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Comments

Alex

I didn't go see "Troy." When I watched the trailer the foremost question in my mind was "Why is Helen blonde?"

DF

Even though the movie Troy takes great liberties with the story of the Trojan war, they are technically correct on Helen's hair color.

Helen is described by Homer as "xanthe" (say zanTHAY), that is, yellow or golden. It is debatable that they envisioned her as a woman with hair as light blonde as Diane Kruger's. In a culture where almost everyone would have black or dark brown hair, blonde could mean anything from real blonde to medium brown. Bay or chestnut mares, for example, were called "xanthai."

So the producers were within the limits of Homer when they cast their Helen. I still think that they miscasted by using an ingenue type. I'm sure Diane Kruger is breathtaking in person, and I liked her a lot in the National Treasure movies, but you need someone who commands the camera if you're going to do Helen of Troy justice-- someone you just can't take your eyes off of when she's onscreen, such as (for me) the French actresses Emma de Caunes and Audrey Tautou.

When I was in graduate school and in between marathon translation sessions, my colleagues and I used to cast the Iliad, and back then my pick for Helen was Sharon Stone. I don't know that there are any American actresses right now who are as commanding as she was in her prime.

Alex

I come from a large Greek Family and I have an Aunt that everyone calls "Xanthe." She has lighter brown hair. As you noted in your second paragraph, the rest of us have black hair or hair so dark brown that it might as well be black.

Of course, Helen's hair color was not the only reason I didn't go see the movie.

DF

Bravo, Alex.

If you don't mind saying, is your family located in the US or elsewhere, and did you also skip Disney's Hercules? I always heard that that movie created a protest in Athens, but I haven't been able to corroborate it online.

Alex

We're located in the US. (recently transplanted from West Coast to East.) My mother was of the first generation born in the US. (To hear my grandmother tell it, she was born on the dock as they exited the ship. By sheer force of will, [again, this is my grandmother's version] Grandma kept her knees together for a week until her first baby could be born as an American.)

I seldom skip Disney's animated films. I'm a huge fan of animation and they generally do a good job of creating interesting characters and captivating worlds. I had no problem with Hercules and didn't hear a negative peep from anyone in my family about it. I can't speak to what may or may not have happened in Athens.

DF

I think immigrant stories are among the most captivating around. Have you gotten your grandmother to record an oral history? What a family treasure to have.

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