Percy Jackson: Why Is Zeus Black in the Show? Is He Also Black in the Books?


‘Percy Jackson’ just aired its last episode and the finale was a bit underwhelming but it is what it is. We’ve also got a brief glimpse of Zeus, the chief Greek God who was black and portrayed by unfortunately late Lance Reddick. If you know anything about Greek mythology, however, you were probably surprised to see that Zeus is black, while Greek people and their gods are generally Whites of Mediterranean descent. So why was Zeus black in Percy Jackson? Was he also black in the books?

  • Article Breakdown:
  • Zeus is black in ‘Percy Jackson’ because of the diversity. People of Color are increasingly playing parts of what are conventionally white characters so they would have representation in media as well.
  • Zeus wasn’t black in the books or in the mythology, at best he would be a dark-skinned white person due to the specific geographical positioning of Greece, and considering that Greeks modeled their gods after themselves, there’s no reason to expect that Zeus would look like a black person.
  • It’s at the end of the day fiction, and anybody can objectively play fictional characters.

What race was Zeus in the ‘Percy Jackson’ books?

Zeus was not that big of a part of the ‘Percy Jackson’ books despite being an incredibly powerful and important character, the focus was always more on the young demigods with older gods causing problems and complicating their lives. Still, there’s not much need to explain who and what Zeus is because he is a well-known god from Greek mythology, which influenced numerous other pieces of work as well as mythological literary works.

I don’t think Zeus’ race was once mentioned in the books but his physical appearance has been described in great detail. First, Zeus was described as being very tall and muscular with shoulder-length black hair and a gray and neatly trimmed beard. He was also described as having electrically-blue eyes, he was also described as smelling as rain and clean wind. In his divine form, Zeus is described as being surrounded by a “massive column of twisting lightning and fire.”

The book-accurate sketches of Zeus also present him as looking like a basically tanned white guy.

So, no Zeus was never black, and the reason for that? Greeks themselves are not black, and it’s a fairly known fact that Greeks, for the most part, gave their gods human attributes and personalities and modeled them after themselves (for the most part). Greeks however are considered dark-skinned, as the rest of the Mediterranean due to having an abundance of sun and proximity to other darker-skinned cultures. One study discovered that Minoans and Mycenaean Greeks were genetically highly similar but not identical.

Modern Greeks exhibited a resemblance to Mycenaeans, with some additional dilution of early Neolithic ancestry. Another study by Lazaridis et al. (2022) indicated that approximately 58.4–65.8% of Mycenaeans’ ancestry came from Anatolian Neolithic Farmers (ANF), with additional contributions from populations related to Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers (CHG), Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) cultures in the Levant, Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers (EHG), and Iron Gates Hunter-Gatherers in the Balkans. Mycenaean elites shared the same steppe ancestry as commoners, while some Mycenaeans lacked it entirely. White people or Caucasians are one extremely genetically diverse group of people, contrary to what most Western media is peddling these days.


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So why did Disney make Zeus black?

Disney made Zeus black due to diversity. That’s not to say that Lance Reddick was not a good actor, but his initial role as Zeus was so minor that, objectively anybody could have played him. There has been a rising sentiment in the West in the last couple of years, going back far an entire decade that people of color should be included in the media at exactly the same rate as white people, and this is true. However many people point out that it’s not only inclusion it’s blatant blackwashing to replace a conventionally white character (or in this case ethnically Greek character) with a black person.

Numerous people don’t agree with this and remember that major scandal that broke out due to Cleopatra being depicted as black, or due to Vikings including black females causing everyone to wonder whether Vikings were black. This is a case of this as well.

You’re probably also wondering why Disney and the rest of the corporate media tend to blackwash white characters instead of bringing to screen mythologies and cultural stories related to POC? Well, the bottom line is that it doesn’t make them money. You see Disney is a corporation and they are in it to make money, the bottom line is always money. And no matter how interesting it would be to see African mythology play out on screen, the truth is, it wouldn’t make them money.

Disney thinks that people are not interested in new stories for the most part and it’s easier to reboot or rework the existing universe that already made them money in the past. This is why despite hearing all about inclusion and diversity, we rarely actually see it on-screen. This is a shame, there are a gazillion European lore-inspired stories in books, films, video games, and other forms of media, but there are so few of the stories that directly adapt the mythology of Africa.


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People are interested in those stories, but Disney is afraid of losing money. No matter how much they rave about social justice and inclusion, it’s all surface-deep and the bottom line is money – Disney wants to make money.

This of course is no criticism of Lance’s acting skills. He was a phenomenal actor who will be missed in the acting industry. Ultimately anybody can play Zeus, anybody at all since he is a fictional character and it’s not like Percy Jackson is a biography. But it’s also important to ask ourselves why are we always seeing Zeus, this time in the blackwashed version, and not Sango? Why is it always Odin and Thor and not Kwase Benefo?

Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!

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