Percy Jackson' revamps Medusa storyline to align closer with the original myth, acknowledging her as a victim of rape

    In the revamped storyline of "Percy Jackson," the narrative takes a closer look at Medusa, aligning it more closely with the original myth. (Spoilers Below)

    Percy Jackson Series (Source: IGN)

    Percy Jackson Series (Source: IGN)

    For enthusiasts of Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series, Medusa symbolizes one of Percy's initial triumphs. Deceived into spending time with "Aunty Em," Percy successfully beheads the snake-haired woman, using her cursed, lifeless eyeballs to petrify another foe. Yet, for those well-versed in Greek mythology and particularly for many women, Medusa carries a more profound symbolism, representing something darker.

    The Dark Tale of Medusa

    In the original myth, Medusa, a human woman devoted to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, takes a vow of celibacy. However, she eventually engages in a relationship with the sea god Poseidon, turning sexual one night. Many interpretations suggest that this encounter, occurring in Athena's temple, was nonconsensual, implying that Poseidon raped Medusa.

     Athena, angered by the transgression, decides to punish Medusa by transforming her into a gorgon, causing anyone who meets her gaze to turn to stone. The tale concludes with Perseus, the demigod after whom Percy Jackson is named, beheading Medusa and presenting her severed head to Athena.

    Shifting the Lens on Medusa

    The 2005 novel was crafted with a middle school audience in mind, and naturally, it didn't extensively explore that background. However, Percy, being the son of Poseidon, and Annabeth, his companion on the quest, being the daughter of Athena, carry significant lineages in the company of Medusa. 

    In the current TV adaptation of "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" streaming on Disney+, the connections between the gorgon and the parents of the kids are explored more profoundly. Rebecca Riordan, married to Rick and serving as an executive producer for the TV series, explains that the limited exploration of Medusa's character in the books is due to the narrative focus on Percy, lacking her perspective.

    However, the perspective shifted upon entering the TV writers' room, recognizing the importance of incorporating diverse viewpoints. "It was one of the first things we talked about, how to not have a patriarchal lens," explains Rebecca.

    In the pilot episode, Medusa is introduced when Percy's (Walker Scobell) mother Sally (Virginia Kull) takes her young son (played in a flashback by Azriel Dalman) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. There, she shows him Antonio Canova's early 1800s statue of Perseus holding Medusa's severed head. Sally imparts a valuable lesson to Percy, stating, "Not everyone who looks like a hero is a hero, and not everyone who looks like a monster is a monster."

    Navigating Mythical Complexity

    Jon Steinberg, co-creator and co-showrunner of "Percy Jackson," attributes much of the storyline's direction to writer Daphne Olive. He clarifies how the episode nods to the original myth while maintaining age-appropriateness: "If you know what she's talking about, you know what she's talking about.

     If you're too young to be in that conversation, it won't bother you. You're just in a scene about this woman who seems complicated. And everybody's got an opinion about what went down. No version is the version. If Athena and Poseidon were in that room, you'd get three different versions of that story."