Whether you recognize it or not mythology is all around us. At one point for me, it was unrecognizable. The one thing in the world I can never get enough of is pop culture and music; a space that when closely analyzed, has many ties to mythology. Mythology, and specifically the goddess of love Venus, is a major figure in pop culture and music, and is even viewed as an icon for feminism. I’ve decided to focus on Venus and her role and impact in modern day feminism and pop culture because she is an important figure that is still relevant today, and is now being viewed in a modern perspective.
Venus, or the Greek equivalent Aphrodite, is the goddess of love. She possess exceptional characteristics of sex
BETTER TO WRITE: “sex appeal”
and beauty, and is known to be the most enticing goddess of them all. Venus was known to use her captivating beauty and sexuality to her advantage having many gods and heroes fall under her spell. Stories of Venus, like the one about her affair with Mars, as well as the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, where Venus seduces Anchises which ultimately leads to his death as a result, are significant to understanding the many differing perceptions of her as a goddess, and the impact she has in feminism and pop culture. Reading stories of Venus being unfaithful by partaking in affairs, and even bearing children with different men, is something when viewed within times of the past, could be looked down upon. However in modern times, seeing an ancient goddess like Venus embrace her sexuality and femininity despite doing some inglorious things, is slightly honorable although it may also be reprehensible. Women have been shamed throughout all of history whenever displaying their sexuality overtly, and although this is a stigma that we as a society are trying to unlearn, Venus can be interpreted as the first figure to challenge those unsafe ideologies.
Aside from the characteristics of Venus and some of the myths about her, the depiction of Venus in art is significant to the role she plays in feminism, and her appeal in pop culture. We find throughout history that Venus was often used by artists as an excuse to sculpt and paint naked women and disguise it within mythology.
I WOULD WRITE “and disguise it as a need of mythology”
Venus is mostly
always depicted in the nude with paintings such as Venus of Urbino, and The Toilet of Venus, as well as sculptures including Aphrodite of Knidos and Capitoline Venus. Undoubtedly, the most famous depiction of Venus is the Venus de Milo which is currently in Paris, France at the Louvre museum. The Encyclopedia Britannica mentions that the Venus de Milo is a statue that was carved from marble by Alexandros around 150 BCE. It was discovered on Milos Island in 1820, then donated to the Louvre in the next year. The statue displays Venus half-naked and is armless, but it is believed by some scholars that the statue may have depicted Venus with the apple she receives from the Judgment of Paris. Regardless, this rendition of Venus is noteworthy because it is one of the earliest portrayals of women that set a standard of beauty in history. The statue being in the nude only heightens its significance since the naked female body is something that has been always been a sort of taboo. In an article by Bob Duggan titled “How the Venus de Milo Changed Female Beauty”, he goes into detail explaining how the portrayal of Venus in the Venus de Milo “begins the politicization of female beauty.” He claims Venus was sort of the Kim Kardashian of the past since she was a very idealized beauty and admired for it, which is evident in many of her stories. Through this, we can see the role Venus plays in modern day pop culture and feminism since she was a goddess who embraced her naked body and sparked controversy for it in the real world through her depictions in sculptures and paintings.
Mythology is embedded in pop culture through references that may go unnoticed by some. Venus is one of the most popular goddesses we see referenced within pop culture, mostly by women, because of her unapologetic display of femininity and the feminism she has come to represent. Pop legend Kylie Minogue titled her eleventh studio album Aphrodite, and the tour for the album included a lot of imagery tied to the goddess. We see references to Venus in lyrics to songs like “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry where she asks her lover to “make me your Aphrodite.” However, the most brazen reference to Venus in pop culture and music is from Lady Gaga with “G.U.Y – An ARTPOP Film.” In the short film for her third studio album, she includes audio from her song appropriately titled “Venus,” which has the lyrics “Aphrodite lady seashell bikini (garden panty), Venus.” The lyrics reference the famous painting The Birth of Venus, as the painting shows Venus covering herself while standing over a seashell. In the video, Gaga depicts herself as Venus and as that part of the film comes to its end, she transitions into the next song G.U.Y by praying to Himeros, who is part of Aphrodite’s Retinue. This part of the film features the song G.U.Y, which challenges the stereotypical roles of male and female relationships by displaying the woman as the one in charge. Gaga’s use of Venus in a song and music video that promotes feminism by challenging misogynistic stereotypes exemplifies Venus’s impact in the modern day. It is evident that the bold display of Venus’s sexuality and femininity within her myths affiliates her with feminism making her an icon in music and pop culture.
Under the wide umbrella of music and its many genres, we often find artists drawing inspirations from classic mythological gods, goddesses and heroes. This is something I was unaware of until I took this class, which provided me with a new found knowledge of mythology. Upon reconsideration, I’ve noticed that elements of mythology are present in many of my various interests.
Bob Duggan. How the Venus de Milo Changed Female Beauty. Big Think. Accessed on 28 June 2018. https://bigthink.com/Picture-This/how-the-venus-de-milo-changed-female-beauty
Brittany Garcia. Venus. Ancient History Encyclopedia. 27 August 2013. Accessed on 28 June 2018. https://www.ancient.eu/venus/
Mary. Aphrodite Today: Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Walks Within. 31 March 2014. Accessed on 28 June 2018. http://walkswithin.com/tag/aphrodite-in-pop-culture/
Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga – G.U.Y – An ARTPOP Film. YouTube. 22 March 2014. Accessed on 28 June 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNu_-deVemE
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Venus de Milo. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed on 28 June 2018. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Venus-de-Milo