exactly that

Percy Jackson, a pale young man wearing a grey shirt and jacket, weilds a lightening bolt with skyscrapers in the background.

Every now and then a movie comes out and I get super excited about it because it sparks something form my childhood or youth that I love.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians did that. I loved Greek mythology in High School (even if I went a little cross-eyed reading The Odyssey and The Illiad). Hollywood is trying to make mythology cool again, and I was stoked about that.

I so wanted to see this movie…and because I think I live under a rock sometimes, I hadn’t heard it was a book series *scribbles a wish list*.

And then we went to the theater.

***Spoilers Ahead. Turn Back Now!***

Last Chance to Avoid Spoilers!My apologies to everyone reading in the Readers!


Dr. Hunt Kevin McKidd Poseidon comes storming out the ocean and makes himself all human looking so he can jaunt up the Empire State building to chat with his brother, Zeus, who has decided that you can apparently walk out of Mordor, because he is royally pissed that someone has bounced and taken his lightning bolt with them… but I guess maybe someone should have picked up his toys a little better, huh? But no, it isn’t Zeus’ fault, because obviously Poseidon has teamed up with his bastard to steal it and overthrow Zeus, because no one trusts anyone here, and we aren’t going to let a little fact that Poseidon’s secret son doesn’t know who he is or who Poseidon is or the fact that he probably skipped school that day distract Zeus from his tantrum… And, hey, isn’t Zeus supposed to wield a thunderbolt? I am not going to rain on their parade…I do not have book or movie deals. Anyhow, Zeus stomps about for a bit and declares that there will be big time trouble of Inconvenient Truth Proportions if someone doesn’t bring his toys back. NAO! Then, he takes the elevator back to Mordor Olympus, because I C WUT U DID THAR! New York is like, where Gods should be!

So, Percy Jackson goes to a really really special school for kids with “special needs”, because he is dyslexic. You can tell because every time he tries to read something on the board it looks all jumbly and it swirls around. It’s almost like it’s…Greek or something. That is also if he has been paying attention at all, because he obviously has AD D, and we all know that this means he can’t sit still or even look at his teacher. In fact, kids with ADD just give up and wander around with headphones on all the time. I don’t know…it all felt very forced LOOK I HAVE THIS PROBLEM1!!1

I do not have ADD, so I can do no more than call my brother to ask if this is an accurate portrayal. My brother does not write blogs. He should. He’s very funny. And also not a concise person.

Percy Jackson can also hold his breath under water for a wicked long time, and no one thinks it is odd that he likes to do this all the time. I have not read the books, so I do not know… does he swim? Is there a reason he is just drawn to the pool all the time that would make sense in the context of his childhood? It is funny that no one has questioned this rather troublesome to the outside observer who doesn’t realize that Percy might have a higher purpose that he doesn’t yet understand behavior. His buddy likes to time him … seven minutes ZOMCC! AMAZING PERCY! It’s almost like he’s BORN to be in the WATER!

So I thought, OK, cool, here is someone who is set up to be a main character who uses crutches, who is Percy’s buddy Grover. That is kind of new. And he’s a PoC. Rawk. A Person of Color who is also a MAIN CHARACTER!

So, let’s go home from school. O HAI! It’s Percy’s mom! She’s ironing her waitress uniform like a good sacrificial lamb! Because here comes Joe Pantoliano who I have only ever seen play someone other than a drunk Italian guy one time on a USA show or something. And he comes in and grabs Percy’s mom’s ass to seal the abused woman who gave up her whole life to become a martyr raise her man-child stereotype. I was pretty sure they were going to whip something out on the table over who was more in charge of taking care of Sally. Oh the price you pay for one night with that man who had the looks of a god! Oh…

So Percy gets to tell his mother that he is so frustrated with school, and she assures him that all of the problems that he is having will all make sense to him one day … because disability is just something we have to tough through until it results in our higher calling? FORESHADOWING!

Cut to Field Trip day to the local museum which just so happens to be having an exhibit on Greek Gods and such. Pierce Brosnan is rockin’ his wheelchair… HEY WAIT A MINUTE!

It is like a crip drag parade in here.

Percy still can’t pay attention even when Professor Brosnan leads him through the questions, so a new teacher leads him into the next room to give him the stern “pay attention” lecture, and it turns out she’s a HARPY ZOMCC PERCY LOOK OUT!

