The Stuck-Together-People Myth|
aka Aristophanes' (or Plato's) Creation Myth, aka the Hedwig Myth
You ever seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch? Because if you had, you'd realize that this particular myth plays a central role in the film. Excellent film, I highly recommend it. And one of the many interesting responses to the myth. In fact, in some ways, the responses to the myth are more interesting than the myth itself. But instead of boring you any further with my structuralist and anachronisic opinions, here's the story itself:
Once upon a time (yes, that IS the right beginning), people did not have two legs, or two arms, or one mouth or ... you get the idea. They were all combined into these two-people-put-together-people called "androgynes" (literally "menwomen"). They were stuck together out of the two genders that are usually recognized today as "woman" and "man," and they were stuck together in various ways. Three, in fact. There were men stuck with men, and women stuck with women, and men stuck with women. In fact, Aristophanes gets mighty specific about how exactly they were stuck together, and if you care to read the whole thing, go check out the real McCoy from Plato's Symposium in the Perseus Project, but I don't care about the details, except for the part about how, when they wanted to move fast, they did cartwheels and rolled everywhere. I know, I know. Great, isn't it? More thoughts on why this is funny later. Back to the story. So, there these androgynes are, rolling around everywhere and chillin' like villains. They're all perfectly content and happy. The idea behind the three groups was that the all-man-dudes were sons of the Sun, and the all-chica-dudes were daughters of the Earth, and the half-and-half-dudes were the children of the Moon. Then, like Otus and Ephialtes, they tried to take over Heaven, Olympus, etc. Zeus, clearly, wasn't such a big fan and cut them down to size, literally, by halving them into our present forms, thus making them/us weaker. And then there was this whole process of Apollo fixing them/us so we look the way we do now. Well, actually, at first they had all our genitals behind us, and there was no sex, and everyone started dying, but after a while they fixed that.
So! Now, we all go around trying to find our other (if not necessarily better) half. And people who have sex with others of the same gender aren't bad, they're just trying to find their soulmates. Or, at least, I think that's what Aristophanes (or Plato) was going for in this myth.
In fact, at the end of his story, he explains how if Hephaestus (the blacksmith God) went around and offered, people would want nothing better than to be stuck back together with their soulmate (whatever gender). And woo-hoo for Eros!
Remember how I said I wasn't gonna bore you with my opinions on this myth? I lied. I have many opinions on this myth. I'm sure you have many opinions on this myth, too, and if you want, you can email me with them. If not, you can just read my thoughts. And if you don't care about them, well, you can always just leave.
Before I get into my thoughts about the myth itself, I better situate it for you a little more. The myth written above is found in Plato's Symposium, in which there's a bunch of different dead Greek dudes (alive at the time of discussion) talking about Love. Mostly, it's about how loving boys is great and everyone should do it. Then Aristophanes tells this story. If you don't know who Aristophanes is (and you really should), he was a comic playwright (THE comic playwright, actually) and hilariously funny, and well known for coming up with stories (plotlines) that were highly unlikely and way ridiculous. Also, there is no suggestion of this myth anywhere else in Greek literature. Chances are, this was made up by Aristophanes (or even more likely, in my opinion, by Plato, who, in fact, wrote the Symposium ). Now the question remains as to WHY he wrote it. There are many very smart people who have written very smart things about this. I am not one of them. But hopefully, someday, I will be. And, sooner or later, I'll find a way to make a link to things that other smart people have said about it. In the meantime, I don't really feel like expending that effort, and I'm moving on to things that are more interesting to me. You may not like it, but hey, you're not paying for the webspace. Anyway, so, back to my thoughts. Actually, it's not my thoughts I'm interested in. It's yours. And Hedwig's. And everyone else's. Turns out, this myth has a lot of cultural resonance these days. Back in ol' ancient Greece, people probably heard this and laughed, but today we're super obsessed with it. And a lot of people in the Queer community have taken this myth and used it as a banner for the Cause. "See? If the Ancient Greeks thought it was okay ..." I have many problems with this line of thought, not the least of which is it completely excludes bi people (which is what we would probably classify most Athenian men today) and that if we looked to the Greeks as examples in most gender-related things, I would be in a kitchen somewhere instead of elucidating you with this fabulous (if I do say so myself) website. And I think that's neat. There it is, the fabulous opinion. We're creating myths to make ourselves feel more comfortable with ourselves, and retelling them in ways that make us comfortable. So, in conclusion, go rent Hedwig.
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Last Updated January 15, 2008