While most people were (and still are) more than happy to admit that Robert Pattinson is one of the most gorgeous men on the planet, there is another side to the story. Over the years, the Twilight actor has faced serious accusations of sexism and sexual harassment. In fact, some believe that the blame for the #MeToo movement lies directly on the six-time heartthrob’s shoulders.
Yes, there were the now-legendary photos of him sitting a lap away from Taylor Swift on a plane. And let’s not forget about the alleged sexual assault that earned him a one-night stand with a mystery woman in Singapore. But these are just a handful of the disturbing allegations against the English actor.
And yet, Pattinson still remains one of the most liked and followed celebrities on social media. In fact, according to Google Trends, searches for his name have increased by 145% in the last year alone.
So, what’s the deal with this enigma? Is he a genuinely nice person who just happens to be very famous? Or is he the villainous celebrity stereotype that the media loves to paint him as?
The answer may well lie in his most recent project, a film that retells the Greek epic Homer’s The Odyssey. Set in a futuristic city of the same name, Pattinson plays Odysseus, a returning home after 20 years away. Once there, he discovers that his family has largely forgotten about him and his absence. His struggle to regain their affection and accept his newly acquired responsibilities while trying to avoid the deadly Calypso (Kate Winslet) and her dangerous allure is what makes this story so enticing.
Homer’s The Odyssey Is An Alleged Sexist Text
If you’ve never heard of Homer’s The Odyssey, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about. It’s one of the most famous works of literature of all time, and it’s been translated into most major languages. But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this ancient Greek epic is how it treats women. For centuries, critics have noted how the text is steeped in misogynistic tropes. They argue that there’s a reason why women in Homer’s world are viewed as subservient and weak.
To begin with, the men in the story are presented as superior and the women as weak and helpless. It’s an attitude that permeates the entire work. Even Odysseus, who does his best to be a good husband and father, repeatedly calls on Teiresias (Odysseus’s father-figure) to curse his wife, telling him that she’s a bad influence and a burden. Elsewhere in the text, he refers to her as “[his] nurse, witch, and midwife”.
In the most recent movie adaptation, director Joachim Rønning doesn’t shy away from this aspect. In fact, he embraces it. So much so that the English press has dubbed this latest film “The Misogynist’s Odyssey.”
When Odysseus finally reunites with his family and friends in the city of Ithaca, he finds that they have largely forgotten about his 20-year absence. In an effort to rebuild their lives and show them that he’s changed for the better, he recounts the events that led him to return home. In turn, his retelling of the Odyssey offers an interesting window into not only his character, but also the text itself.
How Different Are The Modern And Classical Versions Of The Odyssey?
To begin with, let it be known that while Homer’s Odyssey is one of the most famous stories in history, it is, in fact, a retelling of an older, classical text. Most modern versions were inspired by or updated from the ancient Greek epic. In fact, it wasn’t until relatively recently that modern readers began to notice the many parallels between the Odyssey and later works by William Shakespeare.
Odysseus’s journey is remarkably similar to that of the titular character in Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Lear. In both cases, the characters embark on a journey of self-discovery and rediscovery. In the former, it is a journey fraught with conflict and danger. In the latter, it is one that is filled with complexity and moral ambiguity. Perhaps the most interesting comparison, however, is between Homer’s text and the work of William Shakespeare. Both are long, and there is a certain amount of overlap in the stories told. But whereas the Odyssey is a straightforward retelling of an ancient Greek classic, Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Lear is filled with allusions to classical mythology, Elizabethan Era politics, and of course, Shakespeare’s own profound knowledge of the English language.
For instance, there is a whole section in which the King of England (Lear) recounts the story of the Odyssey. In it, he talks about the allure of the dangerous enchantress, Calypso. “[Her] golden Lures,” the King says, “would draw even the most honorable man to their ruin.”
In another scene, Lear compares himself to Odysseus, arguing that just as the famous Greek hero was forced to wander the world for ten years after the fall of his kingdom, so, too, will he. Like many of Shakespeare’s plays, The Tragedy of King Lear ends with a twist. In this case, the eponymous King finally accepts responsibility for his actions and decides to commit suicide. Like Aeschylus, one of Homer’s great heirs, Shakespeare ended his most famous work not with a bang, but a whimper.
Did Odysseus Have To Endure Sustained Anxiety To Fulfill His Role As A Good Father?
In the movie, the first moment that we glimpse Odysseus is him, crouching in the shadows, anxiously waiting for the chance to get home. He’s spent the last 20 years searching for his wife and children, but they’ve largely forgotten about him. Finally, in an effort to reconnect with the people and places that he left behind, he embarks on a journey to Ithaca, determined to prove to his family and friends that he’s changed for the better. And, in many ways, he has. He’s worked hard to establish himself as a responsible and attentive husband and father, and he’s finally come home to claim his place in their hearts.
But upon his return, he finds that they have largely forgotten about him and his absence. It was only when he began to recount the events that led up to his return that they began to remember. Even then, it wasn’t until his third or fourth telling of the story that they finally began to show him the respect and affection that he craved.
This, critics argue, is representative of the subservient and weak roles that women are often presented as in Homer’s ancient Greek text. While he wants to be a good father and a loyal husband, Odysseus is often made to feel as if he doesn’t deserve any better. So, it’s not hard to see how the patriarchal society that Homer’s The Odyssey perpetuates may very well be the reason that some claim that the text is “steeped in misogyny.”
In many ways, this is a classic chicken-and-egg situation. Did Odysseus’s own self-image as a strong and independent man contribute to his success as a husband and father? Or did his quest for respect and acknowledgement as a husband and father cause him to feel insecure and alone, leading him to seek out women and adventure?
It’s a question that probably mirrors the one that plagues many men today. After all, there is an abundance of research that reveals how much men’s mental health suffers in their search for independence and autonomy. And, as much as we might like to deny it, perhaps this insecurities drives some men to act out and hurt those closest to them. As one recent study published in the American Journal of Psychology put it, “[Independence] is highly valued, particularly in men, because it allows them to feel that they are not threatened by others, and that their value as a person does not rely on another.”