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The queer son of Hades

The queer son of Hades

and why everyone should get on board with Rick Riordan’s series

 

BBC has a new show that replaces Merlin and it’s called Atlantis. This show is about the legendary city of Atlantis and is based on Greek myth… somewhat. It is so cheesy and maddeningly un-canon (if you can say that Greek mythology has a canon) that you can’t even be upset anymore.

In its second episode, the leading man whose name is Jason (there’s almost no question as to where that name came from) proclaimed to all and sundry, “I am Jason, slayer of the Minotaur.” …which sounds so ridiculous that it made me cringe. The showrunners of BBC’s Atlantis had forewarned viewers that Greek myth purists would hate it and I thought I was prepared for the shenanigans but I still had a hard time accepting that…

…Until I read author Rick Riordan‘s latest novel, the fourth in his Heroes of Olympus series feature demi-god Percy Jackson, House of Hades. And since HoH, I think I I can live with the fact that a TV show made a different hero slaying someone else’s intended monster in its episodes. In fact, I think I can live with just about any tweaking to Greek myth from just about anybody. Because all of that messing around seems like a tiny issue compared to what Riordan wrote.

rick-riordan-house-of-hades

After that book, the issue that we all should be asking now is: will Atlantis (and every other Greek myth-related show on Earth) ever be brave enough to have a real queer character and have that character come out in the show?

Before we continue, first of all, read the warning below.

WARNING: this entry contains spoilers to the Heroes Of Olympus book series by Rick Riordan, especially from the latest installment of that series, House Of Hades.

Now that you’ve read the spoiler warning, let us proceed with my thoughts of this book.

For those who don’t follow the series, here’s what happened in Riordan’s House Of Hades: a character named Nico Di Angelo, son of Hades, has been outed as a queer character. It doesn’t say whether he’s gay or bi (which is why I decided to call him simply ‘queer’) but Nico professes to be in love with Percy Jackson, the main hero, during a confrontation with Cupid/Eros, the god of love. With him at that time is the son of Zeus, Jason Grace.

Jason was surprised to hear this revelation, as I was when I read the scene. It was one thing to read slash fiction with Nico as one half of the pairing (I read Percy/Nico fics in the past after reading Riordan’s first Percy Jackson series, although I’m not really in the Percy Jackson fandom) but it’s another thing to actually read in the book that the character comes out to other people about his romantic feelings for the series’ ultimate male hero. Surprised because I didn’t think the character would actually be gay/bi in canon and surprised because the author was confident enough to write this story for the character in a mainstream intermediate fiction novel, intended for adolescent readers.

I was also surprised because of the way Riordan wrote it, which is in the most thoughtful way possible. The series is very much fantasy, with creatures, monsters and gods taking center stage, but it’s set in the modern world. The connection between those two might be hard to make or fathom for some people before but With the revelation of Nico’s sexuality, the magic aspect has now become more grounded in reality. And while in past books the series took on a happy-go-lucky guilty-pleasure pun-intended full-on-escapism series, Nico’s coming out adds more weight to it. It’s definitely darker, edgier and heavier now, although I think it can only benefit from this change. Now we kind of have to take the book more seriously.

One of the most beautiful things about Nico Di Angelo’s coming out scene, though, was not necessarily due to Nico at all. Yes, it could be emotional for us to find out about his plight: falling in love with a guy with whom he has a complicated relationship. Falling in love with a guy who already has a girlfriend, who is also a friend of Nico’s. Falling in love with a guy and not knowing what to do about his own feelings. All of these things certainly brought tears to my eyes as I realized how difficult Nico’s path is ahead of him.

But ultimately the thing that made me cry the most was instead something that JASON said, which is this:

[Nico] regarded Jason, as if waiting for an attack. “If the others find out–”

“If the others found out,” Jason said, “you’d have that many more people to back you up, and to unleash the fury of the gods on anybody who gives you trouble.”

And

“Nico”, he said gently, “I’ve seen a lot of brave things. but what you just did? That was maybe the bravest.”

And boom! Jason Grace suddenly comes out on top of the list of My Favorite Demi-God Hero Ever.

What he said? That’s just amazing. His support for Nico is absolute. Here’s a guy who’d be willing to stand up for someone who’s just been forced (by Eros, no less) to admit his true feelings. I feel like the scene contains an element of dubious consent; Nico didn’t want to confess his feelings but Eros made him do it. In a way he was dragged out of that closet kicking and screaming so that Jason can see what he really is. But instead of turning away from him, Jason – who’s not barely Nico’s friend. who’s more like an acquaintance at best – supports him and gives him the words that anyone should and deserves to hear when they decide to tell someone about their sexuality. This is beautiful and thoughtful; you don’t often see that anywhere. Perhaps not even in real life.

