Judeo-Christian Ideologies into Disney’s Hercules
When Disney released Hercules in 1997, it became pretty obvious that some significant changes had been made on the epic adventures of the Greek hero Heracles. Some facts were altered some facts to make the story more suitable for children, giving the story a happy ending. The first noticeable change is the pronunciation of the hero’s name, the film title and protagonist, Hercules- is a nod to the Roman pronunciation. But, most retelling of the Greek story pronounce and wrote the name of the man as Heracles. Through changes in the plot, characters, values promoted, and eliminating some of the horrendous events in the original myth, the hero, Hercules is reshaped to uphold Judeo- Christian ethics and confirm Judeo-Christian theology rather than the beliefs of the ancient Greeks.
The labors of Heracles, one of the better known stories of the hero, Heracles completes twelve labors to atone for murdering his wife and children. While Hercules portrays completion of the labors, the premise of the film is altered to better reflect the story of Jesus, rather than Heracles. Hercules is the son of Zeus and Hera, who is sent down to earth to save mortals from themselves and the evils that are brought upon the world by a villainous god who rules the underworld and the dead (Hades). Hercules, in the film, comes from humble beginnings, and grows stronger while on earth. He gains a large following, and must sacrifice himself to save the world. He is then resurrected by god (his father) and is given the chance to become a god himself.
Hercules, Heracles, and Jesus all have striking similarities when dealing with the hero’s death. In Hercules, Hercules is murdered after sacrificing himself to save the world from Hades, and after saving his true love from death as well. Hercules is saved by his father, the all-mighty Zeus. Heracles, in the myth is murdered by a poisoned shirt given to him by his wife, but is resurrected by Zeus and with his help, Heracles is able to become a god and stay in Mount Olympus. Jesus, is crucified and resurrected three days later, and allowed to be a part of heaven. Like Jesus, Hercules, is the only one who was able to wield the power righteously, however the major difference between the two stories, as Hercules gets the happier ending of staying alive with the one he loves.
Hercules also has a change in character to better fit Judeo-Christian values. Hercules is portrayed with a more even-temper and earnest need to save others, which is more like Jesus, than his predecessor, Heracles. Hercules (when a god) has the Christian Halo, alongside all the gods of Mount Olympus. Zeus has the same physical traits as the common picture of Jehovah- a man with a flowing white beard, who is good and just. Hercules’ Zeus is monogamous and kind, unlike the Zeus described in Greek myths. That Zeus is shown as a god who enjoys sleeping with women, has a nasty and short temper, and does anything he wants without any qualms over the consequences. Hades, who is usually portrayed as an ambiguous and only slightly evil god, who does his job as needed, without any of the blatant characteristics as he has in the film, in which he is seen wearing all dark, with a darker shade of skin, and flame for hair. Hades in the film is seen as having been forced to take the underworld, and taking over the world and Mount Olympus was Hades means of gaining revenge upon Zeus and the other gods. The three characters are altered in appearance and traits in order to fit into standing Judeo-Christian value and ideologies.
Finally, values that were commonly portrayed in the Greek myths were altered to fit with the values that are favored by Judeo Christian beliefs. Heroes and gods are portrayed as just and light. Mount Olympus looks remarkably like the characteristic of Heaven, while the Underworld/Hades looks like a tamer version of the Christian hell. Where as in mythology Hades was a near neutral land for all souls with varying locations, while Heroes where in a part of the land that was near paradise, the Elysian Fields.
Hercules, a womanizing warrior with a temple is shown as a mild-mannered and earnest young man who is in love with only one woman- chastely. Zeus is remade from an adulterer as shown in myths, into a monogamous and just god who cares about his people and family in the family- friendly film.
In 1997, Hercules was added to the Disney vault, and was another movie that had been a retelling of a classic, made suitable for children in a country dominated by Christians. Alongside changes to make it easier to be understood by children, the alterations made in plot, characters, and values would have made it unrecognizable to an ancient Greek transported to the modern day.
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