a monster on all media has created a misconception to the viewers, and that image has become more popular as it is exposed on broader media such as fashion, magazines, and other big companies. The way a female character described in a well known stories has a tremendous impact on how society view women as well. For instance, the notable image of Medusa has inspired Feminism, which shows how women described in folklores and stories impact the way people view women and can create stereotypes based off of it.
Glennon, Madeleine. “Medusa in Ancient Greek Art.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/medu/hd_medu.htm (March 2017)
“Pop Culture: An. Overview.” Philosophy Now. 2007. Tim Delaney. Dec 2018. https://philosophynow.org/issues/64/Pop_Culture_An_Overview
Refula Detraci. “The Curse of Medusa From Greek Mythology.” Tripsavvy. February 5th, 2018 https://www.tripsavvy.com/greek-mythology-medusa-1524415
Karoglou, Kiki. Dangerous Beauty: Medusa in Classical Art. New York: THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, 2017.