Saturday, October 17, 2009

Medea I: Medea's Alter Ego

By our standards, Medea's behavior is understandable but grossly unacceptable. If Medea were a modern American woman, what would she be? Why? Would she have a profession or vocation? If so, what?

Medea is clearly a conflicted, complex character. Though she ultimately kills her brother and her children, their deaths exact a terrible personal cost. The decision to kill her children is excruciating. Euripides pulls back the curtain of her mind to reveal the battle between a mother's devotion to her children and a jilted lover's lust for revenge. "Why should I deprive them of their growing up, their wedding, and their happy times? For they carry no blame upon their small shoulders! And surely this unspeakable deed would hurt me twice as much as it would hurt Jason!" (237). Medea will not be mocked: "Everyone will laugh at me!" (237). In the end, her anger drives her to kill her own children (239).

Jody Foster as an American woman who understands Medea's need for vengeance. While I have no reason believe that Foster herself is vengeful, her performance in the 2007 film "The Brave One" convinced me that she would understand Medea. Foster played an NPR-inspired radio host named Erica Bain. Bain and her boyfriend are brutally beaten by New York thugs. Her boyfriend eventually succumbs to his injuries and dies. Before becoming a victim of crime, Foster's character was an idealistic, sunny optimist. Instead of retreating from the world, Bain finds a "stranger inside her" that longs for only one thing: revenge. Erica buys a gun and pursues a life of vigilante justice.

Erica Bain and Medea eventually get revenge on the people who wronged them. Neither character finds healing or solace in their vengeance, however. Erica Bain is asked how a person recovers from being the victim of a crime so terrible. Her response is, "You don't."

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