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Hercules popcult

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There’s a couple of movies about Hercules coming out. I’ve been reading Greek mythology so I looked up the synopses. In the bigger-budget one, Hercules has finished his feats and become a mercenary. But his people need him, so he suits up one more time, full of sighs, and tries to live up to the legend.

But this isn’t Hercules.

Hercules isn’t tired, or world-weary, because that would put him close to quitting, and he never does. Hercules fights. He doesn’t do it with expensive technology or protective layers. It’s pretty much just him, and an animal skin, and a club: like that, naked, he throws himself into the struggle.

Could he die? Yes. If he’s not ready, he’ll die. Every time he fights, he knows this. And if not? Then he’ll fight again. He won’t be vain about it, or show up and tell the story for days, or twirl his laurels. He’ll prepare for the next test, which will be even harder. He doesn’t care; it doesn’t faze him. He’ll fight just as hard, and beat that one too, if the gods allow it.

In other words, bring on the next one. And so on, to infinity, until his painful, horrible death. And that’s fine too, because he didn’t ask for a nice one. He’s here to struggle, not enjoy himself.

It is, very literally, a story of being forged by adversity; it’s right there in his title. His name comes from Hera, the goddess, and kleos, glory. His name translates to he who was made famous by Hera.

Of course this was not her intention. She hates him. She does more than thwart him; she drives him mad, and as a result, he kills his children and wife. Essentially, this is where his story begins. Her blows harden him. The spirit that he develops through these attacks makes him great.

Persecuted by a goddess, scratched and broken by increasingly impossible situations, he finds a way. He does it over and over again, so many times that even his enemies eventually say, “Enough. You win. We give up. A person this good deserves everything.” After death, his merit elevates him to godhood. He didn’t ask for that either; he earns it.

You’ve surely read stories that go like this. “I thought I was strong, and then it happened: a disaster so great I couldn’t imagine it, something I thought would kill me. But I had no choice; I had to deal with it. I did, and in the end, I beat it – and now I’m stronger because of it.”

That is Hercules.

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