I recently rewatched Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and was struck for the first time by the relationship between Poseidon and Athena. (Yes, I’m sorry, once again this post is not strictly brother/sister.) This got me thinking about their relationship in other movies, and when I started discussing that, I inevitably began reviewing other relevant relationships in those movies, and so this is too long and a giant mess. And it’s full of ships that are based on wisps of nothing.
I don’t know that much about Greco-Roman mythology. (If you’re a classicist, please be patient and forgiving with me) and I do think that the lore that comes to us historically has anthropological value (and literary value – sometimes as metaphors/analogies they are even critical to understanding a work) – and some of them are very good stories – but personally I’m just as interested in what we can create and where we can go from the original material as I am in the original material itself This is why I care nothing about “accuracy” in the depictions of the gods in works of fiction, except as far as basic traditional facts go (god of what, son of who, etc.). And there are so many different versions of these stories anyway – I feel like even back in the day the people (and more so the priests and the poets) modified the narratives to suit their interests and their own ideas. Why can’t we?
I have always been peripherally fascinated by Greek mythology, but as an incest shipper even more so. Given how much “canon” incest there is in the legends (and there’s a certain association of incest in a general way as well, not to mention the fact that they are all related to a significant degree), I have always anticipated screen portrayals with great excitement. Unfortunately, there really aren’t that many screen depictions of the Olympians out there, and among them, the only ones that have any appeal to me as an incest shipper are Clash of the Titans (2010), Immortals, and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
That might not be much, but, for whatever reason, the gods in those movies are shipping crack for me. Even the slightest and most minimal of interactions do me in. Sadly, we don’t see much of the traditional “canon” incest pairings in these films, but they make-up for it with non-traditional pairings. What I would label as “intentionally suggestive” interactions between some of them, and just regular old non-canon shippability between others. (YMMV)
I don’t know if everyone else feels the same way as I do about the Greek gods, but for me just the fact that they are Greek gods is half the appeal of the ship, so that if they are even just standing next to each other I’ve got all I need to ship them.
You would think that incestuous relations being normalized among the Olympians would be a disincentive to ship them, but that hasn’t been the case for me. It’s what I call a “blue bloods situation” – they think they are better than everyone else (in this case, they are better than everyone else – more powerful, at least), and so the only truly suitable mates must be found among each other. (This is my own mythology here, not something I’m citing from Homer.) While they might have human lovers, in the long-term there is only each other. So the way I look at it, the lack of “forbidden excitement” (if you’ll forgive me for calling it that) is compensated for by the intensity of their identity as a family and a bloodline.
Furthermore, there are just so many possibilities with the gods. They are immortal, all-
powerful. Getting involved in human affairs pits them against each other. They compete for power, for thrones and positions, among themselves and with mortal proxies. They represent different human weaknesses and desires and virtues, different realities of the world. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s undecided exactly what they can and can’t do, how divine or how human-like they are. So anything can happen. I love the image of them up on Olympus, constantly squabbling and drawing humanity into their rivalries. Even though the movies only show this to a very small degree, it’s all inherently there. As an audience we take what we see, and add what we know, and are inspired from there.
I love it when it’s obvious they have human emotions, but their demeanor is otherworldly. And I think that’s part of what makes them so fun for me. They are people, but they are not people. They might be petty or they might be great, but it’ll be on a global scale, with massive ramifications, and they’ll probably look like a badass while they’re doing it. In Immortals, I love the careful, formal way they speak with each other. I love their constant rivalries in Clash of the Titans, like every interaction is full of thousands of years of history. In Percy Jackson I love their detachment from humanity in the face of such close connections, their insensitive violence.
One thing I really like about the Greek gods is that their motivations and choices often seem very strange because they don’t have the same kind of morality and values that we do. They value honor and sacrifice and bravery instead of the things that we value. They consider other things to be venial sins, things we might take very seriously.
And then of course there’s all the bizarre things that happen, like being people born from necks, and foreheads, and castrated penises.
I just find that my imagination runs wild with the possibilities.
Athena has been the goddess of choice of writers and moviemakers recently. She is the only female god in Immortals, the only one who speaks in Clash of the Titans, and has the most narrative prominence in Percy Jackson. This isn’t surprising, as she is the most high-profile goddess, and is a goddess of several respectable and important things. (But personally I’d really love to see Aphrodite now and again. Of course, I’d love to see all of them. Why hasn’t there been a proper movie about the gods themselves?????? Explain this to me. Perhaps just a taste here and there is what keeps them fascinating, but who wouldn’t love to see more of them? More screen time and lines for each one, and a larger number of the gods represented?)
I’m going to start with Clash of the Titans (2010). Zeus and
Hades are the main gods in this movie, but if you include the deleted scenes, Poseidon, Athena, and Apollo all have small but interesting roles.
In the movie, the gods are losing significance among the humans, and consequently their power is waning. The gods are fighting among themselves about who to blame and what to do.
Zeus makes an executive decision and calls on Hades to frighten the humans into submission, but his weapon of choice, the Kraken, is also a threat to the Olympians themselves. In the deleted scenes, there is a small thread in which Athena and Apollo plot to undermine Zeus’ plan, and some alternate scenes in which Apollo, instead of Zeus, appears to the hero of the story, Perseus, and gives him aid.
Athena is in two scenes: the first is a scene in which all of the gods are gathered together in the throne room and are arguing, and the second is a scene she has alone with Apollo. There is definitely some incestuousness going on in the Athena/Apollo interaction, but I have already written about that extensively here so I won’t go into it now.