She attacks Percy, and Grover comes to his rescue because HA HA HE IS JUST PRETENDING TO BE DISABLED he can hide his satyr legs and follow Percy around and be his protector, and they run to Percy’s house to get his mother and they all run away to the Camp for Half Bloods, where all the other children who happen to be demigods hang after their secret identities have been revealed.

And they explain to Percy that his ADD is really this cool defense mechanism, meant to help keep him alive when he is attacked, because he is the Son of a God, and is supposed to be a hero. His dyslexia? It is just that his brain is really wired to read Ancient Greek, so it is just that he is in the wrong place. It’s because it is a super power! Sound familiar?

Percy gets to meet all the other demigods including Annabeth, who completes the two dudes one girl trope, although this girl is an awesome breath of fresh air, at least in the movie, in that as the daughter of Athena, she is a perfect combination of ass-kicker and friend, who isn’t having any of that “I’ve fallen in love with you at first sight” crap from Percy. Kudos screen writers! She is smart, she is brave, and I crushed on her a bit DO NOT JUDGE ME!!1! so there is that, and I am hoping that I will enjoy her character this much in the book as well. She was not your Heavenly Sword girl in a chainmail bikini who is cold and stomping everything in her way. She had depth and clothes and I liked her. She was my Ginny Weasley.

And it was all very awkward feeling to me. Because as much as I wanted to love this movie, to get all my fangirl for Greek mythology on and be ready for the next Epic Thing in movies (while not holding my breath for the first great Heroine Movie Series), the first half hour was very off putting for me. There were so many tropes that I couldn’t ink all of my cards and I couldn’t even enjoy the glory that was Pierce Brosnan prancing around half horse. Yes. He’s a centaur and not really disabled either…

However, after a rather chatty discussion with lauredhel about the book series, and having read the first 45 pages of the first book for myself before SOMEONE lost our copy (I would never name names but her initials are The Kid) which we had to ride the bus all the way to Osan to get, I decided that the luster of the story has been lost somewhere in the Big Screen Magic.

The rest of the movie, while veering wildly away from the story arc of the book series, was decent. If you liked the Harry Potter movies you may like this movie. If you like the Percy Jackson book series, you will probably mostly like this movie. If ableism, sexism, racism, and some slightly uncomfortable albeit possibly over the heads of young ones sex innuendos between characters that are supposed to be around 14 or so bother you, you may want to pass. I mean, how old is Grover supposed to be anyhow? And really, when are we going to stop hypersexualizing the PoC characters?

There was one scene that both amused me and slightly irritated me, involving Rosario Dawson’s portrayal of Persephone and Hades, but in the name of spoilers I won’t discuss it at length, but for anyone who has seen it, did it bother anyone else? On a race level or as a trigger for anything else?

In the end, I give Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief a good rating if I can get over the first half hour of aggravation, but maybe it might be enough to put me off altogether if these things are hurtful enough to me. Or maybe it was because SOMEONE ate all my popcorn before the second Lollipop commercial was over. *coughs* However, again, because of the discussion with lauredhel, I am willing to entertain that my perspective is not universal (try not to faint). So, I turn it over to you, gentle readers.

Photo from: Newark Library

Originally published at FWD/Forward


Comments on: "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief — That Special Thing About You" (10)

  1. Wow, it got ‘better’ after the first 30 minutes? Because that’s when I turned it off in disgust. I haven’t read the books but we come close to selling out of them on a weekly basis at the store, so I was really looking forward to it. And boy, I have to say I found it awful. Or at least the first part. The Greek pantheon is my thang, and flags were waving at the very beginning. And the wheelchair bit also annoyed me…I don’t know if you watch Glee at all, but there was a similar situation there for a few eps, although another character called it out.

  2. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve read universally not great reviews of it, so I’m not going to see it, at least not till it’s out on DVD or something. But it is disappointing to see how poorly translated the book is to the movie–my kids and I love the series.

    re: disability–I was a bit turned off too, by how it turns out that the disability isn’t really disability–but at the same time, kids are using that information in the ways that suit them. My son, who has ADD, loves the shit out of percy–it’s the only books he’s been able to sit long enough to read through. I think the book handles it much better–where it’s not so much “is it a disability or a sign of godliness???” but–that whatever it is *effects* percy–and some times he makes good decisions because of it, and sometimes he makes bad decisions because of it–he has to learn to work with it–and that’s what you have to do with ADD. Like, there is one scene in the first book, where Percy grabs the steering wheel from a bus driver, and describes it as one of him being crazy ADD (i can’t remember the exactly language, but he points out that it was not the brightest idea, and it scared him that he did it, and ZOMG, I’m in sooooo much trouble now!)–my son laughs every single time we read that section, he thinks it’s so funny–AND he identifies with it–he’s done crazy ass shit because of his ADD too that has gotten him into trouble.

