Percy Jackson and the Olympians was my favorite book series in middle school. While overwhelmingly popular in novel form, the 2010 movie series it inspired hardly measured up. The movies did not follow the books and were an immense disappointment for super-fans like me. But in May 2020, the series’ author Rick Riordan announced he was going to make a Percy Jackson TV show on Disney+. This time, the characters would be age appropriate, the plot would follow the books, and the show would be written with Riordan’s active involvement. When I heard this, my middle school heart did backflips in excitement. This was what we thought we were getting with the 2010 movies! With the TV show set to come out next year, fans gleefully anticipate its release. Yet, however invigorating the excitement, the show’s somewhat ubiquitous buzz amongst 21-year-olds like me leaves many wondering why they are so excited for a children’s show.
Critics and fans of the series alike wonder why Percy Jackson won’t leave them alone. Well, we can first blame the ambition of the author. Riordan has continued to write books based in various mythologies and connects most of them back to his original series, therefore keeping Percy and his friends alive for the new generation. Second, we have the fanbase to blame. The social media accounts the fan base created promote the series through fan art and memes and provide a platform for fans to bemoan the horrors of the 2010 movies and beg for a Percy Jackson movie or TV show to do their coveted series justice. Finally, we must blame teachers and education systems for reintroducing the series to each new generation.
The fact that Percy Jackson is based in Greek mythology may also provide an explanation for why it won’t just die out like other fads. Greek mythology is deeply ingrained in Western Culture — trust me, it exists in places you would never expect. For example, the famous two-tailed siren on the Starbucks logo was inspired by Greek mythology. Deeper than that, Joseph Cambell’s monomyth theory - what we might know as the Hero’s Journey - is based on Greek myths and is the single most used story structure in Western Literature. So it is perhaps because of Greek mythology’s timelessness and prevalence in Western Civilization that we can’t help but appreciate a good retelling in the modern world, especially one aimed at a younger audience.
Along with an engaging plot, Riordan’s characters are what have made Percy Jackson and the Olympians impossible to kill. His cast is diverse in countless ways. For example, one of the first markers of being a demigod (half-god, half-human) like Percy is being diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and dyslexia. Given that 15-20% of the population has language-based learning differences like dyslexia and 30% of those with dyslexia have coexisting ADHD, Riordan immediately made his characters relatable, lovable, and perfectly unique by presenting these learning differences in a positive light. Having worked with many children with learning differences as a middle school Latin teacher, Riordan previously stated that making demigods ADHD and dyslexic allowed him to honor them and bring awareness to learning differences.
Finally, 20-something year olds like me continue to fawn over the genius of Riordan’s original half-blood series and eagerly await the 2022 TV show because we read them in our formative years. As a senior in college, I am stressed 24/7 about finding a job, finishing school, and navigating life — but re-reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians always takes me back to a comforting time in my life when everything may have still been uncertain, but anything was possible.