Museums and the Movies: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

By now you’re all probably very familiar with my Museums and the Movies series. So far we’ve explored the witchy goings on in the museums in Bedknobs and Broomsticks and the wonderful Hocus Pocus as well as seeing one of the Natural History Museum’s dinosaurs cause chaos in London.

Today, we’re going to look at the role of the museum in the film version of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. For those not familiar with Percy and his exploits, the main gist of the franchise is that he and his friends are the offspring of the Greek gods.

In the book versions, the characters usually visit at least one museum per adventure because museums are full of artefacts depicting scenes from mythology, usually relating to the gods. The museums serve as an introduction, as exposition for those who aren’t entirely au fait with the finer points of Greek mythology.

So, which museum are they visiting in the film?

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art from Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art from Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

In both the book and film versions of Lightning Thief the characters visit New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Specifically, they visit the museum’s Greek and Roman galleries (which have an uncanny resemblance to the Hall of the Gods on Mount Olympus…).

So, what are they doing in the museum?

The Greek and Roman Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Percy Jackson

The Greek and Roman Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Percy Jackson

This scene is essentially exposition with a touch of aragnorisis. We learn about the Greek gods whilst Percy starts to see things as they really are. Museums are like that; they provide an explanation of things, and if you’re looking carefully, you might be able to discover a truth that you hadn’t grasped before.

I like to think that this part of the film is a little bit like popular televisual genealogy programme  Who Do You Think You Are: Homeric Edition. Instead of going to a local museum or archive service to discover more about his ancestors, Percy goes to the Met – because, let’s face it, his father is a god so a little local museum would lack the WOW factor required here…

There has been a theme developing of movies showing museums as being primarily for Rich People. Well, rich white people. Does Lightning Thief break the mold?

Percy Jackson and his classmates at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Percy Jackson and his classmates at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

It does! The film shows a really diverse crowd of young people. It also shows that whilst Percy lives in New York, he is by no means ‘rich’  which goes a very long way to demonstrating that museums can be for everyone.

(However Percy is the son of a Poseidon, and he is the one that gets the most out of the trip… maybe more kids will go to a museum in the hope of uncovering some divine lineage?)

Although the Met isn’t name-checked in the film, the eagle-eyed amongst you will be able to identify those little badges the characters are wearing as being from the Met. Alas, they recently discontinued the practice of giving out badges. The Museum of Museum Badges is still getting over the news.

 

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