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January 27, 2010

“Since the beginning of time, the gods have indulged themselves with Ferrero Rocher, the deliciously layered chocolate with the heavenly taste – until, one day, that secret slipped from their hands to be discovered by man.”

Goddamn you, Ferrero Rocher. Goddamn you to hell.

Since the fall of the Athenian and Roman empires, man has been fucking with classical myth and history. In the past 15 years, it’s become an especially popular pastime. People totally think they can get away with saying whatever the fuck they want because who’s going to know how ridamndonkulous it is? The civilizations in question are long dead, and there are, what, like, 12 people in North America who have graduated from a classics program recently?

That’s more or less accurate, but the thing is, one of them is me, and you can call me Oedipus, because I’m a bad motherfucker. Idiotic bastardizations of classical history and literature fill me with rage. Then the rage turns to glee as I realize I can convert my thoughts into a(n) hilarious blog post that my five friends will intentionally seek out and up to 20 other people will stumble upon accidentally!

The premise of these Ferrero Rocher monstrosities is that Ferrero Rocher chocolate was invented by the Greek gods and enjoyed by them exclusively until man got his hands on it thanks to trickery or a mistake on some god’s part. I’m pretty sure it was fire, not chocolate, that man acquired in this way, but maybe I need to go back and reread Hesiod, or, as he is known by 75% of first-year myth students, Hesoid.

There are two or three of these appalling commercials; they’re rather difficult to find online, and that is for the best, but here’s a link to the stupidest one: I don’t even know where to start. The setting is as good a place as any. Apparently, at the time this ad was filmed, Mount Olympus was in the sky, which is interesting, because I’m pretty sure I saw it on the ground in northern Greece eight years ago, and Greek literature from Homer on down can totally back me up on that. Another interesting thing in the ad is the gravity situation. The gods and the mountain (wherever it is – I see only clouds) are able to remain afloat no problem, yet one of the immortals drops a chocolate and it immediately falls through the clouds and descends to earth. Never having visited the ether, I’m not sure how the laws of physics work up there, so I guess I have to take Ferrero Rocher’s word for it that this makes sense…

And who are these gods supposed to be? Who’s the spinning one? Who’s the one who shoots down the chocolate pyramid? Is that some kind of warped shoutout to Artemis? Artemis is a crazy remorseless slaughtering machine; she doesn’t shoot her arrows at piles of candy, she shoots them at animals, or at other people’s kids. And who in the name of Aeolus is that cloud-faced deity who creepily watches the guy find the chocolate? I’m confuckingfused. So are many others, including the members of a Facebook group called – quite aptly – What’s Going On in That Ferrero Rocher Ad?

The Odyssey-based Ferrero commercial that came out last fall somehow manages to be even stupider. It introduces an alternative tradition in which Odysseus, along the course of his travels, sails to Mount Olympus (which, this time around, is located in the middle of the sea…) and steals Ferrero Rocher chocolate from the gods. By the salty pubes of Poseidon! It’s wrong in so many directions!

Speaking of Odysseus, the good old #4 bus that I take downtown a few times a week passes by Odyssey, advertised as “Vancouver’s hottest gay bar.” Before I launch into my rant, here is a list of things I have no problem with whatsoever:

  • gays
  • bars
  • gay bars

And now I can say this: Odysseus is one of the straightest guys in classical mythology. Unlike many epic heroes, he has no BFF (do what you will with the acronym). Seven of the ten years it takes him to get back to his wife are spent on an isolated island (oooh, that’s an etymotautology!) with the goddess Calypso, and big chunk of the remaining three years is dedicated to an extended erotic holiday with Circe, another goddess. Look, there’s nothing wrong with being straight, okay? It’s just a biological fact about some people, and they should be free to pursue happiness and loving partnerships just like everyone else. But as somewhat of a classicist, I have to advise that if you want to name your gay bar after a proclivitous ancient Greek, real or fictional, you should do some research first. You’ll find that you have about 40,000 viable options, including Achilles, Zeus, Dionysus, Plato maybe, Sappho for damn sure, Anacreon… The door is wiiiiide open, but Odysseus doesn’t make the list. (Had I been in charge of naming the venue, I’d probably have gone with Socrates’ Tent, but maybe that’s too obscure. On the other hand, a lot of people appreciate a good learning opportunity.)

Everywhere you go in the entertainment world, somebody is doing something incredibly fucking ignorant with classical myth and/or history. When it comes to movies like “Troy,” “Alexander,” and “Hercules,” and novels like Atwood’s ill-conceived Penelopiad and Colleen McCullough’s 238 most recent publications, I understand the appeal of the subject matter, obviously, but I don’t care for the dumbed-down, superficial use thereof. We could use a little less “Since the beginning of time, Zeus has been eating delicious chocolates” type material and a little more well-researched, genuine art like Robert Graves’ I, Claudius novels and HBO’s utterly kickass Rome series. (If classicists like it without shame or embarrassment, it has to be good!)

A bunch of the most outrageous classical stercus bovum is actually passed off as truth. You can learn hundreds of fascinating things simply by tuning in to documentaries on The History Channel on any given night. Did you know that Alexander’s army won many of their battles as a result of having invented deep-sea diving equipment that was amazingly similar to the most expensive, highest-tech gear in use by the British Navy today? Probably not, but it’s so obvious now that I’ve told you, right?

I exhort my classical brothers and sisters to take a stand against the ongoing flagrant bastardization of our discipline. Write to your local congressman. Host a fundraising yard sale (or, if you live in Canada, metre sale).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Stefanie permalink
    January 27, 2010 4:59 pm

    Speaking of the Odyssey night club in Van, have you stumbled across the Iliad condo building? Just throwing it out there.

  2. Stefanie permalink
    January 27, 2010 5:01 pm

    Incidentally, the Iliad is on Homer Street if you wanted to seek it out. Oh Vancouver!

    • Kate permalink*
      January 27, 2010 5:06 pm

      I was stoked when I came across Homer Street last summer. Even more stoked to see a Scientology recruiting station right on the corner of Homer Street. Past and future collide.

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