A Drinking Game for Classics-Themed Film

If you have ever studied ancient history or Greek myth, then you know that both are melodramatic, violent, and raunchy AF. Roman political history during the civil wars of the 40s and 30s BCE reads like a damn soap opera. The Iliad and the Odyssey have sex and violence out the wazoo. These stories were practically made for the big screen, and yet often when Hollywood decides to adapt one, it ends up being a letdown. The true bravery and selflessness of the Spartans and helots who sacrificed themselves to prevent Persia from annexing Greece is reduced to weird, growling, CGI bodybuilders in 300. The masterful storytelling and real emotion of the Iliad is rendered laughable in Troy. Disney, in a bid for family values I guess, calls Hercules “the only son of Zeus’s”—the biggest lie ever told.

I’m not saying all movie versions of ancient history and myth deserve heavy criticism. I, Claudius (based on the historical novel by Robert Graves) is both mostly historically accurate and gloriously melodramatic, and I have watched the whole miniseries multiple times. Despite some questionable historical leaps and a sanitized version of Hypatia’s murder, Agora showcases the life of a brilliant Neoplatonist philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer who bucks gendered expectations of women in antiquity. Troy: Fall of a City exceeded all my wildest hopes of myth movies and miniseries. Even the adaptations that take more liberties, like the 2014 Hercules with The Rock, can be really fun to get immersed in because they fit an original storyline within the existing structures of the ancient version of the myth. Myths were never static, after all. But they also generally were not poorly written, and unfortunately, for every Troy: Fall of a City we get, we also get a Minotaur, or the disgraceful 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans. (I will forever stan the 1981 version. Do not come at me.)

From Cleopatra to Centurion, from Gladiator to Troy, from Spartacus to Life of Brian, certain tropes always insinuate themselves into film depictions of classical myth and history. It’s easy to raise an eyebrow at these ridiculous assumptions, misconceptions, and Hollywood rewrites—why do movie directors think everyone was smokin’ hot in antiquity? Don’t they know that there were no vaccines and malnutrition was rampant??—but it’s more fun to raise your glass! So without further ado, I present the drinking game that will fit any Classics-themed movie you can find. Cheers!

Take a SHOT if:

  • John Hurt is a cast member

Take ONE drink when:

  • A woman shows up scantily clad or naked for no apparent reason
  • The main woman character is a warrior and “not like other girls”
  • A hero’s dramatic or unusual birth story is told
  • The hero doesn’t know/doesn’t believe he’s the son of a god

Take TWO drinks when:

  • A mythical CGI monster shows up (bonus drink if it’s there to eat the scantily clad woman)
  • A character’s name comes from Greco-Roman myth or history, but the character is nothing at all like the historical/mythical person with that name (e.g., Io in the 2010 Clash of the Titans. I will never get over this.)
  • A council of gods debates the fate of a human (bonus drink if they’re debating the fate of a whole city or all humanity)
  • A badass woman, who is technically the main character, is somewhat overshadowed by men’s drama

FINISH your drink when:

  • The hero gives an impassioned pre-battle pep speech
  • The gladiator life is massively romanticized
  • Homoerotic relationships are passed off as just regular friendship or brotherly love (e.g., Brad Pitt’s Achilles saying “This is Patroclus, my cousin.” I will never get over this, either.)
  • The only actor of color is the hero’s helpful sidekick

A Few Thoughts on Virtual CAMWS 2021

Just a couple of weeks ago we wrapped up the 117th CAMWS—and the second virtual CAMWS—annual meeting. I thought this year’s virtual conference was a huge success, thanks in large part to the amazing team of CAMWS tech volunteers who helped keep everything running smoothly. In both the panels I attended live and the ones I watched after the fact, there were very few tech hiccups—no more than we ever have in live, in-person conferences, in fact. And unlike last year, when the in-person conference wasn’t moved online until half the country was already in lockdown and some of the conference leadership seemed to grouchily prefer cancelling over having a virtual event, everyone who participated in CAMWS this year seemed to have a great attitude about the whole thing!

Sure, there are some cons to virtual conferencing replacing in-person events. I used to love browsing the book exhibits at conferences, running into friends from other institutions across the country and catching up. And there was always something particularly delightful about leaving town for a conference, especially as a graduate student—not being in town meant that you couldn’t be held responsible for whatever was happening in class that week, because you were off doing important professional development—i.e., drinking at the conference hotel bar after your paper presentation. Attending a conference through my laptop screen meant that it was harder to escape those everyday responsibilities of both work and home that an in-person conference eliminates.

Despite all that, I’m still hopeful that future CAMWSes will continue to include a virtual component at the least. Accessibility in its many forms is a huge pro of virtual conferencing. Disabled classicists or those with compromised immune systems for whom travel may be difficult or dangerous can attend a virtual conference without jeopardizing their health. (This is a perk that applies to everyone else, too, as we now know, having lived through covid times.) Conference travel on top of registration fees is often prohibitively expensive for students as well—and, let’s face it, some junior faculty, too. Some departments will cover graduate student travel to conferences if the student is presenting, but if you aren’t presenting and just want to attend, you’re on your own. And even before covid, travel funds were shrinking for many of us—my own department had already warned us that they would no longer be able to guarantee travel funds for presenters after 2019. Virtual conferencing eliminates those barriers to full participation for junior scholars.

And speaking of making CAMWS accessible and welcoming to all: what a delight to see panels and workshops on this year’s program with the specific goals of understanding the experiences of current classicists of marginalized identities as well as teaching and writing about such identities in the ancient world. I attended the presidential panel “Being Black in Classics: Some Experiences and Perspectives” and was incredibly grateful to all of the presenters for their honesty and generosity. This year’s conference also featured “Teaching Transgender Identities and Gender Diversity in Classical Studies,” a workshop for discussing and gathering resources for teaching and writing about diverse (trans)gender identities in the ancient world.

This year’s CAMWS also marked my final annual meeting as a member of the Graduate Student Issues Committee. This affiliate committee does such wonderful work connecting graduate students across the CAMWS territory and providing programming that is relevant to students’ needs. I was particularly proud to have organized and presided over our panel on diverse career opportunities at this year’s meeting. (If you hurry, you can catch all of GSIC’s programming from this year on YouTube before the videos are archived.) If you are a grad student finding your way in a classics-related field, follow GSIC on Twitter and get involved!

If you have more virtual conferences to attend this year, or if you just want to be prepared for the potentially-partially-virtual CAMWS 2022 in Winston-Salem, NC, may I humbly offer this Virtual Conference Drinking Game of my own design? (I don’t recommend getting smashed in live panels and potentially typing embarrassing things in the chat, so if you are playing this game in a live panel as opposed to watching the replay, maybe consider playing with coffee or tea.)

TAKE ONE SIP WHEN:

  • A question turns out to actually just be a comment
  • A presenter forgets to unmute themselves
  • A presenter’s pet appears in their screen
  • Someone draws out the sentence, “I’m going to shaaaaaare my screeeeeen heeeere….”

TAKE TWO SIPS WHEN:

  • A participant begins their question by stating that they have a two-part question
  • A presider makes a joke about seeing/meeting/being with everyone virtually
  • A lag causes participants to talk over each other

FINISH YOUR DRINK WHEN:

  • A participant’s fake background causes them to disappear (or objects that are really in the room to appear) in and out of the background
  • A presider cuts off a panelist for going over time