But I wanted to take a look at Athena and Poseidon’s relationship, since that is freshly of interest to me. There are two significant pieces to the portrayal of their relationship in this movie. The first is, of course, the throne room scene. The gods are all shooting accusations back and forth. Poseidon calls Apollo ineffectual (“Is that sword just a toy?”).
Athena comes to Apollo’s defense, and points out that even Poseidon is not powerful enough for the plan he is suggesting. (Which is great for Athena/Apollo, but that’s off topic.)
The glare he gives her is priceless.
I find it delightful that Athena stands up to Poseidon. Being a generation older than her, he is generally recognized as more powerful and important – though not smarter or better behaved, haha. [Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon divided the world among themselves when they defeated their father Cronus and the Titans – and Poseidon’s third was the sea. (Zeus got the sky, and Hades the underworld.) Although his position is less than Zeus, he is still king of a realm. They are referred to as “the big three”.] Athena speaks to him as if he is her equal – not an elder, and not more powerful. Which I like a lot.
Secondly, I find it delightful the way Apollo and Poseidon are in this heated argument, standing up and yelling. Athena is calm and collected. She remains sitting and thoughtful. Such a contrast. (It’s really a shame these scenes with her were deleted because they showed her to be the brains of operation.) I like the way these opposite temperaments play off each other.
This is their only interaction, but they are mentioned by a third party together in an interesting way. Io tells this story:
“Medusa was beautiful once. So beautiful as to tempt Poseidon. When he came for her, she ran to Athena’s temple thinking that the goddess would protect her. She didn’t. Poseidon took her on the cold floor. She prayed to Athena for comfort…But the goddess felt nothing but disgust. She made sure no one would ever want Medusa again.”
Athena’s motivation is never explained in the movie, and it’s quite perplexing. Certainly from our perspective it’s hard to understand why she would behave in that way. What’s also fascinating is that Athena is a somewhat sympathetic character in this movie (if you include the deleted scenes) – she’s wily, but she wants to help our hero, she attempts to avert war and human slaughter – and yet we hear this vile story about her.
Traditionally, in this version of the Medusa story, Athena curses her because of her and Poseidon’s sexual activity in her sacred temple. (I don’t know if it’s ever consensual.) But it would have taken only one quick sentence to explain this, yet Io never does. (Certainly we can’t be expected to know it already or figure it out.) Part of the reason this story is told the way it is has to do with the fact that the gods are losing favor with the people because they are cruel and capricious. But nevertheless it leaves us to ponder Athena’s motives. And the punishment here is to take Medusa and turn her into something hideous that no one can look at without becoming stone. So if the curse fits the crime, then Athena hates Medusa’s beauty, or what she does with it. But the only person we hear of Medusa attracting is Poseidon. (And it’s not as if Athena isn’t beautiful at all. If she were terribly ugly, the curse might make sense. But that’s not the case.) I find it suggestive. Athena being jealous of Poseidon/Medusa doesn’t seem like a huge leap based on the information we’re given.
The curse also punishes Poseidon. He no longer has his beautiful woman. And yet the way the story is told, it’s like Athena permits the rape. As if she is favoring Poseidon’s desire over justice for Medusa.
Despite the total dearth of representation, amazingly there are Athena/Poseidon interactions, and shippable circumstances, in all three of the movies I mentioned. Which is pretty crazy. But I guess that’s what happens when Poseidon is always important enough to include, and Athena is the goddess of choice.
And now onto Immortals. The plot as far as the gods are concerned is quite similar. The humans have a plan that will weaken or endanger the gods. Zeus has his own ideas about how to deal with it, and everyone else, especially Athena and a select son (Apollo in Clash of the Titans, Ares in Immortals), think his ideas are sh!t.
Immortals, like the Clash of the Titans deleted scenes, also as a relationship with incestuous vibes – in this case a father/daughter relationship: Zeus and Athena. I hesitate to call it canonically incestuous, because I think it’s still possible to interpret it in a non-incestuous way, especially since we’re dealing with a different race of beings. But it comes off very incestuous.
I think we have the Olympian gods/incest association to thank for the delightful incestuous subtext in these two films. It pleases me very much, this association, and the fact that even though the incestuous marriages, like Zeus and Hera, were not included, they still found a way to include it. It’s possible the incest is included as a way of making them seem “otherly”, although I have to say it’s never treated that way. It would have been a lot more overt.
Almost always Zeus is portrayed as an older man (50’s) with a massive gray beard. This is an understandable choice, as many of the statues of him depict him this way. (Poseidon too.) But all of those statues are just the artists’ vision. It’s not like Zeus posed for them.
In my opinion, there’s no reason why the gods wouldn’t all be young. They are ageless, so it doesn’t really make sense for the older generation to actually appear older. And in the scheme of things (especially if we’re talking about Percy Jackson, when the gods are still alive and doing their thing in the modern day), the differences in their ages is totally insignificant, a tiny percentage of the span of their lives. Zeus doesn’t need to look older in order for everyone to know he’s the patriarch. (His pigheadedness and bad decisions give that away.) Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but the younger generation have children in these myths who are adults, don’t they? So why do they still appear young, but Zeus’ generation appears older? Do they all age, but just really slowly like Tolkien elves or something?
Furthermore, old age is associated with weakness, but Zeus is the most powerful. Wouldn’t he want to look it? Also, as I mentioned before, we don’t know what the gods can and cannot do, but it seems to me that it ought to be within their powers to appear however they want to appear. We know Zeus can take the shape of animals and in Immortals he appears to the hero of the story, Theseus, as an elderly man. Wouldn’t he want to look like a stud? Perhaps there’s this idea that they have more gravitas if they look older but still strong, however, onscreen, as long as the acting is good, that’s not required. All that gravitas and dignity and whatever else can come across through the acting. (And the costumes!)
