Sunday, October 22, 2017

Harvey and the Greeks

The Greeks have bequeathed us a great deal…. Socrates, Sophocles and Laryngitis. Philosophers, dramatists and language itself. They modeled a form of democracy, warned (some of) us about hubris and attributed much of what is inexplicable to a roster of gods.

In his monumental work on Greek mythology, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, Roberto Calasso writes that the role of men is: slayer of dragons. Woman are notable for their betrayals.

At this point I stopped reading and paused. Hogwash, say I, after thinking about Brutus and Judas et tu all the heads of state who betrayed and lost a generation in 1914 and later in Vietnam while suffragettes slew the dragon, injustice, to get the vote. I never met a dragon-slayer among my buddies. Nor was I ever betrayed by her or her.

He cited Ariadne and Medea. Sure, the former may have defied her father, Minos, by laying down thread, like breadcrumbs, for Theseus to find his way out of the labyrinth after he killed the Minotaur. In some versions he married her (that’s the least he could do); in others he just jilted her holding the thread. Who is the betrayer there, I ask you?

Medea got bad ink for killing her kids but that was less a betrayal than revenge. Besides, it was only Euripides account. The other playwrights did not have Medea committing infanticide though she is described as a sorceress. As a moon-goddess she  was deemed a lunatic by the Greeks. It was not uncommon labeling women as such, their ways being mysterious to men.  

In fact it was husband Jason who betrayed Medea by leaving to marry for money. You’d think the Golden Fleece would have been enough.

It seems to me this notion of female double-crossing was a fiction written by a fraternity of power-grabbing, insecure and domineering men who believe that sexual intercourse is what happens with one consenting adult….which brings me to Harvey Weinstein. He wrote the book.

Give a guy with an appetite below the belt, in a position of power within a culture of attractive women competing for parts. Put him in a room with one or two couches and the next thing you know the only dragon he’s fighting is his own demons. Harvey meet Donald. This is not eroticism, it is bullying and violation, Zeus asserting his dominance. It is betrayal of self as well as one betrayal after another against Mrs. Weinstein. Men betray but they don't call it that.

I wonder if the Greeks would call the dozens of women coming forward against the gropers, harassers and rapists as betrayers. That label is the twisted thinking of a newly emerged patriarchy obsessed with curses and revenge. All this in the Golden Age of Pericles upon which our Western Civilization is modeled. Harvey’s defense might be: the devil made me do it; an old story for which there is no corresponding myth except for Zeus, the predator-in-chief.

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