If you are looking for a warm, fuzzy Christmas story, kindly stop reading immediately and turn on the Hallmark Channel. Today, we shall rehabilitate the image of the first recorded victim of social media bullying, our old friend Medusa. Medusa has gotten a bad rap through the ages as a result of Greek mythology’s vilifying her as an evil woman in order to protect a powerful Greek god. She is the patron saint of the #MeToo movement. If Medusa’s story had taken place in the 21st century, her public image would have been much different from the ghastly reputation she has acquired due to being smeared to cover up what really happened.
As you recall, in mythology, Medusa was the ugliest woman who ever lived. She was the originator of the bad hair day. How ugly was she? According to legend, she was so ugly that if you looked at her you would turn to stone. Her hair was a writhing mass of snakes. That is pretty yucky.
Ponder her side of the story. How did this happen? Recall in the annual Yuletide TV classic movie, “A Christmas Story,” Ralphie fantasizes about coming home blind as a result of bad parenting and soap poisoning. His parents moan and groan about how he came to such a low state. Let us now moan and groan about how Medusa came to her lowly state.
Medusa was one of the three Gorgon sisters. Her two sisters were monsters but had the benefit of being immortal. Medusa was mortal. She began as a healthy, beautiful girl with silky, snake-free hair. As a teenager, she got a job as an intern vestal virgin at the Temple of Athena. While working at the temple, she came to the attention of the much older powerful sea god, Poseidon. Poseidon used his position to make whoopee with the naive Medusa, who was smitten by the attention of a much older man. Does any of this remind you of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski?
Medusa became pregnant as a result of Poseidon’s attentions. When Athena found out about Medusa’s involvement with Poseidon, there was heck to pay. Athena blamed Medusa for Poseidon’s actions. Never take on the ladies of the Altar Guild or anger a Greek goddess. An enraged Athena changed Medusa’s hair into snakes, turned her teeth into fangs and uglified her facial features into monsterdom.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Polydectes, the king of Seriphos, wanted to get rid of a dude named Perseus who had offended him. The king sent Perseus out on a quest to bring back the head of Medusa.
Poly thought this quest would result in Perseus’ death as Medusa would do her thing and turn Percy into stone. It seemed impossible that Percy could cut off Medusa’s head without looking at her. Percy, being a professional hit man, had a plan. He snuck up on the pregnant Medusa while she was sleeping.
Percy used his shiny bronze shield as a mirror to look at Medusa indirectly. This prevented him from turning to stone and let him chop off poor Medusa’s head. Like the knight who slew the Jabberwock in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” Percy went, “One two! One two! And through and through/ The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head/ He went galumphing back.”
When Percy chopped off Medusa’s head with his vorpal blade, her two unborn children sprang out from her neck along with Pegasus the flying horse. Medusa had a lot of issues bottled up inside her. Percy hopped on Pegasus and flew back, carrying Medusa’s head to Poly.
On the way home, he flew over Libya. Medusa’s blood dripped out, falling onto the Libyan ground and turning into snakes. That is the reason Libya has so many poisonous snakes. Percy had to stop to rest Pegasus. He got into an argument with Atlas, who was responsible for holding up the world. Percy whipped out Medusa’s head from its Versace tote bag and held it up for Atlas to see. Check out Versace’s logo; you’ll find Medusa.
Atlas took one look at Medusa and that was that. Medusa didn’t get any better looking in death. She was the original Dead Head. She turned Atlas into stone, which formed the Atlas Mountains. After a number of other adventures in which he used Medusa’s head to stonify his enemies, Percy gave Medusa’s head to Athena, who had started the whole mess.
Athena had anger management issues, which led to squabbles with mortals and gods. She recognized that Medusa’s head could help out by turning her enemies into stone. Athena stuck Medusa’s head on her shield whenever she got into a ruckus. This addition to Athena’s shield made her undefeatable. It’s hard to win a battle when you turn into stone.
So, what have we learned today? Powerful men have always taken advantage of younger women. Even if you are having a bad hair day, it can’t compare with Medusa’s problems with split ends. Lewis Carroll stole Medusa’s story for his poem “Jabberwocky.” There is nothing new under the sun.
Merry Christmas, anyway.