Child's Play: "Percy Jackson and the Olympians"



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Ironically, I saw the trailer for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief while gearing up for the unimaginative and over-expensive Avatar.



I thought the selection of the Black actor was a multicultural nod, the type of role those lacking historical memory covet. Peep Brandon T. Jackson's exaggerated expressions. He shows up as overwhelmed by the moment, in complete awe of the magnitude of what's occurring. It is the same awe that will be mirrored by young black children watching the movie...

While re-reading Michael Gomez's short but informative work, Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora, I came across a delicious tidbit of information. The actual son of Poseidon was reputed to be of African descent. Percy Jackson, approximating the mythical figure Delphos, is considered to be the son of either Poseidon or Zeus (who is also described by the the eighth century b.c. poet Hesiod as an ancestor of the Ethiopians or Libyans).

I searched this suggestion in several academic databases and the trusty Journal of Negro History turned up an interesting article on the topic. By the way, the Journal of Negro History does not receive nearly as much credit from academic historians as it should. Many of the so-called fresh topics the academy is now engaging were discussed decades ago by persons of African descent, generally funding themselves. Carter G. Woodson's (founder of the Journal of Negro History and Black History Week) vision and financial independence paved the way for exploration of topics by Black scholars still left untouched by scholars today. Financial independence cannot be overstated. Check out the new documentary on Melville Herskovitz to really appreciate the nexus between finances and "scholarship. " And then check out Lorenzo Greene's Selling Black History for Carter G. Woodson to really appreciate how gangsta Woodson went about his business back in the 30s. From slinging books from the back of trunks to slinging mixtapes in the 90s...I smell a great fiction novel in the works..

So back to the film. It is responsible to note here that I am not attacking the author of the series on "racial" grounds. I am actually impressed by how the film came to be. According to Wikipedia,

//////////"Development for both The Lightning Thief and the Percy Jackson series as a whole commenced when Riordan first began making stories for his son Haley who had just recently been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. His son had been studying Greek mythology in second grade and requested that his father come up with bedtime stories based on Greek myths. Riordan had been a Greek mythology teacher in middle school for many years and was able to remember enough stories to please his son. Soon Riordan ran out of myths and his son then requested that he make new ones using the same characters from Greek myths and add new ones."//////////

That being said, Eloise McKinney Johnson was able to demonstrate the obscured African origins of Delphos. Her essay establishes that the physical symbol of Delphos--the Dolphin Man--bears a striking resemblance to symbols found in Egypt and Ethiopia. She speaks of personally observing these symbols during the 1980s Treasures of Tutankhamen Exhibition tour of the United States. Delphos is also identified as the son of Melaina (referred to as the "Black One"). Online searches attribute this title to her lascivious ways or her residence in the underworld.

Seeing limitations in continuing in that vien, I next moved on to Martin Bernal's classic work Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, vol. II to read his thoughts on the matter since his work is the most popular on the subject. Bernal traces Melaina's name to the Egptian name "M3nw" which not only means "Black' in the aesthetic sense but also refers to the sunset, which was considered "the entrance to the underworld."

Bernal corroborated much of what Johnson wrote (although she failed to make his bibliography) and supplied more evidence by referring to 5th century coins that bears Delphos portrait. For Bernal, these coins confirm that Delphos was an "African Black." Bernal also suggests (promising further research) that Poseidon is in fact an allegorical character based on Egyptian mythology. As I have yet to read through the volume, I'll suspend my commentary here.

Understanding the context of children-directed film enables me to intervene in the messages Hollywood transmits to them. In my ability to introduce context, I can use the film as a springboard into a discussion (that can still occur in narrative/story form) on that period and region of the world. This obviously requires familiarity with Kmt (I plan on getting through M. Lichtiem's three volumes of Ancient Egyptian Literature and T. Obenga's African Philosophy: The Pharaonic Period, 2780-330BC this summer). I get to place them at the center of that narrative and discourage any inclination to cozy up on the margins and watch "life pass 'em by." I also get to have similar conversations with adults. The film critic J. Hoberman cautioned a while back that "filmmakers used to fear that children's movies turn out to be merely about children but for adults." I'll make sure to survey the theatre for "awed" expressions when I check it out to see if this holds true...