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Everybody Loves Zeus

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Tyrant. Hypocrite. Adulterer. Rapist. Kinslayer. Family Man.
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Light can blind and light is good. And by "light is good", we mean it's good you aren't struck down by lightning.

Zeus was lord of Mount Olympus and Top God that ran Greece. He got his throne by killing his father and taking it and condemned anyone else who did the same, he ate his first wife, he cheated on his second wife/older sister incessantly (including with one of his other sisters), allowed his wife to torment his demigod bastards to suicide, he chained Prometheus to a rock to have his liver eaten forever for giving mankind fire, he unleashed pain and suffering on the Earth and had a mortal girl take the blame for it, smiting random humans with lightning from his ivory tower and countless other horrible things. However, adaptations like to show Zeus as a cool guy that likes to party and is justified whenever he has to bring out a firm hand. Why? Because Heaven and Light = Good.

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Gods associated with light and lordship over other gods are typically portrayed as heroic and relatable while their darker counterparts are super violent and manipulative and other icky stuff.

Aversions typically portray such gods as good but ignorantly destructive, usually causing trouble due to ignorance or gross incompetence.

A subtrope of Sadly Mythtaken and a form of Adaptational Heroism.

Compare Disneyfication, God Is Good, Hijacked by Jesus, Jesus Was Way Cool and Light Is Good.

Contrast with Everybody Hates Hades.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The Mighty Thor:
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Zeus has gone through some different iterations over the years. His Wonder Woman (1987) version is a Jerkass God close to myth as a hypocritical rapist and adulterer whom the Amazons and most of the gods don't trust or much like who is overthrown by Athena as mythology states he's fated to, while his Wonder Woman (2011) version is pretty well loved by everyone despite retaining his adultery with Athena going out of her way to help revive him, and all the other gods besides Ares being upset at his apparent death.
    • Hera's petty jealously is usually in place past the Silver Age, but pre-New 52 the murderous bit of her misdirected anger was generally swept aside or only used to show her lashing out in a moment of rage instead of something she'd plan and plot and prior to Wonder Woman (2011) she was treated as more reasonable, kind and likeable than Zeus.

    Films — Animation 
  • Hercules:
    • Zeus is portrayed as a light-hearted, if not buffoonish king and loyal husband to Hera. While the spin-off series brings up his flaws — like forgetting he and his wife's anniversary, occasionally losing his temper and the whole "Prometheus" thing — Zeus' frequent infidelity is never brought up (most likely non-existent to keep the G-Rating).
    • Hera gets this treatment even more so. In the original myth, Heracles was not Hera's child and was a product of her husband cheating on her. Feeling spiteful, Hera actively sabotaged his life and tried to make his suffer, even forcing him to kill his own family. Here, Hercules is her son and no mention of Zeus cheating on her is ever brought up, so the adaptation portraying Hera as the kind, patient and level-headed of the two. Even in the episode "Hercules and the Return of Typhon" it is revealed that she was the one who threw the lightning bolt that led to Typhon's defeat and that she allowed Zeus to take the credit for image reasons.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hera from The Legend of Hercules allowed her husband to cheat on her with Alcmene so that Hercules could be born and become a hero to Greece.
  • Zeus in Wonder Woman (2017) is a Posthumous Character described in Amazon myth: He created humanitynote  in a Golden Age, created the Amazons when Ares inflicted war upon humans, helped free the Amazons when they were enslaved, struck a crippling blow to Ares after he killed the rest of the gods, and with his last breaths left the Amazons with the means to finish Ares off once and for all. Although that part about Ares being the cause of all war is wrong, so maybe the Zeus wasn't really so great after all.