Immortals is one of my favorite movies. And one of my favorite things about it is how beautiful it is. It is a visual masterpiece, absolutely stunning. And I’m so glad they made the choice to make Zeus beautiful too. (Though he’s just as grumpy as any other version of the character.) Including doing away with all of the excessive hair everywhere. That’s my aesthetic.
Casting a younger man for the role certainly did a lot to up Zeus’ shippability factor – and he has always suffered in that way, being known mostly as a rapist and all-around huge dick. He’s a huge dick in this movie too, but at least he’s more pleasant to look at. And at least he spends half the movie flirting with his daughter. That goes pretty far in my book.
Anyway, in Immortals, Zeus has a close/affectionate relationship with his daughter Athena. There’s lots of sensuality to their interactions, and given how they’re both so young and good-looking, you can’t help but wonder about them when they touch so much.
I mean, this is their first scene:
I WONDER WHAT ELSE THEY DO WHEN THE OTHER GODS AREN’T LOOKING.
In the guise of the old man, Zeus is sort of kind and tender with Theseus, but in his normal form, interacting with the Olympians, he’s a total hardass, EXCEPT to Athena. Zeus wants his humans (the Hellenics) to fix their problems on their own, but Athena (and all the others, especially Ares and to a slightly lesser extent Poseidon), want to assist the humans. Zeus declares that helping the Hellenics is punishable by death, and he’s as good as his word: when Athena and Ares get caught helping Theseus, Zeus kills Ares. (Actually one of the reasons I haven’t been hugely into the Zeus/Athena ship is that I just can’t forgive him for killing Ares. It really chaps my hide!) Athena apparently gets off scot-free, unless you count losing her brother. (Maybe I do count it? Maybe that’s Zeus’ punishment for her? Or maybe he just instantly forgives her because she’s his precious Athena. Probably the latter.)
And then at the end of the movie, the Olympians finally get involved when the Titans from Tartarus are freed. All of the gods are killed in the battle except for Zeus. Athena is, presumably, mortally wounded. He carries her up to Olympus and it’s so weirdly romantic and familial at the same time, fascinatingly so.
This relationship definitely achieves almost a magical balance between sweet father/daughter relationship and incestuous sexual tension extravaganza.
If there’s intentional incestuous subtext between anyone, it’s definitely Zeus and Athena. But I LOVE Athena’s relationships with Ares and Poseidon. The three of them are like-minded as far as this whole Zeus/Theseus situation is concerned, and we often see them in each other’s company.
Oh, and just a note: in the film itself there are no mentions of the familial relationships among the gods except for Zeus and Athena being father and daughter. But in the deleted scenes Ares calls Zeus his father, and Poseidon calls Zeus his brother – and confirmation on that doesn’t hurt because if you thought Zeus looked young, feast your eyes on baby Poseidon:
I am a particular big fan of Athena/Ares. (In fact, it has been the gif in my tumblr sidebar for years.) I won’t deny that 75% of the appeal of this ship, aside from the fact that they’re gods and I obviously have a kink for that, is in how ridiculously good-looking they are together. But even though they only have a few scenes together (and once again I have to turn to deleted scenes to fill out the picture), there’s still a little something there.
And before I get into that, I want to say that I do love Athena/Ares from a more abstract view as well. Ares is the god of war, and Athena is the god of military strategy. So have that in common, and are two sides of the same coin. It makes sense for them to be companions in that way. Those traits are complementary, counterparts. (Even though traditionally they are on opposite sides of conflicts and have a few pretty ugly fights.)
In the first scene in which we meet the other gods, Athena is describing the war that is taking place on Earth. Ares is right beside her on one side, and the other gods that are present in this film (Poseidon, Hercules, Apollo) are listening to her. (This group of five gods are called “the young gods” in the title of the deleted scenes so I may refer to them that way.)
I know it hardly seems significant that Ares and Athena are standing next to each other, and yet I will fight you on this.
Athena recounts the atrocities that she sees with a note of sadness but mostly stoically. (Which I love, because it makes her seem ethereal.) Ares is pissed off, ‘cause that’s Ares. (The enemy of the Hellenics – Hyperion and his army – “honor no rules of engagement”, and Ares is terribly offended by this. That’s not exactly traditional for him.)
This is when Zeus makes his edict: the gods are not to interfere. (And this is where you’ve really got to just accept the mythology in this movie as its own thing, because he says that the law is that the gods are not to interfere in the affairs of man. Um…I’m pretty sure that the gods are in the habit of doing exactly the opposite of that.) When Zeus says that anyone who disobeys will be put to death, Athena shifts.
Now I think she might be taking a step forward (which I’m not sure why she would be doing that), but what it looks like is that she’s moving closer to Ares, and so that’s what I choose to believe. I have this headcanon that she knows he won’t be able to resist intervening to help the Hellenics against their honorless enemy, and so she already feels protective towards him and worried about him.
Athena is reclined on a bench like the queen of everything that she truly is. These poor dudes are moths to her flame. The choreography of this scene really does make me feel like they are subservient to her, but by choice, not rank. Ares is in his customary position – at Athena’s side. He’s leaning against the wall on her left. And Poseidon is sitting next to her on the bench. Then there’s a shift, and Poseidon rises and leans against the wall at Athena’s right, and Ares sits down (extremely close) next to Athena. This all makes me giggle. She’s at the center and they circle around her.
