Monday, April 15, 2013

Reader's Diary #984- Euripides: Medea

Gold medalist Intense Leap Frog Championships

Remember the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl"? Sure, the controversy about that song paled in comparison to the controversy that would surround the Chicks a few years later, but I still remember it. A woman knocking off her abusive husband bothered many, despite of and for some, because of, the darkly humorous telling. For the record (not exactly sure what record), I did enjoy the song. I don't condone murder, but yeah, I like the feminist overtones to the song. The guy was scum, she decided not to put it up with any more. Shy of the killing-thing, I can get behind a summary like that.

In the foreword to my copy of Euripides' Medea, the Greek tragedy, and there again in Wikipedia, the play is referred to as proto-feminist. For the unfamiliar, Medea is about a woman who married Jason (of the Argonauts), but decides to exact revenge on him for his infidelity, by killing his new bride. Actually, that's not entirely accurate, she has her and Jason's children do it. They also wind up killing the bride's father. And what does their mom do to reward them for their services? Raise their allowance? Take them to Disney World? Not quite. To further her revenge on Jason, she also kills the kids. Take that Jason.
Glenn Close stopped at the rabbits.
Jason is an ass. Make no mistake about it. After dragging Medea away from her people to live in Corinth, after having two children with her, he drops her like bad tzatziki in order to marry the king's daughter. He's also an idiot. Medea murdered her own brother in order to join Jason. Clearly this is not a woman you'd want to cross.

I know you killed your brother for

 me but I met this chick at a palace rave...
But killing her own children? Not only is it reprehensible, but it sucks as revenge. Or should I say, not only does it suck as revenge, but it's also reprehensible.

Medea's an interesting play all right, but I don't think we want to invite crazies to the feminist party.

In summary, Dixie Chicks = good, Medea = bad.


Chrisbookarama said...

I also like that Dixie Chicks song but people wouldn't have found it so funny if Earl was Pearl. Anyway, I've never read the play so thanks for summarizing it. Not sure if I want to embrace that crazy and read it myself.

John Mutford said...

Chris: I totally agree that there can be a double standard. Look at the way society treats the situation when a woman is caught with a teenage boy compared to a man and a teenage girl. However, in this case, I'm not sure I'd agree that people wouldn't have found it amusing, if the rest of the song's details were the same. Not a lot of people (unfortunately) take it seriously when you hear about a man being abused by his wife. And Johnny Cash's career didn't suffer any with Delia's Gone. But, I assumed that it was still a heterosexual couple you were talking about. If Wanda had been married to Pearl, then I think, simply because there aren't a lot of songs in the mainstream about lesbian couple, people would get hung up on that rather that the other details-- so in that case, some of the (dark) humor might be lost.

Chrisbookarama said...

Yeah, I meant if it had been The Dixie Dudes. I'm a bit fuzzy on the details of the song because it's been a long time since I heard it.