They think “No” means “Yes” and “Get lost” means “Take me, I’m yours”
Megara from “Hercules” and her storyline still remain one of the most elaborate, masterful and superlative deconstructions of contemporary misguided faux-feminism. Her visibly distorted perception of romance, gender dynamics and relationships influenced by one heavily traumatic experience is challenged, debunked and confronted by no other than HERSELF throughout her arc.
She starts out as a typical, painfully common and easily recognizable representation of a “strong independent womyn who needs no man” trope. Her “I’m a damsel, I’m in distress, I can handle it, have a nice day” is every Western/First World feminist’s wet dream: blatant and unjustifiable hostility/inconsideration towards someone who genuinely tries to extend a helping hand and happens to be a male is initially - and cleverly - disguised as her being self reliant, independent, emancipated, capable and confident. Directly condescending and inappropriately spiteful remarks aimed at Hercules when she explains to him what inherently irredeemable and clueless men have in mind - according to her own experience with them - are framed as bluntness, upfront attitude and sharp honesty. You’d think Meg is going to be a yet another cliche riddled “strong female character” archetype - only for the movie to pleasantly surprise the audience with defying said archetype almost right after her character’s introductory scene.
Meg is NOT self reliant, independent and least of all - confident. Her deeply rooted, severe and immense insecurities stem from a place of vicious, emotionally damaging betrayal on part of someone she invested her unswerving, unconditional trust and genuine belief in. Only for it to backfire on her in the most tragically unflattering, morbid manner. Having her literal and figurative liberty compromised on behalf of a person who didn’t end up demonstrating a one third of the same consideration/care towards her she found herself a prisoner of not only an eccentric, evil scheming Hades but her own reservation/guard. Her guard was her misguidance and in many ways - willful ignorance. Because it was easier to resort to generalizations and stereotyping of others despite KNOWING this mentality is considerably flawed and those judgments hardly hold any water than facing/acknowledging the actuality and uncomfortable truth.
And the truth was - it weren’t men or people in general who inevitably possessed a dishonorable trait/quality of being backstabbing and negligent: it was a person SHE once chose to put her unwavering faith in. Which resulted in a highly unfortunate outcome of an even more unfortunate decision. Stupid decision, as she unavoidably came to inwardly deem it as.
Meg didn’t merely dehumanize men reducing them to walking constructs driven by primordial instincts, disgraceful inferiors incapable of sincere and earnest emotion - she dehumanized herself by condemning her own perfectly natural desires, longings and yearnings. By refraining from exploring her attraction to Hercules and excusing it with either degrading him or undermining herself for so much as the FACT of being drawn to him.
This was the first step on part of the narrative to address how troubling, inconsistent and problematic contemporary feminism ideology is - it shames women for experiencing and expressing emotions. And then shames their love interests (irrespective of gender identity) for invoking this emotion. By regarding said love interests as undeserving, nothing but visually appealing simpletons, shallow&superficial entities that are not worthy of woman’s time, energy, sacrifice and investment (does anyone get distinct and instant flashbacks of under-baked and decidedly unsettling “feminist critiques” of The Little Mermaid from it?).
(Slightly paraphrasing) "It’s better to be alone. No one can hurt you”
The movie reaches the point where it finally emphasizes one of Meg’s primary and most dim insecurities: she doesn’t consider men/people worthless or bad - she has come to perceive them as unreliable. And no amount of reassurance on Hercules’ part can convince her otherwise because, understandably, big and gracious words are not of a high value nor a solid foundation for trust.
Especially when you still cling to your radical views which you know are misguided for the sake of not getting burnt again or being further scarred. That’s the phase where Meg starts struggling with a challenging mix of feelings: her unwillingness to recognize and pursue her affections towards Hercules and a feeling of guilt that HER insecurities/issues pertaining to emotions he causes her to experience can endanger him and be exploited by Hades.
Finally, a breaking point. Meg’s emotions ARE used against both her and Hercules. Again, this could have been a lazy conformism to modern faux-feminism and the narrative could have devolved into primitive, pretentious cautionary tale about how you shouldn’t cultivate your romantic, emotional and physical needs or explore your attractions/let them interfere with your cold logic. This is NOT what happens.
Meg and Hercules’ feelings for each other are exploited by external force (Hades) and for no reason other than because Meg was not entirely honest with Hercules or herself. “Strong independent woman who needs no man” trope is shattered by this plot twist because it negatively affects the heroine and sabotages her unacknowledged goals/desires/aspirations.
Meg comes to realize she needs to start practicing what she preaches - if she molded her worldview and perception of people/men around generalizations and accusations, labeling them as untrustworthy and cunning maybe, probably, potentially SHE should deviate from and abandon those very traits? Because in Hercules’ mind she has come to be cunning and untrustworthy - and as painful as it might be for Meg to admit he has fairly legitimate and valid reasons to think that. She strives to redeem herself in his eyes - and a redemption arc is impossible without a character development, right? So what is Meg’s development?
Her development is literally making the same mistake over again.
Same stupid decision. Laying her life at the altar of a man she loves. This is the most phenomenal, incredible, powerful instance of character progression to ever grace fiction. Character growth that is not about stopping to make mistakes (which is unrealistic to begin with, for as long as one lives and breathes) but reevaluating your own outlook on them and what they represent.
Meg only knew Hercules for a limited amount of days. Presumably - and very likely - for much less than she dated/was in a relationship with her previous partner. She had virtually no guaranties this man was going to travel to underworld, offer the god of the dead a deal intending to trade his soul for hers and throws himself into the river filled with groaning and moaning ghosts of the deceased specifically to rescue her. Meg wasn’t even in the kind of emotional place to HOPE one could do this on her behalf.
Not expecting a pay off and responding to/following her instincts was her character development. Crucial difference between Meg in the beginning of the movie and the one who makes a grand heroic sacrifice for Hercules is her finally realizing that all that time she’s been assuming people feel entitled to her & are going to take advantage of her devotion it’s actually herself who should have stopped feeling entitled to people or their loyalty in the first place.
She embraces the mentality of doing what she believes is right regardless of how the other person reacts to it. A person might be stunned, amused, thankful, overwhelmed with gratitude or can shrug it off, take her sacrifice for granted and head in the opposite direction like her former lover.
But that is NOT THE POINT anymore. The point is Meg remaining true to herself, her feelings, her impulses, committing acts that she considers appropriate and honorable in the given circumstances because that’s the kind of person SHE is and being yourself is not a show of weakness even if it includes being lovesick and smitten. And that’s what independence is at it’s core.