I like to imagine that she and Ares are sort of like twins. It’s understood that her relationship with Ares is the most privileged of all. Poseidon respects this and is happy to come in second. (This is ignoring Zeus. I thinks she probably categorizes that relationship differently.) Poseidon’s not as close to Athena as Ares is, but he’s still an intimate.
In the third scene, Ares and Poseidon are sitting at the edge of Olympus watching Theseus, who is about to be in danger. Athena appears, and she goes over to stand by Ares (of course). He looks back at her.
And then he turns to Poseidon, and asks him, “Are you minding this?” Ares being Ares is very agitated in a very obvious way. Poseidon’s really chill in this movie, and Ares isn’t quite able to elicit the boiling outrage he’s looking for, but Poseidon is in fundamental agreement.
I think there was some silent communication between Ares and Athena when he looked back at her. He didn’t say anything until she was there, and then he never spoke to her, even though there was plenty to be said about what was going on and what needed to be done. I really think he just didn’t need to. They’ve so in sync.
Poseidon asks Athena if Theseus is the hero that they are all rooting for, and she nods. And then Poseidon turns very thoughtful.
So Athena begins speaking to Poseidon (and Ares turns to watch her), and she tells him: “Poseidon, if Zeus were to suspect you, we would come to your defense.”
And there’s so much I want to say about this. First I want to talk about this cute girly fidgeting she’s doing. I know she’s genuinely nervous/scared, but it looks a little flirty to me. And I’m not just saying that, because I actually do think there’s a possible interpretation where Athena’s charms are intentionally being used to “encourage” Poseidon. The way the scenes goes, it’s very easy to imagine that he intervenes just to please her. Why else would Ares wait to bring it up until Athena was there unless he knew Poseidon was less likely to refuse if he had to do it in front of her and disappoint her.
I mean, I don’t think that Athena and Ares manipulated Poseidon into helping, but we could definitely read it that way. Here comes Athena, his pretty niece, asking him nicely, and promising to defend him with her father (who dotes on her) if gets into trouble. And so he goes and does it. And from an Athena/Ares perspective, I do like the idea that maybe Athena encourages Poseidon to intervene so that Ares wouldn’t, because she wanted to keep Ares safe.
Also from an Ares/Athena perspective, I love that Athena speaks for both of them. She never consults Ares, she never even looks at him to see if he’ll back her up. She just knows that she can speak for him. (I have such a kink for that.)
Poseidon looks over at her, considers what she has said, and then stands up. Poseidon is sort of the fun god in this movie. He’s the only one that seems to have a sense of humor. He grins at her, reminds them all that “the sea has forever been an unpredictable domain”, and then he leaps down.
There is a deleted scene in which Zeus confronts Poseidon, but he can’t prove that Poseidon interfered. Sadly Ares and Athena do not appear in that scene. Presumably they were as good as their word, or would have been, if they had needed to be.
Zeus and Athena give substantial help to Theseus in a later scene, wiping out all of his attackers and providing him with horses. But Zeus shows up and rains on everyone’s parade. Athena is terrified when she sees him. She drops down to her knees and says, “Forgive me, Father.” (And she repeats it.)
Zeus looked more betrayed than angry when he saw her, and this melts him. Ares is not as humble, and says, “I only broke the law to save the mortal.” This makes Zeus furious, and he kills him instantly. (HE DOESN’T EVEN SAY GOODBYE TO HIS OWN SON!) Ares’ fatal flaw is being right about everything and being too reasonable to refuse to recognize the fact that he’s totally right. Athena is crushed as Ares is killed before her.
It’s a small exchange, but meaningful. They are mourning Ares together. She seems like a widow. (She’s the only one who is in black.)
Athena is broken-hearted, but she does not appear to blame Zeus for what he did. I’d like to think she loves him more than she resents him, and that she respects him for his integrity, but that she does hate him a little for killing Ares. She seems to mourn Ares as a casualty of war rather than a victim of their father. But I do feel I am able to interpret a little resentment. (And the same for Poseidon, who I feel may actually be furious.)
But, see, this is what I love about the gods. Zeus’ actions are totally alienating to us, but from their point-of-view, there was justice in what he did. They’re so different!
Even though I’m devastated about Ares, and enraged at Zeus, I love Zeus/Athena in this scene. Athena is decked in her black, and she’s standing up on a balcony overlooking the memorial and the edge of Mt. Olympus, and Zeus is hiding in the corner. He’s crying. He’s obviously very upset about what he “had” to do, I will say that for him.
What I like is that the scene feels extremely intimate. They are so far away from everyone else. Zeus is hiding away (it seems) but he allows Athena to be there, and to see him being so vulnerable and emotional.
When Hyperion releases the Titans, the gods go to war. Poseidon and Athena don’t have any interactions in the battle, but they do appear in parallels positions right behind Zeus. Unfortunately all the gods split up while fighting and there are no interactions between them until it is only Athena and Zeus left. Poor Poseidon dies too. Poor beautiful baby Poseidon.
(I’m crazy about the costumes in this movie, except for their battle helmets. I can barely see their faces and they all look like birds.)
So there’s not a lot to the Poseidon/Athena situation, but I still find it very shippable.
As for Ares and Athena, that other 25% – you know, the shippability factor that isn’t based on their aesthetic appeal – really comes down to their unity. Athena and Ares are always staged next to each other in the group scenes. They are closer to each other, always. They seem to agree about everything, without ever discussing it. I think it really was a special relationship.
Sometimes I am not very good at multishipping, but I honestly ship Athena/Zeus, Athena/Poseidon, and Athena/Ares. All three.
Finally we get to Percy Jackson. And if you’re expecting much more than what we had with the other movies you’re going to be disappointed, but at least in this movie I don’t ship Poseidon or Athena with anyone else, only each other.
So Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief takes place in the present day and is about a boy, Percy, who learns that Greek mythology is real, and that he is a demi-god, the son of his human mother and Poseidon. The world is full of other demi-gods and mythological creatures, and the gods all live in Olympus, occasionally visiting Earth for various and whatever. And so, naturally, just like in ancient times, there are fights and issues between them, etc. In this movie, Zeus’ lightning has been stolen. It’s an incredibly powerful weapon, and everyone wants it, and it becomes quite the adventure for Percy when everyone thinks that he has it.
The gods are not allowed to interact with their Earthly children. (We find out later that when Poseidon was living like a human with Percy’s mother and baby Percy, he was neglecting his godly duties and so Zeus made this law.) Occasionally they can whisper and help and stuff like that, there’s a connection, but they can’t ever be face to face.
Percy goes to Camp Half-Blood where the demi-gods and other creatures gather for education and training and to be safe. There he meets Annabeth, his love interest for the series. (I haven’t read the books so I’m not sure how things end up for them. I’m basically ignoring the books entirely for this because I don’t know them.) Annabeth is the daughter of Athena. So that makes Percy and Annabeth related – they are first cousins once removed. (Pretty tame for the Olympians, lol.) And the movie, naturally, never really highlights this. But in the sequel – Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – another cousin of theirs – Hermes’ son – encounters the two of them and calls them his favorite cousins. (The romantic relationship gets played very light in the movies but I wouldn’t call it ambiguous, just doughy.)
Anyway, Annabeth has been in Camp Half-Blood her entire life, and so she knows a lot more about the mythology than Percy does. When she first meets him, she says that she has intense feelings towards him, but she’s not sure if they are good or bad. But it definitely shows itself at first as an antagonism.
Then she explains that their parents hate each other (and I guess they hate each other so much it’s in their blood and affects their children, which is amazing), and she tells a story about when both Poseidon and Athena wanted to be the patron god of Athens, but Athena was chosen, and they had never gotten along since then. (And once more, this is one of the only stories told by a third person about two of the gods and something that happened between them in ancient times. Athena and Poseidon get to star in all the storytimes.)
Annabeth doesn’t give us this part of the story, but typically it goes that Poseidon and Athena each made an offering to Athens. Poseidon gave them a well, but the water was salty. Athena gave them the olive tree, which had multiple purposes (oil, wood, shade, etc.), and so they favored Athena’s gift. Perhaps the reason Annebeth doesn’t tell the whole story is because it makes Poseidon look like a sore loser. I guess in this version, we’re supposed to think it’s a bit more equal.
There’s another story of rivalry between Athena and Poseidon, but this is from The Odyssey and is not a part of any of the movies. Athena is the goddess of heroes, and so she often helps them. She favors Odysseus, but Odysseus blinded the Cyclops, one of Poseidon’s children, so Poseidon avenges his son, pitting him against Athena.
Medusa is actually in this movie too, and when she meets Percy she tells him, “I used to date your daddy”. And she talks to Annabeth about how her mother was the one who cursed her. (Though the story of why Athena did this is never told.)
The actual interactions between Poseidon and Athena aren’t until the end, and there’s not a lot but it really did a number on me. So Percy recovers the lightning, and he and Athena go to Olympus to return it. When we first see Olympus, the gods are all yelling at each other, blaming each other for the fact that they’re about to be thrown into war. Zeus is sitting on this throne, and in front of him, Poseidon and Athena are arguing with each other, apparently having a very personal quarrel.
Zeus yells “silence”, and they all stop talking and sit down in their seats. (Both Clash of the Titans and Percy Jackson have a similar conception of a throne room, with Zeus at the head, and the Olympians in smaller thrones forming a circle.) Athena looks back to spare Poseidon one last look, and then she sits down at Zeus right. Poseidon’s position is the seat right to Zeus’ left, but he doesn’t sit down. . So in this story they are his top 2. (Like the battle formation in Immortals.)
There appear to be 13 seats, which would account for the traditional 12 Olympians, and then probably the 13th is for either Dionysus or Hestia, as one or the other is usually included as the 12. Presumably Hera is among the 13 but she doesn’t sit next to Zeus here. But a few of the seats are empty, so maybe she’s not there, and would normally be next to Zeus. I don’t know. It seems like they would have regular seats. I JUST DON’T KNOW.
Poseidon never sits down. He moves over towards Zeus (who has stood), and says, “You said it was predestined. You wanted this battle.”
Zeus says, “You have only yourself to blame.” (He’s thinking that Poseidon has stolen the lightning.) But Poseidon seems to be paying more attention to Athena than Zeus:
This seems largely directed at Poseidon. Upon reflection, I suppose we are to assume that Athena shares her father’s belief that Poseidon is responsible for the theft of the lightning and he’s trying to cause trouble. But the fact that Zeus thinks that doesn’t become totally clear until later in the scene, and we never find out for sure what Athena thinks is going on.
What it sounds like to me is that Athena and Poseidon both agree completely that there shouldn’t be a war over the lightning bolt. Zeus is the only one that anyone knows for sure is going to be starting a war. So Athena and Poseidon are on the same side. I like the idea that her antagonistic relationship with Poseidon is such that she argues with him even when they hold the same position.
Percy says, “I didn’t steal it and I have no connection to Poseidon.”
This causes a rueful look on Poseidon’s face. I imagine it was very hurtful to hear his son say that. But he just sort of looks embarrassed and then glances over at Athena!
It’s really quite strange that he would look at her. You’d think he would either look at Percy, or he would look at Zeus, who is responsible for the fact that Poseidon is not allowed to have a relationship with his son.
