Making memes of unorthodox gods

This was the week that I stumbled across It’s a great blog and that I would recommend to any classical scholar. The reason I came across it was because Anwen posted a very funny series of screenshots detailing what might happen if Zeus got an iPhone.

This all got me thinking, Zeus has been a figure of fun in the circles I move in. Possibly because, if you look at it objectively, Zeus was a complete slut. And plenty of people are looking at it objectively. Just take Happle Tea for example:

But there is an inherent problem here. Zeus, and many others that are gaining meme status, comes from an unorthodox religion. His identity is not concrete, and his mythology comes from myriad sources. In fact, the very fact that Zeus is such a slut is because everyone wanted to believe that their local goddess hooked up with the king of the gods. When these myths convalesced into a single identity, it was that of a guy who had it off with EVERYONE.

The issue is that, for a meme to work, everyone must instantly understand what it refers to. Memes are regularly used as an analogy to explain real-life situations, so the analogy must be relatively concrete. This stands in direct opposition to their unorthodox roots. These guys do not have sacred texts. Their identity has not been handed down to us in a single book. It is made up of a myriad of stories. As such, their identity is flexible. You want a Female Thor? That happens in at least one story, she’s all yours!

Female Thor

And yet, these myths cannot be distorted out of character too much, or your hero loses their defining attributes, and therefore what makes them memeable. This is exactly what happened with Odin in Marvel’s Thor. To be fair, Thor did at least start out as the boozey brawler we know and love:

But there is a lot of doubt in Marvel’s Thor. Something that may not have featured as heavily in the mythology of the character.

I get it; you don’t want an invulnerable character. The Superman-only-hurt-by-kryptonite dynamic gets boring pretty quickly. The mythology itself is fun, but a man with demons of his own is more interesting.

I guess my point is, if you want reliable memes, unorthodox gods are pretty niche.

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