SO… in case you haven’t noticed, I have a recent rekindled obsession with Hercules. I’ve watched it probably too many times in the last week or so. I’ve come to the conclusion that in addition to the witty puns, catchy songs, and a great story line. The heroine of the move, Meg, might be the true reason that I’m recently so hooked on this movie.
If you’ve ever talked to anyone who identifies as a feminist, you’ve probably rolled your eyes at least once. You’ve thought the long rambling rants were pointless and unfounded. You’ve probably heard someone tell you about the evils of Disney Princesses and Barbies. (If you’ve missed that rant some how, the gist is that they oppress women by teaching young girls that they are subservient to men, their main role in life is to find a Prince Charming or Ken)
I know that many of you could point out more than one way that Hercules is still flawed,. But instead of continuing that well discussed philosophy, I’m going to talk about the ways that (in my opinion) Disney actually got it right…
FIRST, the movie opens with a traditional male narrator, at which point the five muses take over the story. (girl power!) and even more heartening, the 5 muses don’t all have the traditional “Disney Figure”. They are all beautiful sassy unique women – and they get to tell the story their way.
AND THEN THERE’S MEG.
Check out the first exchange between Meg and Hercules about 30 minutes into the movie.
Meg : “Keep moving.”
Hercules: “Aren’t you a damsel in distress?”
Meg: “I’m a damsel. I’m in distress. I can handle this. Have a nice day.”
Searing wit, independence, snark, general awesomeness. She’s not looking to be saved, she’s looking to fight her own battles.
After Hercules bumbles through “saving” Meg, they get the opportunity for an introduction. Meg introduces herself, and she asks, ” So….. did they give you a name with all those rippling pectorals?”. Hercules is so distracted by her beauty he stutters and splutters and can’t even remember his own name. She criticizes his ability to be articulate rather than swooning over his muscles. She challenges him to be her equal.
Hercules asks Meg how she found herself in such a compromising situation and she responds with a comment that is snarky, relatable, and pointed. “You know how men are: They think no means yes and get lost means take me, I’m yours” She’s definitely a feminist. And (in my opinion) this is a strong commentary on the “rape culture” that is derived from women being viewed as commodities to be owned.
Aside: STEP BACK a minute and realize that this movie was released in 1997. Nearly 20 years ago, and sadly this mentality really hasn’t changed much.
As the movie progresses, Meg continues to function as an individual. *spoiler alert* it is ultimately revealed that she is indebted to Hades. She traded her soul to save her boyfriend, it didn’t work out. Not great. At first this looks iffy… she literally SOLD HER SOUL for a man. But perhaps a more nuanced reading of this bakground is that Meg has since realized that she is not required to sacrifice herself for a man. She does not bend to Hades’ demands and maintains a sense of independence throughout the film.
However this aspect of the movie brings an interesting issue to the forefront. While women are not required to make sacrifices for men. As HUMANS we are all required to make sacrifices for love. In the case of Meg’s first boyfriend, she sacrifices her soul to save him, but rather that making a sacrifice in return, he runs off with another woman (slimeball).
Ultimately, Meg does make some sacrifices for Hercules in the name of love – you know she casually leaps in front of a falling pillar to save him. However this time around Hercules makes a sacrifice in return. Hercules GIVES UP his status as a god in order to continue to be with Meg.
All in all, this movie strikes such a chord with me because I think it does a fantastic job of illustrating the balance between independence and love. It highlights the ways in which humanity, and by extension feminism is about a series of choices and sacrifices.