I’m hoping this won’t be a one-time thing. I want Nico’s story to continue and evolve. Nobody should expect a happy ending, though. Even now the situation looks hopeless for Nico to get the guy of his dreams – Percy and Annabeth’s relationship is not something you can underestimate. Some people, especially slash fans, might be tempted to bash Annabeth, but this would be a mistake. Annabeth is a strong character, who’s more than worthy to stand by Percy’s side. So if Percy suddenly chooses Nico over Annabeth, I would probably feel iffy about it. (Although if he does end up doing that, I have no doubt that Riordan will once again write something meaningful and not at all gratuitous.)

Having said that, I do want to see what happens next to Nico. I hope he can get over his anxiety and his fears, which he still feels right now, and fully reconcile his feelings for Percy and mend his friendship with the son of Neptune. There might be only one book left in the Heroes Of Olympus series (it will be released next eyar) but I still have high hopes for Nico!

I feel sad when I read the negative comments that say it’s wrong for Riordan to include something like this in his book. Firstly, why should it be wrong? Because there’s a gay character in a kid’s book? Because it’s inappropriate for kids to learn about human sexuality from a book? I say, the sooner the better. That way, young people can understand sooner that there are all sorts of people living in the world and not all of them are heterosexual. We should all be glad that Riordan is teaching kids about accepting differences.

Secondly, it’s not wrong for any book about Greek mythology, fictional or otherwise, to mention homosexuality at all. I personally have come to anticipate it. Greek myth is full off references to male/male relationship and sexual dynamics. The story of Ganymede being one, as well as Achilles’ relationship with Patroclus. There’s nothing “revolutionary” about associating Greek myth to sexuality.

(On a side note, this is also why Atlantis having a strong bromantic element between its three main characters is the only true aspect of the show that relates to ‘canon’ Greek myth! Whether or not the writers will ever be brave enough to further that bromance into a real same-sex relationship between the characters that don’t end up with one of them dying, this remains to be seen. I’m guessing not at the moment, but who knows?)

So far House of Hades has had nothing but success, though. It topped the NYT, USA Today and Publisher Weekly’s bestsellers list. That’s great because it means a lot of people are reading this book and they will be reading Chapter XXXVI. And even without this chapter and the whole thing about Nico, there are also a ton of great things in the book.

HoH is definitely the best book in any of the Percy Jackson series from Riordan. All the characters have taken that step towards maturity; if there’s a book that deserves to be called “a coming of age novel”, this one is definitely it. Percy, Jason, Nico, Frank, Piper, Annabeth, Hazel and Leo have all advanced to a point of no return for them, psychologically. Their individual journeys are captivating but collectively, they form a cohesive tale of bravery and sacrifice that just blows the mind. Simply put, this is one Hades of a read… I recommend it everyone!

If you’re not reading this series already, please consider it. It’s definitely not a waste of time. It’s so much more productive to read Percy Jackson than to watch Hollywood productions of Greek myth-themed films!

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4 comments on “The queer son of Hades

  1. Ritu Mantri
    November 12, 2013

    This was a very deep thought about the book House of Hades. Even I have read this read but never once the thought came to my mind that there is a possible love triangle in the book which can be carried further. The love triangle of Percy, Annabeth and Nico but with some difference. May be Rick can further this love triangle in his last book of the series Blood of Olympus

    • mavieenlair18
      November 18, 2013

      All I want is for Riordan to give this sub-plot of Nico being attracted to Percy a PROPER conclusion, even if it does end in heartbreak on Nico’s part. To leave it like that, without mentioning it ever again or only mentioning it in passing, would be the ultimate betrayal for me. The story CAN continue and it SHOULD continue. There’s no reason for Rick Riordan not to further this love triangle thing in the last book.

  2. Ludds
    December 26, 2013

    I for one am very grateful to Rick Riordan, and the risk he has taken. I have been a fan of the series from 2008, when I was blessed with the chance to pick up The Lightning Thief at age 13 and discover one of my favorite book series of all time. In a way, I grew my teenage years reading Percy Jackson (and the Kane Chronicles, which I also enjoy) but I never thought these books would acknowledge the subject of homosexuality. Books intended for my age group rarely do, possibly they never have. In fact, the subject is made invisible, which makes it that much worse when you’re struggling to come to terms with it. That’s why, despite how sad it was to actually read it (Nico’s confession, I mean. I was crying my heart out) I was also very happy because Rick didn’t make a circus out of it.
    There’s no flamboyant attitude, no stereotypes, just the plain simple truth: that we feel rejection, that we feel extremely afraid to come to terms with who we are and to trust people around us. I didn’t really get Nico before that chapter, but as I was reading realization hit me, and I understood. I understood every bit of bitterness and sadness in Nico because I’ve lived it. Which is why I was also very happy about Jason’s reaction, which goes to show that sometimes it’s OK to trust… And the reason why I’m so grateful to Rick Riordan. It means a lot to me, and I’m sure it means a lot to many people like me.

  3. dkstevens327
    August 15, 2015

    I wanted to compliment you on this piece. It it very well written. It is something I would have liked to write! Bravo!

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