Then Percy explains who really did steal the lightning, and why he did it: because he was angry at the gods and he wanted them to destroy themselves.
This makes all of the gods look thoughtful. Athena sort of furrows her brow thoughtfully, and then turns to look at Poseidon, who is already looking at her. And then Poseidon sort of nods, as if it all makes sense now and seems about right.
(I think it’s pretty funny that the gods all look chagrinned. It doesn’t seem to me they’d agree that they’d done wrong.)
That’s it for Poseidon and Athena. Athena has a small exchange with Annabeth where she says hi and tells her she’s proud, then all of the gods funnel out and leave Poseidon alone with Percy. (But you can see Athena watching while Poseidon pleads with Zeus for the chance to speak with Percy. She also looks back at him once as she’s walking out.)
I know it doesn’t sound like much but it made me ship them so hard! I never noticed it when I watched this movie before. But that moment when Athena looks over at him, and he’s already looking at her, really made me ship them. I just got this impression from it that there’s something special about their relationship. And it wasn’t just the one time that they looked at each other – it happened several times throughout the short scene. Athena interacted with Poseidon in this scene more than she did with Zeus or with Annabeth!
It just seems significant to me that Athena had a revelation (silly as it was), and Poseidon was the person she was looking at. And then Poseidon gets punched in the heart by his son, and he looks over at Athena. He realizes the gods have been acting like dicks, and he looks over Athena. He thinks Zeus is to blame for everything that’s going wrong, but better fight with Athena about it. I mean, you see this, right?
Of course, I’m sure in part this is supposed to be a follow-up to the story told by Annabeth about their rivalry over Athens. Like I guess they get along now because this thing that is totally unrelated happened. Or something. But I don’t buy it. And then, yeah, there’s the fact that that aside from Zeus, Athena and Poseidon are the only two gods of note in the story, so it just makes sense to have them interact with each other. That’s just the way movies and shows work. But like I always say, canon is canon. There may have been meta reasons for this happening, but it still happened.
Also, I think some of the shippability might come from a quality that Kevin McKidd just has. Like how his characters are very gruff and unapproachable on the outside but feel things very intensely. I don’t know what I’m saying. Except that I can see how Poseidon’s somewhat hostile relationship with Athena could easily be confusing more tender feelings. And how that relationship, even if it’s hostile, could be one of the most important ones that he has.
I love the idea of the two of them being so consumed with this rivalry that they spend more time thinking about it than they do thinking about other things.
And I can’t believe I forgot to mention Percy and Annabeth. It would be delightfully awkward for them to be both cousins (from an already extensively inbred family) and step-siblings of sorts. But I really want to look at it from the Poseidon and Athena angle: how awkward is it for them that their children are in love! They would have to confront the idea that their qualities could come together in a really great way. That maybe if they weren’t feuding, other feelings could be there.
In Sea of Monsters, Percy meets his brother, a cyclops (which is what happens when Poseidon mates with a “nature spirit”, if I recall correctly) named Tyson. A cyclops killed one of Annabeth’s friends when she was younger, so she hates them. (Even though Tyson is a teddy bear.) So she has some hostility towards him at first, but they become friends eventually, when Tyson proves himself to be a precious cinnamon roll and Annabeth realizes not all cyclops are brutal killers. Echoes of Poseidon/Athena reconciliation and meaningful relationships all over the place. (It’s nice to see “Athena” (Annabeth) as the unreasonable one for a change.)
In terms of their individual personalities, Poseidon is supposed to be violent and stormy (moody), and Athena is wise and virtuous. I think those are interesting opposites. Not polar opposites, but different sides of the spectrum. I imagine him driving her crazy but there being a certain fascination both ways. He’s always being contrary and impossible, which exasperates her, and he can’t deal with the fact that she always gets the best of him.
And I think you all know by now how much I love my hostile tension and paternal uncle/niece ships, and my gods ships. So this is my crack.
So, Athena/Poseidon for your consideration.
Percy and crew have to visit the underworld in order to rescue Percy’s mother, and they encounter Hades and his queen while down there. Persephone is, of course, Hades’ niece, the daughter of his sister, Demeter, and the daughter of his brother, Zeus. (Niece 2x!) She was a famed beauty and had many suitors that Demeter all rejected.
Traditionally, Persephone is kidnapped by Hades against her will (though Zeus gives him permission to do this, sometimes because he was so in love he had become a really crappy king of the underworld because he was so lovesick, and sometimes because everyone knows Hades got the raw end of the dividing-up-the-world deal and Zeus feels bad.) When her mother becomes distraught and fails to fulfill her duties, Zeus tells Hades he must return Persephone. But because she has eaten the pomegranate seeds that Hades gave her, Persephone must remain in the underworld for part of each year.
As the tale goes, Persephone is unhappy in the underworld at first, but eventually comes to love Hades. It’s possible she was even complicit in the pomegranate scheme. There are even some versions I’ve heard where she is happy to get away from her overbearing mother. She becomes a formidable queen of the underworld.
The story of Persephone’s abduction is sometimes called “The Rape of Persephone”, however this title is generally considered to be a mistranslation and the original refers only to her kidnapping. And it seems to me that if rape had been a significant part of the story, then there would have been a child. (Even though the Greeks had strict laws against rape – it was a capital crime – the gods were allowed to do it. And they did do it, a lot. Like in the Poseidon/Medusa story. But when it happens, it usually *is* part of the story because it was a significant act to the Greeks.)
Of course, he may have raped her. It would not be surprising. If they married before she fell in love with him and consented, then it is more likely to have happened.
