Webtoon, which is making comics snackable for the web and mobile set, has created a live-action commercial starring Sydney Sweeney to promote its comic Lore Olympus—a romantic, modernized take on the story of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, Greek goddess of the harvest.
The ad features Sweeney playing Persephone's two states—pre- and post-Queen of the Underworld—as a conflict between childlike innocence and black-clad recalcitrance. Do I want the bad boy? Can I admit that to myself?
Like us, she's stuck at home, so what else has she got to do? And the fact that she happens to look like the finest of all the Oompa Loompas is a nice touch.
For the unawares, some Myth 101 on the story that inspires the comic: Underworld god Hades—Demeter's brother—decides he's really into his niece, and asks Zeus, head of the Olympian gods, whether he'd be cool with him taking her. Zeus—also Demeter's brother!—says it's cool, which is no surprise, so Hades sets a trap for Persephone and kidnaps her.
The earth literally swallows her whole.
Demeter obviously goes nuts looking for her kid. Hekate, a Titan goddess who happened to hear screaming, wanders out of a cave and tells Demeter to talk to Helios, the sun god, because he sees everything from his chariot. Helios tells Demeter what's up. So Hekate—one of the few gods who can cross multiple liminal spaces—goes to the Underworld to retrieve Persephone, only for everyone to discover that while she was there, she ate six pomegranate seeds.
There's a moral hidden here: Never eat the food of the dead. Or, in modern parlance, don't take that drink from the leery creeper.
Anyway, for this reason, Persephone owes six months of her life every year to Hades and the Underworld. For those six months, Demeter despairs and makes the world barren.
This tale—often recounted as The Rape of Persephone—is sometimes told to explain why we have seasons. But it's also about a girl whose autonomy is stolen by structures larger than herself, and who has no choice but to make the best of a shit situation (she becomes Queen of the Underworld!). Lastly, buried under rubble, the story contains a cultural memory of what happened to the country of Greece itself.
Greece was a matriarchal culture; Hera, Demeter, Persephone and even Pandora all existed well before the myths of Olympus as we know them today. Zeus and the majority of his bros were a later arrival, part of the country's invasion by patriarchal tribes from Asia Minor, who, upon conquering, did what colonizers do: They adjusted mythologies to integrate their conquests and realign cultural identity. The rape of Persephone is also the rape of a culture, taken by force.
But myths, by design, evolve as people do. In the case of Lore Olympus, Persephone's rape seems softened into a "sweet country bumpkin falls for rich city playboy with a secret heart of gold" narrative—though, full disclosure, we haven't read it, and welcome correction if that assessment is wrong.
Here's the trailer for the comic:
It's an interpretation as sleek as a post-aughts Harlequin romance. That whole "He's her uncle!" part is erased, along with the core violence of the abduction. I don't personally think it does justice to the mythological Persephone's catharsis, but this is a quibble about the comic and not the ad, and frankly, stories change all the time and at their whim.
Sweeney's interpretation of Persephone for Lore Olympus was conceived by Fred & Farid, building on their clever post-Covid strategy for various Webtoon franchises—work that can easily be shot at an actor's home while directors and clients watch live. In this case, celebrity makeup artist Anthony H. Nguyen was enlisted to pink the goddess up. Pamela Neal brought the wig magic with colorist Naomi Knights, and Mindy Le Brock developed a custom wardrobe for both sides of her personality.
This marks the third release for the series, tagged "Stories to Obsess Over." The second piece came out last month and starred Kimiko Glenn, interpreting Cursed Princess Club.
While we weren't totally sure how we felt about the campaign's first ad, Alia Shawkat interpreting Freaking Romance, the more we see, the more we warm to it, though it's growing a little tedious to watch women pine over men. (We also pine over other things, like jobs, the condition of our plants, the state of the world at large, or even other women. Maybe men pine too, sometimes.)
Lore Olympus, conceived by Rachel Smythe, has also been tapped for the creation of an animated series with The Jim Henson Company.
Title of ad: "Quarantine Series: Lore Olympus"
CEO: Ken Kim
Product Management: Eunice Yooni Kim
Head of Content: David Lee
Marketing: Crystal Chan
Agency: Fred & Farid Los Angeles
Chief Creative Officers: Fred & Farid
Creative Director: Chelsea Steiger
Copywriter: Hilary Smith
Art Director: Jocelyn Lam
Business Director: Nathan Smith
Account Supervisor: Mariam Salcido
Agency Executive Producer: Amanda Van Caneghem
Agency Integrated Producer: Andy Caramanzana
Business Affairs: Jesse Sinkiewicz, Amy Sharma
Talent: Sydney Sweeney
Production Company: Ways & Means
Director / DP: Kevin Phillips
Executive Producers: Lana Kim, Jett Steiger
Head of Production: Lauren Skillen
Creative Technical Director: Stephen Pagano
Producer: Brandon Robinson
1st Assistant Director: Chad Nicholson
1st Assistant Camera: Evan Wilhelm
Remote Technical Supervisor: Daniel Satinoff
Gaffer: Blake Smith
Location Sound: Colin Alexander
Script Supervisor: Martha Dame Cary
Production Designer: Ashley & Megan Fenton
Wardrobe Stylist: Mindy Le Brock
Hair: Pamela Neal
Wig Colorist: Naomi Knights
Makeup: Anthony Nguyen
COVID Compliance Assistant: Tetiana Nykuliak
Editor: Sean Leonard
Color & VFX: Arsenal Creative
Colorist: Derek Hansen
Sound Design: Colin Alexander
Composer: Ali Helnwein
Motion Graphics: Stephen Pagano
Post Supervisor: Steph Max