I didn't read the book, so I don't know whether this inability to imagine female power/divinity comes from Rick Riordan or from the filmmakers. Annoying, though. Persephone was a key figure in Greek mythology, worshiped in the Elysian Mysteries for the possibility that she could bring about the reincarnation of dead souls. This film reduces her to a desperate housewife.
I can imagine Persephone, the virgin goddess of spring/Queen of the Underworld as the ruler of the gods, and thus the divinity with the most influence on the earth, as a powerful goddess. She would rule the world with mercy and kindness, the qualities for which the ancient Greeks prayed to her and the ancient Romans prayed to Proserpina, her equivalent. We wouldn't fear death, because merciful Persephone would allow us to come back in new bodies.
I feel very protective of Persephone because I identify with her as "my" goddess. I want her to be empowered. I want her pairing with Hades to be an equal and happy match. I don't believe she's a helpless being trapped in Hell. For one thing, it's a cultural mistake to equate the Greek concept of the Underworld with the Zoroastrian/Christian vision of Hell.
I did like the casting of Rosario Dawson. Even though I remember her from silly projects like Josie and the Pussycats and Men in Black II, she projects strength, even when playing a slighted damsel in distress. Dawson is beautiful enough to pass as the Goddess of Spring.
|Rosario Dawson by Dysepsion, Creative Commons license|
Uma Thurman is rather over-the-top in this as Medusa. Read my updated version of the Medusa myth, minus beheading, in Like A God's Kiss: Erotic Mythological Tales.
The other goddess-figure who appears in this film is Athena. In mythology, she's a virgin goddess, so I'm somewhat perplexed that Percy befriends Annabeth, a daughter of Athena. Annabeth's a great character - she's a warrior. She's also well-versed in Greek mythology, sort of a Hermione Granger without the middle-school awkwardness. I have a hard time picturing Athena with a mortal lover - but I'll gladly permit authors and filmmakers their creative license to rewrite the classical myths.
I just wish there wasn't such a creative blind spot when it comes to envisioning the divine feminine.