I Was So Gay for Meg From 'Hercules' That It Terrified Me
The most intriguing part of Meg wasn’t her slender waistline or disproportionate breast size—it was her depth, her wit, her bullheaded resistance to being saved, and her willingness to rebuke masculinity.
Illustration by Magnus Atom
"You Make Me Wanna" is a column celebrating pop culture-fueled sexual awakenings—from crushing on cartoon characters to humping pillows while watching boyband videos.
For a movie about a dude, the 1997 animated musical Hercules was brimming with powerful women: the coven of crones who snipped life’s delicate strings; the post-Motown girl group of muses; and Megara, the overtly sensual "I don’t need saving" damsel in distress who made an art form out of weaponizing your sexuality. These unique and special women made the titular character seem like just some guy—or, at least, that’s how I interpreted it as a six-year-old blossoming queer.
You remember Meg: the sultry seductress in a busty lavender evening gown who almost exclusively spoke in misandrist quips. She was measurably more sexual than any female character I had seen at that age—everything Meg said slipped out of her lipsticked lips like an invitation. I had never seen a woman treat men the way she did, luring them with her catlike eyes; tugging them around by the shirt collar; dragging her spindly fingers across their pecs. Meg teased her friends and foes, taunting them with an air of mystery that implied she harbored secrets. I was revolted by her.
Meg made me itchy and uncomfortable in ways I couldn’t understand then, but are clear as day now—I was into her. Hercules reacted to her powerful sexual presence with timidity and panic, clamming up tighter with every inch she pushed closer to him. That was probably the first time I witnessed seduction—and how one responds to it. As an impressionable child, I mimicked him. I was just doing what I was taught.
Growing up, some of my favorite movie characters were the nominal ones in Matilda and Harriet The Spy, and both Lindsay Lohans in The Parent Trap. When I liked a character, I became unabashedly obsessed in ways that only a guileless kid can be, bursting with pure passion and devoid of self-consciousness. Meg was different—she wasn’t some cute kid who I identified with or wanted to befriend. I was attracted to her. Meg got way too close to something I wasn’t yet ready to touch, so I feared her and retreated from my feelings.
This purple-eyed, ponytailed personification of an Herbal Essences commercial subconsciously shaped my sexuality. These days, Meg is my type to a T: I’m a sucker for long locks of smooth, dark hair, light eyes, and a silky voice. Meg was a nightmare dressed like...a nightmare, and that’s extremely my vibe. Obviously, the most intriguing part of Hercules’ love interest wasn’t her slender waistline or disproportionate breast size—it was her depth, her wit, her bullheaded resistance to being saved, and her willingness to rebuke masculinity. Above all, Meg was damaged. She’s a classic bad-boy archetype, with all the charm of someone with a murky secret—the kind of person you intuitively want to save.
She’s stubbornly resistant to any form of help. The first time Herc tries to save her—from a handsy, balding centaur who’s possibly sexually assaulting her?—she demands, "Keep movin’, junior." Off his assertion that she’s a damsel in distress, she chides, "I’m a damsel, I’m in distress, I can handle this. Have a nice day," and waves him off.
Throughout the Disney movie, she repeatedly roasts Hercules, patronizingly calling him "wonder boy," poking fun at his "rippling pectorals," and mocking his shy stutter—"are you always this articulate?" She’s utterly and overwhelmingly repulsed by men and their fragile learned behaviors, which was, and is, relatable to me. I’m not even sure why Meg and Herc end up together—she’s got the depth and poignant perceptivity of Amy Winehouse, and he’s like some flop runner-up on The Bachelorette.
Meg looks like the kind of girl who runs a Lana Del Rey stan Tumblr, hiding behind gun-slinging GIFs and sad girl memes with no real intention of dissecting her wounds anytime soon. I want to hold her in my arms and tell her everything’s going to be OK.
My type is literally "mean and has a complicated relationship with her mother," and I don’t know if that’s true for Meg—but I also know that that’s true for Meg, you know? She speaks like a jaded dancer at a truck-stop strip club, cracking jokes about having no friends and insisting it’s better to be alone so "no one can hurt you." At one point, she even jeers, "Well you know how men are. They think ‘no’ means ‘yes,’ and ‘get lost’ means, ‘take me, I’m yours.’" Who hurt you, Meg—and what is wrong with me for finding it so enticing?
Bottom line: Meg is simply fucking cool, in that untouchable, born-with-it, definitely-not-Maybelline type of way. "I’m a big, tough girl. I tie my own sandals and everything," she sneers at Hercules, wittingly batting her violet eyes and pursing her glossy, amber lips. Sexuality is confusing for young women—but Meg never embodied the age-old "do I want to be her or do I want to fuck her?" complex. I wanted to run away from her, and now I understand why.