Multiple Meanings of Medusa in Media

Statue of Medusa, created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1630.

Above: This is a sculpture representing what Medusa from Greek mythology would have looked like; created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1630. The meaning of Medusa’s image has been changed and distorted through the centuries as different regions of the world have taken in her image and used it to convey their own meanings and stories.

Head of Medusa on a shield

Above: The first trope is a depiction of Medusa created by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in the 1596 or 1597 (medium – canvas painting). This painting titled, “Medusa,” represents what the shield of Medusa would have looked like. Following the Greek myth when Medusa was stunned by her own image, getting her head cut off by Perseus, and getting placed on the shield. Caravaggio painted his own face in place of Medusa’s to signify that he would be immune to her deadly gaze as it is his own face. The reference of Medusa in this painting portrays how Caravaggio viewed the Greek myth surrounding Medusa. He felt that he overpowered this myth and was able to paint such a painting with his face on it instead due to his immunity to the stone-turning gaze of Medusa. The gaping facial expression of his face is how Caravaggio envisioned his face when put in a situation of being stunned by his own gaze and executed. The blood splatter at the neck brings in the more of the violent and realistic side of what Medusa’s head would have looked like once she was beheaded, emphasizing the gory side of the Greek myth.

Medusa TattooAbove: This is a tattoo referencing Medusa with an indigenous pattern painted on her face by an anonymous artist and an anonymous tattoo-ist (medium – tattoo). Many women in modern times have associated the image of Medusa as a symbol of empowerment and female strength, along with various other meanings. The most common meanings have come down to being representative of a survival victim of sexual assault and other forms of harassment or protection from outside harm as the mythological Medusa was able to turn any foe into stone with one glance. The additional detail that the Medusa’s face has indigenous patterns on her in this depiction of Medusa is representative of the person’s cultural heritage and how the symbolism of Medusa connects to their ethnicity and history as an indigenous person while also believing in the meaning of empowerment, determination, and in solidarity of sexual assault victims.

Rihanna magazine cover edited to look like Medusa using photoshop and CGI

Above: This is a magazine cover published in December 2013 by a British publishing company, GQ, featuring Rihanna as she does a Medusa impression with photoshop and CGI renderings to make her look like a real life modern version of Medusa (medium – magazine cover). The purpose of creating this Medusa-Rihanna hybrid was to introduce the boundary-crossing of real life into fantasy and myths. The image is quite obviously edited, as Rihanna does not actually look like that, and was done so to promote the publishing company’s image of creating the story that everyone wants to be in the world that they create–a world of fashion trends, fitness goals, occupational goals, and more.


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