OBVIOUSLY I’m in favor of a version of the story where there’s no rape, and with no immutable text where it’s stated definitively to have happened, I’m very happy thinking that he never did. Maybe that’s naïve, but I think I already explained my feelings about “accuracy”. The nicer version has the potential to be such a good love story. I’m always in favor of the version that’s a better story. Everyone should be. (I like darker versions too, but only when the lighter version is an option and I can have both.)
Personally I don’t have a problem with the fact that Hades kidnapped her and kept her prisoner. I like it as part of the story. Yeah, it’s messed up, but I don’t think that means they can’t be happy together later on. Of course it sounds a little like Persephone might have Stockholm Syndrome, but I think that term gets thrown around way too often, as if feeling sympathy for your kidnapper or falling in love with them were somehow impossible and could only be a psychological condition. That’s ridiculous. Besides, she spends at least half of the year away from him, eventually.
And let’s not forget that Persephone barely knows Hades because he’s not invited to Mt. Olympus very much, and Demeter keeps her out in the forest by herself. (They are both sort of ostracized and lonely.) Most of her exposure to Hades is probably just knowing that everyone else doesn’t like him very much. And I’m sure the underworld takes some getting used to. So it’s no surprise she wouldn’t go with him willingly and wouldn’t like it there at first. It’s said she comes to appreciate all of his wealth and the power of her position in addition to falling in love with him.
I also think that if the story says that she fell in love with him, then she did. That’s the canon of the story. You all know by now that I’m not in a committed relationship with authorial intent and I love spinning canon to suit my wishes, but that’s just how the story ends. (Or at least all the versions I know.) Besides, this is a different culture, and among the gods, this sort of “courting” is more commonplace. I do believe in taking the story in its context. (I’m referring mostly to how Persephone would have felt about what had happened. I hope you don’t think that I think kidnapping her is OK, even with her father’s permission. Hades done wrong.)
Hades sometimes took lovers while Persephone was topside and sometimes Persephone took jealous/vindictive actions against them.
In Percy Jackson, Persephone says that Hades is cruel and abusive, and the only time she looks forward to is when she’s away from “this hellhole”. I don’t want to ignore the fact that she says all of that, but I actually do love their dynamic. If only their real story was that they had just been married for too long and gotten on each other’s nerves. Or if she had eaten food in the underworld on accident, and had no choice but to be there, but it wasn’t his fault. And then they sort of fell for each other but now they’re like an old married couple. Or if this was still the period before she had fallen in love with him. Medusa is still alive in this movie, even though one of the most famous Greek myths is Perseus killing her. So in this universe, some of the things from the myths have happened, and others haven’t happened yet. (Book readers probably know a lot more about that than I do. But I’m not talking about book canon anyway, I’m talking about movie canon. And that’s my interpretation of what’s in the movie.)
Or if Persephone was actually bad, like she pretended to be for a moment.
But then while they were kissing she stole the lightning bolt and shot him with it. I do think two things about this are sort of interesting: 1) he never gets suspicious when she puts her hand on his shoulder or when she kisses him, and 2) she doesn’t kill him. She might have had to stay in the underworld no matter what (I’m not sure exactly what the rules were of eating food in the underworld), but she could have killed him with the lightning bolt, I think. Is it bad to think that maybe she’d rather have his company? (In Percy Jackson she has lots of lovers that come and visit her. I don’t think that’s incompatible, and actually I love it.) When he’s knocked out, she kneels beside him and laughs and says that he won’t remember a thing.
She gives the lightning back to Percy so he can return it to Zeus and stop the war from happening. She says that if Hades had the lightning, she would never get her time away from the underworld. I’m not sure I follow her reasoning.
Anyway, I do want to say that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with romanticizing the story of Hades/Persephone as long as the version you’re telling actually is romantic and not abusive. (Definitions will probably vary on that, naturally, given the kidnapping.) I realize some feel people that romanticizing a story of abduction is dangerous to impressionable young people (especially if they’re more familiar with a darker version, and/or one that involves rape), but I’ve never felt like storytellers had any obligation to society (they can do good with their storytelling, but they don’t have to), and how many people actually get kidnapped anyway? I’d like to think the abductee would have the very basic common sense to not confuse the two situations. And if this becomes a metaphor/analogy, how far do we have to let it go? As for the “potential kidnappers”, if they heard it in a story once and decide to do it because it worked out in the story, the blame for that is not on the story or the storyteller. That’s what I believe. And I’m not saying that people, especially young people, aren’t influenced by the fiction they see/read/play, I know that they are, I know that I was/have been/am, but I just don’t think there’s a burden on the part of the storyteller to tell a story that is edifying or politically correct, and I don’t think responsible consumers should have to pay the price for a tiny fraction of society that decides right and wrong based on works of fiction.
And of course I believe in doing what’s best for society, but obviously I am hugely into fiction and I like a lot of problematic ships and tropes and at some point the personal sacrifice is not worth it.
And while I recognize that an entire school of works with the same problematic pieces can have a negative influence on society, I don’t think it’s fair to target any one particular work. If a trope only becomes problematic because it’s so common, then I don’t think it’s fair to criticize any single instance of the trope, because the trope itself is not inherently problematic, only it’s prevalence. That’s what I think.
Sorry, I’m getting defensive. And philosophical. It’s better when I don’t get that way. I just wanted you to know that I have thought about this. I should probably just delete all of that.
