Sunday, May 30, 2010

TV Tuesday: Clash of the Titans

While Clash of the Titans has been in theaters for a while now, I think it's a good example of Hollywood's perennial fascination with Greek mythology. On the one hand, the movie is fairly true to the myth of Perseus and Andromeda (links contain artistic nudity). The acting is good, the language and conversation are appropriate and exhibit more intelligence than most big budget films. The special effects are spectacular, and the violence is less gory than most fantasy films.

On the other hand, all those blessings don't necessarily make for a child-friendly film. Most importantly, Greek myths are pretty graphic by their very nature. They are especially full of sexual impropriety and violence. While movie scripts can refer to these things delicately, they are still there, often because they are instrumental to the story being told.

The other problem is that ancient tales are often given modern morals in order to be "relevant" to a modern audience. In this case, the behavior of the Greek gods is explained through the concept that the gods needed the prayers and offerings of humans to survive--they needed humans more than humans needed them. This theme recasts the tale of Perseus as one of rebellion against the irrational tyranny of religion. While this might not be problematic for some viewers, religious viewers will probably object and should know about it in advance.

The other problem with this message is more relevant for parents of Aspies. Given the human foibles of the Greek gods, Clash of the Titans and its anti-religious message could easily be interpreted as anti-authority. Since children with AS often have difficulty accepting or understanding hierarchies that do not put them on top of the totem pole. Movies that further undermine the concept of authority are not helpful in teaching them such an important social skill.

Personally, I think that passing on the Greek myths is a very worth while pursuit. These stories tell incredible tales of adventure and heroism, while highlighting humanity's flaws and weaknesses. They capture the imagination and can teach valuable lessons at the same time. But I think these stories are best shared as they were originally meant to be: orally. If your child will stand for it, find a good children's retelling of the Greek myths and read aloud from it. If your child is old enough and interested, take turns reading. Here is one of my favorites:

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