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Beaumont Abstract Reflections of Hercules in Video Games, Cinema & TV

†Alix Beaumont

Through a Glass Partly: Reflections of Hercules in Video Games, Cinema and Television

Hercules is not a consistently ‘heroic’ figure (by today’s standards), but one that is flawed and woven through with a dark side. In his mythology, he commits numerous sins which are as much a part of his character as the heroic labours. Modern depictions are also not consistent. Television, video games and films have all cast Hercules in different moulds, from perfect hero to flawed hero, even villain. These depictions draw upon aspects of the mythical figure, and intertextually upon other depictions, but are also narratively independent of each other – forming something that this chapter terms a mythodiegesis. Each is also heavily influenced by the requirements of each text, and medium, in which the figure of Hercules is being depicted.

Through examples of portrayals of Hercules in video games (particularly Kevin Sorbo’s reprise of his Hercules role for God of War 3 and the depiction of Hercules in Rise of the Argonauts for X-Box360) as compared with film and television, I will demonstrate what I argue to be the mythodiegetic (that is, the millennia-spanning, mythically-sourced, intertextually and medium/text contextually altered, and yet narratively independent) nature of Hercules depictions.

The chapter will consider how each depiction draws upon an element of the mythical character, selected because it fits the requirements of the text, and then shapes it through a combination of factors, including other depictions of the character. However, through all of this, the chapter argues that the various incarnations of Hercules are kept narratively disconnected from each other, even when there are other direct connections – such as using the same actor to portray different versions of Hercules in different texts. Thus, a mythodiegetic model is proposed for considering Hercules, with each depiction being simply another specially crafted surface upon which a different reflection of the character can be seen.