Hephaestus gets a lot of sympathy for his cheating wife Aphrodite. The assumption tends to be that because he was huge, and hulking, and sweaty and scared/disfigured, the shallow goddess cheated on him every chance she got. This interpretation completely ignores that in no version of any myth was their marriage consensual. She was a bartering chip. It completely ignores that the affair that led to their separation/caused the most angst was Ares. The guy she was in a relationship with before she was forced into marriage.
It also ignores the fact that Zeus exists.
It drives me insane when I see versions of the myth that treat her like a whore and him like some kind of wise and kind father figure.
But I also understand why people interpret their marriage this way, and it’s the biggest struggle I’m going to come up against rewriting Aphrodite for a modern lens. We read myths though a modern lens, whether they were written for us or not. And we rewrite the narrative to fit the narrative we expect. That’s why Aphrodite tends to be portrayed as a flighty, cheat of a trophy wife, whereas Hepheastus is often portrayed as a Quasimodo, heart of gold victim. The original myth doesn’t back up either read (Heph was a terrifying god, and his Roman counterpart, Vulcan much more so, and Aphrodite was a prize, yeah but her infidelity was no more remarkable than the rest of the pantheons, including her husband. The greek gods were not monogamous).
There’s a lot of double standards in play for this myth. But the one I’m going to focus on today is the ugly guy, hot wife trope, because that one is offensive to both genders. Especially when ugly guy is paired with bumbling, incompetent fool of a husband.
I’ve heard a lot of people actually blame feminism for that trope, saying it’s not safe to make fun of anyone other than the husband, so sitcom writers make him an absolute idiot who gets picked on non stop, because he’s the only character they can safely do that with.
I mean, okay. I can sort of see the point, except…no one is holding the writers at gun point and forcing them to make one of their lead characters an incompetent fool. There’s a ton more situational comedy around that doesn’t reduce men to bumbling idiots who are lucky to have wives around, because how would they survive otherwise. Life is funny. Having kids is hysterical. There’s a lot of material there.
Also, it’s not a “win” for feminist that women, and women only are expected to see past appearances and love a guy for his heart of gold, while literally ever average joe in the acting business has at some point played a character paired with a supermodel. The lack of average looking, or heck, even bad looking, women in hollywood is disturbing compared to the sheer number of average and down right ugly men. This trope is disturbing at best, and downright insulting at worst. Especially when they try to “reverse” it with a supermodel wearing glasses and a bad hair day.
It also supports the supermom myth. Women are expected to have it all together. Perfect looks, happy home, amazing kids and masters of the crazy schedule. They are portrayed as this force that keeps the family together, while he gets to be a bumbling idiot. It’s an unfair dynamic that puts an unhealthy amount of pressure on women. It doesn’t help that most shows make the wife more of a mom figure to the husband. Someone he has to sneak around to have fun. A terrible, shrill harpy of a human being. He gets to be a lovable fun guy and the audience is encouraged to hate her despite the fact that without her, everything would fall to pieces.
What do you think of that particular trope?