    So…I feel conflicted–I would’ve liked the representation to be different–but when it comes to putting the story to “action”–when it comes to kids understanding it and translating it to their own lives–they are doing what they need to do, and it’s producing really good things, I think.

    btw–the peirce brosnon character? He’s not disabled in *his* world–but he *is* disabled in “human” world–and I think that’s an entirely accurate conundrum most disabled people have to navigate–are they disabled at home? around other people like them? i.e. where there are accommodations, and no staring and it’s a natural part of life–are we all disabled or differently abled? Do you see what I mean? like–I know several people who wear their prosthesis or use their canes in the public sphere, but at home, where physical accommodations have been made for them and nobody is putting pressure on them to “not make us uncomfortable with how you look”–they never wear or use their prosthesis. Or, they go the other way around, they ONLY use their cane at home, where they feel comfortable.

    so I actually had less of a problem with the centaur thing than I did with Percy’s ADD–although I definitely was not feeling the most comfortable with either of them…

    • bfp: I did not think about the centaur or satyr thing that way, about coming to terms w/ accommodations like that. That is an excellent point. Thank you. See? I knew my concerns were not the only point to be made!

      And I am so glad that you left a comment, b/c in the 45 pages I was able to read *cough* I liked the way that the author wrote Percy’s ADD, but not being able to relate to that particular experience myself I was not sure how others who had that similar experience felt. I remember he described the dyslexia once as “the letters skateboarding off of the chalkboard and around his head” or something, and I thought that was particularly clever.

  3. When I say “better”, I mean “the parade of disability tropes” stopped. The casino scene was a nightmare, and having worked in them, it made no sense. Also, the character of Persephone was both an add on, and IMNSHO, a little bit of a racist joke. Yes, her scene with Hades both made me laugh and cringe (Rosario Dawson got a great quip, but it also made me cringe), but I also groan every time I have to sit through a “let’s watch the hypersexualized PoC in action”. It’s old, it’s boring, it’s been done.

    There were a lot of things about the movie that I really enjoyed. And I am going to read the books, even though they are far below my Kid’s reading level (though, the fact that Harry Potter is her reading level and she is in second grade kind of skews what her “reading level” is). I’ve heard they are so much better.

  4. Oh, and I don’t watch Glee, probably thankfully, b/c we don’t get U.S. telly here.

  5. OYD: Just going on what you’ve said here, I wouldn’t have thought the books were a long way below your kid’s reading level? They’re just barely below Harry Potter, I think, with not a lot in it. The style is a bit different, sure, but they’re not “little-kid” books.

    (speaking as someone with a second grader who can read Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but prefers to have them read aloud… it’s more fun when you share!)

    • You are right, lauredhel. I have a skewed concept of what is “reading level” for what age level, because The Kid is in second grade, reading Harry Potter, and I consider them just slightly below, and in a more conversational style, like you said. I think I said that off-handedly, and I apologize for that. I think you are right, that it is a style difference, and not a particular level difference.

      And, also, I should not be basing anything off of 45 pages of reading *cough*.

      I need to get my butt in gear and order them so Kid and I can read them. Our book store has not bothered to re-stock them here (suddenly Cirque du Freake is worthy of a whole shelf of the single stack that our YA section has been reduced to). And the wait list at the library is a kilometer long. Plus, as someone who reads HP and the Kushiel’s annually, I just like to have books that I enjoy that much handy for re-reading.

      Wow…I totally derailed that comment. Which was just supposed to say: You are right, lauredhel, and I should not have spoken so quickly, having only read 45 pages. I eat YA fiction so fast, and I should wait until I get further in before judging the level. Thank you for calling me on that.

      • it wasn’t supposed to feel like a calling-out… sorry! Mainly didn’t want readers-along to think that they’re kindy-type books, because I don’t think they are.

        Does the Book Depository deliver to you? I’ve been teetering on the edge of a dangerous attachment to that company.

  6. […] see a person hit my child…) our children for the comfort of the poor citizens of over crowded Mount Olympus New York… Fuck […]

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