Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Women
Gender Roles – Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 1.4 Stars (Spoilers)
Meg is sassy and guarded, but her brashness doesn’t do much to mask the fact that she has no real power. She’s a prisoner of Hades, the god of the underworld, and is more or less forced to do his bidding. She’s been hurt and betrayed by someone she once loved, and has grown distrustful and cynical of the world - but this is a poor substitute for real strength. Meg eventually stands up to Hades and refuses to go along with his plan to defeat Hercules, but Hades is still able to use her to get what he wants. In the end, she never frees herself from Hades’ influence, and it is Hercules who rescues her.
Gender Roles - Men: 1 Star
Hercules embodies the enduring image of a hero who is confident, strong and fearless. He is clumsy and awkward as a teen who can’t control his own strength, but most of this disappears when he becomes the legendary hero. When Hades realizes that Hercules can’t be defeated, he convinces the young hero to sacrifice his strength for just one day in return for Meg’s freedom. This unexpected decision could have been used to dig deeper into Hercules’ character. To give him the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be vulnerable or hurt. But unfortunately, the moment doesn’t last long. We’re left with the disappointing message that Hercules’ only weakness is his love for Meg, while her love for him seems to be her only strength.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 1.5 Stars
Meg is drawn with an unrealistic hourglass figure - from her tiny waist to her curvy hips. She moves and flirts with a slinky, sexy walk that overwhelms her overall character. The other women, Hera and Aphrodite have similar dimensions. The only character with lifelike proportions are Hercules’ earth mother, who doesn’t even have a name.
Plot: 2 Stars (Spoilers)
Meg isn’t given much of an opportunity to influence the plot. She’s a prisoner with a broken heart, and takes very little initiative in changing her circumstances. She takes her direction from Hades with little concern for the consequences, until she begins to develop feelings for Hercules. And even then, her role is reduced to futile protests. Meg is, however, given one shining moment at the end of the film when she rescues Hercules and sacrifices herself so he can regain his strength. Her sacrifice is both brave and clever, and shows that it doesn’t always take muscle to do something heroic. It’s just unfortunate that she’s given so few accolades for her role in frustrating Hades’ plan.
Character Development: 2.5 Stars (Spoilers)
Meg had the potential to be a truly intriguing character. We’re told that she’s already sacrificed herself for love once before - by selling her soul to save a man that she once loved. She carries this hurt around with her, which may be part of the reason she seems so resigned to her circumstances. It’s disappointing that this vivid background isn’t developed further. That she never has the chance to confront the man who betrayed her or to explain how she knows that Hercules is different. It’s fascinating in a way that Hercules only becomes a true hero when he agrees to give his life for Meg. This selfless act is what finally turns him into a god - but the film conveniently ignores the fact that Meg’s done this same thing twice with little to no recognition. The first time she lost her soul to Hades. The second time, she lost her life.
Love: 2.5 Stars
Hercules and Meg fall in love in an evening, most of which takes place off-screen. They return to Hercules’ home reminiscing about the theatre and the sights of Greece. They certainly seem to enjoy each other’s company, but they spend little time sharing the details of their lives. Hercules never tells her about Zeus and the gods. Meg never tells him about Hades or her broken heart. Their romance is more of a surface level crush, and yet we’re asked to believe that they’re both willing to risk their lives for each other. In the end, Hercules is even willing to sacrifice Mount Olympus and immortality to spend his life with her. While the sentiment is touching, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he wasn’t willing to make the same sacrifice for the mother and father who raised him. This might have been a powerful ending if more time had been spent developing the romance, but as is, it’s a bit hard to swallow.
Friendship: 1 Star (Spoilers)
Hercules has an uninspiring friendship with his trainer, Phil. They practice Hercules’ heroic feats together and form a bond over his steady rise to stardom, but unsurprisingly, there’s little emotion or substance in their relationship. There is an opportunity to develop and test this friendship when Phil suspects that Meg is working with Hades. Hercules refuses to listen to Phil’s suspicions and even strikes him, sending him flying through the air. This is a powerful moment, as Hercules is suddenly caught using his amazing strength against a friend. It was disappointing to see that this didn’t result in a heart to heart discussion about controlling his anger or trusting the very person that had believed in him from the beginning. Instead Phil walks away, hurt and angry. The two friends are able to reconcile during the ensuing battle for Mount Olympus, without ever revisiting the bond that was broken.