Thursday, September 2, 2010

Troy and Women from Hollywood's Perspective

The movie "Troy" is now 30 minutes into playing out on AMC. Well done movie.

I'm also enjoying Brad Pitt in his portrayal of Achilles. He's a haughty, prideful, resentful young man who bears no loyalty to anyone except, perhaps, to his mother. I like his representation in this movie because he breaks from the static, predictable character acting of all his other movies I've seen since "Thelma and Louise."

Also interesting in this story is finally being able to see all the Greek characters I've read about in mythology and history taking their respective places in time juxtaposed to one another. Things finally come together. Relationships are made clear. I'll probably take the next 1.5 hrs to watch this story play out so that I can see how the history goes with all the parts and pieces put together instead of a bit here and a bit there. These are not people who were scattered across time, mere puppets acting out some mindless tasks. These were people full of feelings, cares, fears, needs for respect and association. They had desires to attain great things in many ways.

One thing I'm finding fascinating in this representation, however, is that Pitt seems to be telling us that Achilles was gay. Of course the Encyclopedia Britannica Junior was going to contain a very sanitized version of his life. But nothing else provided that perspective. It appears one of his lovers was his "cousin" (whose name I didn't catch) but as the story progresses, that concept is downplayed in deference to his finding Briseis and ultimately developing care for her.

From a historical analysis I saw many years ago on a PBS program, there was a discussion of Greek moralities and customs. Because so much emphasis was placed on family and the sanctity of the union, the virginity of the bride, men were allowed homosexual relationships until they were ready to wed. Once married, homosexual relationships were forbidden and the marriage bed was protected from desecration. So also were the young women protected from premature awareness and childbirth too early for the development and successful delivery of healthy offspring. Dalliances were discouraged.

I'm also finding the portrayal of the women and their roles in the household (even if it is the court) is fascinating. There seems to be a lot of liberty and freedom in many ways. Whereas, the knowledge I've been given before seeing this is that women were still subservient but not as much as other civilizations. There's no representation of how women played a role in political strategy and decision making. But then, women were the minor characters in this story. This was a story about how one woman caused a war and the focus was on carrying out the war.

Still, this story says women played a very minor role in life and governing. Why have women been treated as mere public eye candy and baby bearers? They are so essential is bringing about developing our cultures, telling the stories, being in partnership with the work and essential in planning. Yet, here again, they are shown as being the minor characters and mere tools in carrying out the larger scheme of life.

As in my youth, I viewed this movie and got curious about the facts - which were real and which fictional. I don't have a wonderful encyclopedia now. I have my laptop and access to information on the Web. So I went to the story of Achilles that can be found on Wikipedia. Interesting how this movie dovetailed so well with the facts on the encyclopedia.


Erastes said...

OK - where to start!

Achilles was not "gay" - there was no concept of gay at the time. Achilles and Patroclus' relationship has intrigued and baffled people for millenia because it flies in the face of the convention of the time. The Greeks had a strict social setup where an older man (the Erastes, or "the lover") would take on to mentor a younger man (the Eronmenos, "the beloved") - this relationship (practised in the higher echelons of society) was to train the younger man in matters of stateship, politics, manners, life in general, and of course sex.

Where Achilles and Patroclus' relationship hits problems is that although it appears that Patroclus is the Eronmenos, he was actually OLDER than Achilles, which doesn't fit the brief. Although the Iliad doesn't expressly state that they were lovers, it has been generally argued that they were - even Plato (in his Symposium) argues the case (Plato Symposium 179e–180b)

The Erastes/Eronmenos relationship was supposed to end when the younger man reached maturity--and he was then expected to take on an Eronmenos of his own.

There's a pretty comprehensive article here:

Please do NOT confuse "pederasty in ancient greece" with the modern idea of child abuse.

As to the women, they are portrayed as such because they had little role in society. They were under the control of their fathers until they married, and then their husbands. They were not allowed out of the house except to visit or to shop.

Yvonne LaRose, CAC said...

This sheds a lot more light on the subjects. It's really appreciated.

The opening of the movie had Pitt and the actor portraying Patroclus with many nuances that suggested more than a familial relationship and more than that of merely mentor and student.

To say outright that there was homosexuality is off the path that I wanted to pursue. I used the term "gay" for lack of better terminology. Given the social protocols I've already learned about the civilization (and their not calling it homosexuality), I deferred to a term that loosely described what I was talking about and was available to my vocabulary. "Gay" and "homosexual" are probably very modern terms not used in antiquity. I definitely did not see pedophilia in either character. What I saw was two men who seemed to have an intimate and caring relationship.

There's an interesting article about women of antiquity and the Olympic games (as well as a cute video) on , the video can be found at

Stephanie Dray said...

A couple of points. First, I don't know if Troy was an awesome movie or not because I couldn't stop looking at Brad Pitt. He was so pretty he was distracting!

Second, we know next to nothing about Trojan culture and how women fit into it, but we do know that the Greeks were a bundle of contradictions when it came to women. Most women--especially Athenian women--were completely sequestered, as Erastes mentions. But then there were the Spartan women, who were an exception to the general rules, and of course there were the hetaera who were far freer to exercise a liberated role in society. The price, of course, was their sexual availability but what are you going to do? :P

Yvonne LaRose, CAC said...

These two perspectives give us a lot more to think about - and research. It makes the time period and the region even more interesting. Although all three are part of one country, it just goes to show that generalities about people and places don't work. What worked for one place was developed over time according to the needs of the people and how free the inhabitants felt about asserting theirselves.

It looks like some places were as vocal about women's rights, for example, but they all recognized that there were prices to pay for what they got and what they sacrificed.

You both have added so much to this view of ancient Greece.

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