Like I said before, I don’t really care about fidelity to the traditional versions of the stories. It has become sort of popular to do Hades/Persephone AUs for ships, and I think, in almost all cases, we can safely assume those AUs are meant to be consensual and mutual and “true love” (even if there is dark/angsty period.) And that’s what I prefer, but I also take a pretty solid stance on unhealthy ships that as long as you’re acknowledging that it’s unhealthy then you can ship what you like the way you want to ship it. And I also take a pretty solid stance on second chances and not holding someone’s past against them if they really have changed. But I don’t think Hades is likely to change as a “person”, though if he came to love Persephone as we talk about love in the modern day, then I can imagine a new start for them.
I also really like the idea of Persephone changing, the underworld changing her into something darker. I love that she throws herself with enthusiasm into her new role.
Oh, and before I change topics, there’s a trend in popular culture to have Hades as a “villain”, but that wasn’t his role, traditionally. People didn’t like him because he hung out with the dead all of the time. It was distasteful. He was also a stickler for the rules. HE’S JUST MISUNDERSTOOD. (/joke. Sort of.)
Hades comes off sort of like an incompetent and silly villain in Percy Jackson from what I’ve told you, but at one point he tries to intimidate Percy and he takes a terrifying fiery form, like a balrog or something. He actually is a badass, he just dresses like Criss Angel and lets Persephone sass him and manipulate him.
I couldn’t find the originals of these but they were too good not to share:
Anyway, this whole thing has been way too long and a huge mess.
Athena/Poseidon cast spam, because I found all these great pics and couldn’t resist sharing:
I want a movie about the gods! And I want to write it myself, and cast who I want in it. And I want it to have an enormous budget. There would be so much incestuous sex and it would all be consensual.
Oh, and I talked about a lot of relationships among the gods, but I only presented my ships from those movies. I didn’t even go into the others that I really love – Zeus/Hera, Apollo/Artemis, my absolute favorite Aphrodite/Ares, and others.
Oh, and I’m not going to write a whole thing on Aphrodite and Ares right now but I do want to address the issue of exactly what their relation is. Ares is the son of Zeus and Hera, but Aphrodite has two origin stories. According to Homer, she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione. But the most traditional origin story is her being born in the foam of the sea from Uranus’ penis, which had been cut off. This makes Aphrodite Ares’ aunt 2x removed. However, they are much more closely related than that because 1) the gods are immortal so they are all alive at the same time and generations don’t have much meaning. For all of us, a great great aunt would be long dead, but not so for the Olympians. It’s still a close family member, and Aphrodite and Ares are both among the 12 Olympians, and 2) because Ares is ridiculously inbred – his parents were brother and sister, his grandparents were brother and sister, his great grand-parents were brother and sister, his great-great grandparents were brother and sister – the “genetic” connection is pretty much that of a sibling. When the family tree doesn’t branch, there’s no new material in the gene pool. So, all of that rambling was just to point out that even though Ares and Aphrodite aren’t brother and sister in every version, they are still something very close to brother and sister. As classic as Aphrodite rising out of the foam is (and her named is related to the word for foam, and a love goddess being created from a penis makes sense), I much prefer her as a daughter of Zeus. Frankly it doesn’t even make sense that she would be older than Zeus. Apparently the working theory is that she was forming in the foam for a very very very long time. So she’s basically the same age as Ares even though she’s generations ahead of him. I guess.
I swear I don’t have this maniacal need for everyone to be closely related it’s just that I think Ares/Aphrodite is relevant for my blog but I wanted to defend that position since their technical relationship is somewhat distant.
For those of you who would like to know, the original Clash of The Titans – 1981 – does feature quite a lot of interaction among the gods – much more than in any of these other movies, actually, and includes Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, and Thetis. However, none of it was very shippable. Poseidon only appears briefly and is very very old. Zeus is likewise quite old and very annoying, which is exactly what all the goddesses think of him as well.
It was nice to see Zeus and Hera actually interacting (the only other movie in which they are at all present as a relationship is Disney’s Hercules),
but it was not shippable, though we did see a glimpse Hera’s notorious jealousy. The one possible ship that I liked was Athena and Hephaestus (they are brother and sister, except in certain versions of the legend in which Hera conceives Hephaestus all on her own, and they’d still be cousins). Zeus orders Athena to give her pet owl to Perseus, which Athena desperately doesn’t want to do because she loves it. So Hephaestus, the blacksmith god, builds her a robotic owl to send to Perseus instead. I would imagine he’s probably taking a risk in doing such a thing. He’s fully aware of why she wants the substitute owl to be made. Admittedly, Athena actually seems to be in love with the owl more so, but she does talk about Hephaestus is skilled and ingenious. (And the fake owl is really quite wonderful.)
Now, I have seen a few other things with the gods in them that I didn’t mention because there wasn’t anything worth mentioning. I’m not a fan of anything where they act too much like humans, or where they are living among us for too long, or where they appear to have no family feeling at all. Anything modern day is generally not to my tastes (Percy Jackson’s fine because the gods still act and live as they always did).
But I do know the gods have been on some shows like Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules and others. I have never seen those shows so I don’t know what the situation is like with the gods. Do we see them on Mt. Olympus? Do they interact with each other? Are they mostly all old and unattractive? There’s also a new show, Olympus, that takes place in mythological ancient Greek times. From the description I didn’t feel like it would be what I wanted it to be, so I never tried it. It features some gods but not the main ones? I feel like they would only be interacting with the human characters.
Oh, and before I leave off, I should probably say that this post is, obviously, entirely about the Greek pantheon. What’s nice about the Greek gods is that they all look like humans (the Olympians, anyway), and of course they’re more familiar and there are lots of them. There’s interesting god stuff in Egyptian mythology and Norse mythology and others and that’s all for another day.