Week 9: Filling In Facts & Connections In [Web]Comics
Hey everyone! This week I was mostly focused on writing my paper, assembling a video, and tying up loose ends in my research with feminist theories and context on critical race literature. As my external advisor said, nothing is scarier than a blank page, so I’ll keep this post short and get back to my paper.
Gaps & Fun Facts:
Because there are so many elements to this project and different theories that I’ve had to jump around, I have to go back and fill in a few gaps of knowledge, specifically on the role of ancient Greek women and family dynamics as well as ancient Greek beauty standards and social norms to better understand why Medea was labeled a “barbarian” or how her portrayal dramatically contrasted that of a “traditional” Greek woman.
A book I started reading this week by Sarah Pomeroy describes Athenian laws and social regulations on marriage and divorce that I think are applicable to Euripides’ Medea. Pomeroy writes that in Athens, the father or guardian of bride “retained the right to dissolve the marriage,” (Pomeroy, 62) though it makes me wonder if this still applies to Medea’s situation as her father didn’t approve of her marriage, yet he was also considered an outsider or non-Greek, so would this policy have any effect on the audience’s views of her eloping? Their policy on divorce legally allowed either the husband or wife to call for divorce, though few cases are recorded where the wife requests one. She would also have the additional step of presenting her case before the archon in order to obtain a divorce, whereas a male just needed to expel the wife from his house and to the guardianship of a male relative before obtaining a divorce. Also, “Since children were produced to perpetuate the father’s house, they were the property of their father,” (Pomeroy, 65) once again demonstrating the importance of male heirs in a household and Medea’s intention of harming Jason via her children.
An interesting fact I learned this week is that the word “barbarian” came from the ancient Greek term “bárbaros,” where the portion “bar” mimicked the sound the Greeks thought that non-Greeks, or foreigners, were making. They heard other languages as “bar bar bar,” and referred to those who spoke languages aside from Greek as “barbarians” to distinguish between the idea of “us” and “them.” Initially, even Romans were included in this categorization though both Greeks and Romans later used the term to define “others,” creating a heavily negative connotation that has lasted to today, though with a slightly different application. I could tie this back to the human fear of the unknown, even in ancient times, or fearing lack of understanding and control (leading to racial and ethnic ostracization), but that’s a whole different project (an interesting one though).
This emphasis on language reminded me of an idea I heard Trevor Noah talking about in his audiobook; he explains how language effectively connects everyone despite other visual or cultural differences. Referencing his experiences growing up in South Africa, he states, “Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people,” and when recollecting the numerous languages he learned in his childhood, “If I spoke like you, I was you,” meaning that language allowed him to not only understand others, but to also resonate with them on a deeper level despite heavily enforced racial boundaries.
“Your Throne” Webtoon
As a break from lengthy writing periods and furiously flipping through pages from sources, I read the first two chapters of the Webtoon series “Your Throne,” that my friends recommended (shoutout to Alison and Neha!) I was told that the protagonist was named Medea but that the references to the Greek myth ended there. From the first two chapters, however, I saw multiple connections to Medea’s myth, which I’ll highlight below.
One of the central characters is Medea Solon, “sol” in Latin meaning “the sun,” and perhaps a reference to Medea’s lineage to Helios, Greek god of the sun. Medea is also seen talking with her brother before seeing her father with her ailing mother; not many details are shown about their family dynamic in the two chapters that I have read, but perhaps there will be a future betrayal or a parallel between Aeetes’ tyrannical rage and this version. The story opens with the engagement of Psyche Callista to the heir to the throne Eros Vasilios. Their names also hold significance as “vasilios” from Greek translates to “king,” and both Psyche and Eros are famed lovers from their own Greek myth (I won’t go into the details of it, but here’s a link if you guys want to read a quick synopsis:
The beautiful artwork and color schemes visually portray the strong contrasts between Medea and Psyche. While Psyche seems to have a positive and gentle demeanor to match her popularity among the citizens, Medea is more cunning and fueled by anger, known for both her temper and beauty. Psyche is pictured as having luminous green eyes, golden blonde hair, and surrounded by lighter toned colors whereas Medea has deep violet eyes, midnight purple hair, and is often seen in darker shades.
Credit to SAM, creator and illustrator of this Webtoon
Even this version of Medea is skilled in some methods of sorcery as she adds a drug to Psyche’s sugar (instead of her tea, as most would expect), and she explains that when this drug is activated by the specific scent of flowers she gifted to Psyche, it has a potent effect and can make someone temporarily ill. Medea also accuses Psyche of cheating in the “Crown Princess Competition,” which I’m assuming determines the bride of Prince Eros and the future Crown Princess. It is also mentioned that if Psyche doesn’t go to the Temple on the “yearly day of prayer” then Medea will replace her, meaning Medea was supposed to be Crown Princess had Psyche not “cheated.” As I’m not too far into the story, I don’t know the details of the competition, though in chapter two, Psyche admits that she stole the prince and throne from Medea, but that she loves the prince whereas Medea only loves status and the power of the throne rather than the person in it. In the initial scenes of the Temple, the design mirrors that of ancient Greek temples, showing further parallels to the original myth while developing a different plot. During a religious rite that Psyche performs, Medea falls into the water within the temple but realizes that she can breathe underwater, asking herself if this is a “divine power.” She then makes a request to the deities of the kingdom, asking to rule instead of Psyche, and having her prayer answered (in a way). I won’t spoil the rest, but I had fun reading the first few chapters and finding connections between the Greek Medea and this contemporary reception, and would definitely recommend this Webtoon for anyone interested!
With the video of my presentation done, and only 1 more blog post to go, I’ll probably be staring at a computer screen, writing and re-writing my final paper for the remaining time (wish me luck).
Thanks for reading!
- Pomeroy, Sarah. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, And Slaves: Women In Classical Antiquity. United Kingdom, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2011.
- Pruitt, Sarah. “Where Did The Word ‘Barbarian’ Come From?” History.Com, A&E Television Networks, 19 May 2016, Https://Www.History.Com/News/Where-Did-The-Word-Barbarian-Come-From.
- Britannica, The Editors Of Encyclopaedia. “Barbarian”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 15 Feb. 2023, Https://Www.Britannica.Com/Topic/Barbarian. Accessed 6 May 2023.
- Noah, Trevor. Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood. Narrated By Trevor Noah, Audible, 2016. Audiobook.
- SAM. “Your Throne.” 2020. Webtoon