    Literature 
  • Subverted in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Zeus isn't portrayed as evil, but that's probably the nicest thing you can say about him. This version of Zeus is grouchy, a terrible father and so incredibly arrogant that he almost caused the total destruction of Olympus and the world twice, all because of his stubbornness and refusal to accept help.
    • It's revealed in the last book of the first series "The Last Olympian" that one of the reasons Hades is so grouchy and on such bad terms with his family is that Zeus attempted to kill two of his children to prevent them fulfilling a prophecy, and killed their mother in the process. Hades is meanwhile portrayed as more reasonable and fully averts Everyone Hates Hades.
    • Poseidon, the father of the main character Percy, is portrayed as a bit kinder than he was in original mythology. That said "Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods" mentions that today he'd probably get arrested for what he did to Demeter.
    • Generally the gods of the Riordanverse (which include the Egyptian and Norse Gods) are not shown to be lacking flaws, but a number of them show themselves to be nicer than their original tellings, be it from personal growth or sidestepping their faults. Even Gods generally shown to be evil or unpleasant, like Ares, Set, and Loki, are not depicted as utterly beyond sympathy or positives.
  • The Lost Years of Merlin and its Sequel Series do this in their take on Celtic Mythology. Dagda is depicted as a god of wisdom, which is accurate, but also of peace and freedom, which is...less so, as the Celts basically thought that any god worth his salt had to be some sort of warrior. The sexual appetite that you see among most Top Gods also goes unmentioned, as do his more Crazy Awesome traits. Meanwhile, the villain is Rhita Gawr, depicted as the (only) Celtic War God, when he's actually a rather minor, mortal character from Arthurian Legend.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • While Zeus wasn't the kindest of the Greek deities and was undoubtedly a terrible husband, he can be considered a relatively good parent. Granted, he cheated on Hera unceasingly, but he always loved the sons produced in those infidelities and often protected them from the rage of his wife, who could be ridiculously vengeful (despite the rightfulness of her indignation) and liked to vent it on the innocent children. Keep in mind also that there is a clear disconnect from how the myths portrayed him and how the Ancient Greeks saw him, with many a philosopher disdaining the myths for tainting Zeus' reputation.
    • Helios (the charioteer of the Sun) is one of the more positively portrayed gods of Greek myth, probably because the best-known myth features him forced by his own oath to give his son Phaeton the reins of the sun chariot, even although it led to Phaeton's death. That said, he's also the father and grandfather of morally ambiguous witches, lending his power to Circe and Medea, and the Ancient Greeks generally avoided outright sun worship.
    • He was later merged with Apollo, the god of poetry (who also gets a good rep, despite not being averse to chasing nymphs and mortals, and responsible for a few cases of Disproportionate Retribution as well).
  • Inverted for Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec sun god. The Aztecs's infamous reputation for Human Sacrifice came from their rituals in which still-beating hearts were offered to him so as to give him the strength to prevent eternal night from covering the land. And yet the threat of daylight ending forever wasn't enough to prevent the Aztecs' vassals (from who the sacrifices were taken) from joining the conquistadors.
  • Norse Mythology is rather weird about this. The chief god in recorded mythology, Odin, is more of a death-god figure and a trickster, inverting this in every possible way. However, Týr, whose name is etymologically related to Zeus, might have been the original Top God, and he is definitely a honorable person, sacrificing his own hand to imprison Fenrir. The sun (Sól or Sunna) meanwhile is a goddess that doesn't really do anything besides being eaten by wolves at the end of the world, though there is evidence to suggest that she was once a highly revered deity among the Norse.
  • Baltic Mythology, Japanese Mythology, and Aboriginal Australian Myths all have their respective sun goddesses as the highest ranking, most benevolent, and ideal deities. The exception is Bila, who is a murderous cannibal that roasts people alive in her fireplace (the origin of sunshine).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Subverted big time for Magic: The Gathering 's Heliod, Theros' god of the sun. When the Theros block first came around, he seemed like an upstanding, moral Zeus-analogue, even championing Elspeth as his hero. Then Godsend Part 1 came along and showed how much of a cruel, petty tyrant he was, and it went downhill when Part 2 came out and he murdered her out of jealousy and spite. Now he's easily one of Magic's greatest Hate Sinks.

    Video Games 
  • The God of War series plays with this idea. In the first game Zeus is essentially the Greater-Scope Paragon, serving as a benevolent ally to Kratos who helps him both overtly and subtly. The second and third games however set Zeus up as the Big Bad, driven mad with fear and paranoia that Kratos his son will usurp his throne. As it turns out, Zeus only became a villain after Kratos opened Pandora's Box and infected him with the evil of Fear... it's implied he was still something of a Jerkass God even before this (as he was still a ruthless, adulterous tyrant) but Kratos managed to exacerbate his flaws and turned him into a monster.
  • Pharaoh: The Sun god Ra holds power over the entire kingdom (in the campaign, especially after the Pharaoh declares him the king of the gods), which translates to him increasing your reputation, export prices and amount of goods traded if he's happy, and decreasing them if displeased. Having him as patron god allows you to have crimefighting priests and salaries lower than the national average.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Meridia is a Daedric Prince whose sphere is obscured to mortals, but is associated with Life Energy, Light, and Beauty. As such, she has an extreme hatred for anything undead. Rainbows are common symbols of Meridia, and she typically takes the form of a beautiful woman, sometimes with angel-like wings. She is one of the more benevolent Daedric Princes, as well as one of the few to be almost universally considered "good" by mortals. That said, Meridia has been known to express her anger toward those who earn her displeasure in very nasty ways. She has no compunction against causing collateral damage in her quest to eliminate anything undead, and makes it clear that any "good" she does is purely to further her own causes. She is also very vindictive if you reject her or question the morality of her actions in any way. Her plane, the Colored Rooms, is a colorful realm of vast floating stones, strewn about with trails of colorful dust and clouds. The "ground" between the stones looks like luminescent water, but is solid enough to walk on.
    • Kynareth is one of the Aedra, the et'Ada ("original spirits") who made sacrifices during the creation of Mundus, the mortal plane. She is a prominent member of the Nine Divines, a Saintly Church considered far more benevolent than any Daedric Prince. The Nords worship her as "Kyne", the shieldmaiden, war goddess, and weather goddess. She is one of the most beloved of the gods, with Nords invoking her name to grant them strength in battle and carry them to Sovngarde if they fall. In The Elder Scrolls Online, when one character abandons her worship of Kyne after realizing what a blatant Catch-22 Dilemma this is note , she is unambiguously regarded as wrong by even her own son. Even though he only survived a Hopeless War because of cowardice and desertion, he vows to return to battle if Kyne spares his mother and gives her a chance to become faithful again.
  • The Pantheon that resides in Anor Londo in Dark Souls I are all associated with fire, light and the Sun. Gwyn, Lord of Sunlight, is the patriarch of the old royal family and king of Anor London who rallied his armies and, with the help of the Lord Souls and the other lords, staged a full-on attack on the Everlasting Dragons and brought about the Age of Fire. In-universe, they are worshipped as gods, but as the player continues, they find out that he was in reality manipulative and deceitful, having tainted The Sacred Darkness by branding the dark sign on the loyal pygmies and making the dark the scary monstrous thing that it is today and committing "the first sin" by linking the fire, creating the Crapsack World that the games take place in.

    Web Comics 
  • Happens In-Universe in Slightly Damned with Mother Gaia, who alongside Father Syndel created Medius and the races living there, but she and her angels received the glory while Syndel and his demons were shunned. Eventually he grew jealous and had the demons invade Medius in retaliation, and she sent the angels to drive them off, but we see in the story that they could be every bit as brutal as the demons.

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