Dance of the Maenad: Top 3 Pop Culture Portrayals of Dionysus

Dance of the Maenad: Top 3 Pop Culture Portrayals of Dionysus December 6, 2018

If you have seen a pop culture depiction of Dionysus, odds are he was wine drunk at a party. The “drunk bro” aspect of Dionysus is the most easily portrayed and recognizable, and arguably the least exciting. Here are three more depictions of Dionysus that I find much more palatable.

TV SHOW: LOST GIRL
STARRING DIONYSUS AS ROMAN

This Roman is quite handsome.

For anyone who knows anything at all about fae lore, this show is painfully inaccurate. That being said, I absolutely love it. In season 3 episode 5, they introduced Roman, a “Bacchus” type fae who uses his Thyrsa to induce sexual desire and also as a blasty-sort of weapon. Roman lives for pleasure, specifically sex. He was pretty one dimensional, though I wouldn’t expect more from a single-episode character. I just really like the idea of his sex club. (Minus the goopified humans).

TV SHOW: THE MAGICIANS
STARRING BACCHUS AS BACCHUS (MORE OR LESS)

This will not be the last you hear from me about this show. I don’t want to spoil it, just please do yourself a favor and watch it. Again, this is a one off character. He is peak Bacchus as interpreted by the modern age- frat bro who keeps the shots coming, bounces from house party to house party, and kicks you out for being a buzzkill. His followers (and the main characters) connect with him via Instagram. He can’t be bothered with the minor issues of the mortal world- life is for the moment, and in this moment he would rather be faded.

COMIC: THE WICKED AND DIVINE
STARRING DIONYSUS AS AN EDM ARTIST

This comic is absolutely amazing. Essentially, imagine an alternate universe where the Gods are famous musicians, in the best possible way. Dionysus is an EDM artist and playing for a rave in this comic episode. Right off the bat he reassures the main character (Laura) that she has full power over the situation she’s about to walk into; her consent will be respected, she won’t be pressured, and she can leave whenever she wants to. This is something I think we need to focus more on in our communities- creating spaces where individuals can pursue non-traditional activities and lifestyles of whatever sort, but also reminding everyone of their right to opt out. People cannot experience an ecstatic state (or, in the comic, a good God-given trip) if they have to focus on actively defending their boundaries, or if they’re worried about the consequences of letting their guard down.

While Wiccked and Divine’s Dionysus definitely falls into the “Bacchus” category, in my opinion he is more well-rounded; there are nuances to his character that I find charming. His aspect of literal Madness is also brought up in this comic:

Introducing this edges towards some of His more complicated aspects that relate to the darkness of the mind, death and rebirth, and the razor-thin line between euphoria and inescapable madness.

For that reason, I am not surprised that pop culture media, and the general public, prefer to focus on Bacchus, a safer image of the Ecstatic God; the deeper levels of Dionysian understanding are much more earth shaking.

About Hannah Savage
Hannah is an ecclectic pagan devoted to Dionysus. Her practice is primarily focused on ecstatic trance, ritual, faery walking, and deity worship. She lives in Wisconsin with her ball python, Tehiri. Hannah is heavily inspired by the work of Brian Froud and her time spent living in Iceland. You can read more about the author here.
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