Assignment for Thursday, 11.19.20

Dear Cinemythologists,

On Thursday, November 19, our unit on the Trojan War concludes. Please do the following.


Streaming on Swank Digital Campus. Take notes as you see fit.

The Coens have notoriously claimed that they did NOT consult Homer closely when making this film. We can argue about whether or not we believe this claim. Regardless, O Brother offers a somewhat different approach to adapting classical myth: a subterranean approach, some would call it, in which the story world is set outside antiquity.

!! CONTENT ADVISORY !! The film features a blackface “gag” as the protagonists interrupt a KKK rally; this, in turn, throws the film’s racial politics into sharp relief. One issue we’ll need to discuss is the place of so-called Classical Heritage outside of white, patriarchal systems.


  • Siegel, Janice. 2007. “The Coens’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Homer’s Odyssey.” Mousein 7: 213–45.

This exhaustive discussion of the film’s resonances with Homer’s epic ought to get us started, and then some. (Fun fact: Dr. Siegel is my co-author on that long-delayed myth on screen textbook I’m writing.)

In this interactive essay (perhaps best viewed on a laptop), Harris provides a taxonomy on blackface in contemporary screen media. Today’s film receives discussion, and that discussion might help us come to terms with the “accidental” blackface scene (Harris’ term) in O Brother.


  • Huntley, Pettit, Whatley.

Use the comments feature on this post to recommend a sequence to be reviewed and discussed in class.

Recommendations should contain the following:

  • A brief description of the sequence.
  • Precise starting and ending times (hh:mm:ss — hh:mm:ss).
  • A rationale as to why this sequence is worth our time.


2 Replies to “Assignment for Thursday, 11.19.20”

  1. 00:42:34-00:47:44
    This sequence depicts Pete, Delmar, and Everett encountering the “sirens”. It consists of the sirens singing to each man as the men fall under their spell. As the women sing, they give the men moonshine to drink and it puts them to sleep. When Delmar and Everett wake up, they find the women and Pete gone. All that’s left is Pete’s clothes. From the clothes, emerges a toad. Delmar comes to the conclusion that the sirens turned Pete into a toad using sorcery.

    This scene is worth our time because it addresses the scene of the sirens from the Odyssey in a new interpretation. The men are still lured to the women by their singing and suffer the consequences. It also shows that there is some belief in magic, at least on Delmar’s part. Delmar even calls the women sirens. This scene had one of the most obvious connections to the Odyssey that I could find.

  2. The scene I picked is 01:01:55-01:04:40. This scene shows Everett reconnecting with Penny and his daughters. Everett also confronts Penny’s fiancé, Vernon Waldrip, and they get into a fist fight that ends with Everett being kicked out of the store. I think we should look at this scene because it differs from Odysseus’s homecoming in the Odyssey. Penny did not remain loyal to her husband, and when fighting with the suitors Everett loses.

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