Quick! What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day: Flowers? Chocolates? Overpriced dinners and funny Valentine’s Day cards? If you said, “a flying baby armed to the teeth with arrows,” then you’re in luck, weirdo.
Here’s the 411 on Cupid, one of the worst holiday mascots in recorded history.
That’s Not His Real Name
If you remember anything from your 8th grade Language Arts class and its unit on mythology, it might be that when it comes to mythological characters, there’s basically two of everyone: a Greek version and a Roman version that came later and, in most cases, completely ripped off the Greek version.
You might think of the Greek versions as Willie Dixon or Muddy Waters and the Roman versions as Led Zeppelin. (Photo by Jim Summaria)
Cupid is a Roman version. To the Greeks, that saucy little cherub was known as Eros, the god of love — and he wasn’t a chubby, winged toddler either, but more on that in a sec.
He’s Kind of a Dick
Cupid’s bow and arrow are iconic. You likely recall that he fires golden arrows at mortals to stoke the fires of attraction and love and all that jazz. He’s a portly little matchmaker, right?
Not quite. Golden love arrows are only half of what’s going on in that quiver. Tragically under-reported is the fact that Cupid also has lead arrows that he uses to repel people. Take one of Cupid’s shadowy lead arrows to your ass, and congratulations you’re repulsive.
Ever try sitting down with an arrow in your butt, BT-dubs? Not fun.
Cupid (as Eros) first rears his handsome head in literature in around 700 BCE, and his sole reason for living is to toy with people’s emotions by firing extremely heavy arrows at them. He’s not kind of a dick. He is a dick.
Fine, But Why Is He a Baby?
He wasn’t always a baby. From his debut in the 8th century BCE, and for the next several centuries, he was commonly depicted as a total stud. He was an archaic Channing Tatum, lusted after by mortals and gods in equal measure.
Over time, however, his hotness waned, and he did what any aging God of Love would do: He relied on his sense of humor and roly-poly charm. In the 21st century, this became known as the Alec Baldwin Method.
By the time the Romans took charge, the arts celebrated Cupid more for his boyish mischief-making than his shallow yet ridiculously good-looking manipulations, and his pop-culture portrayal changed accordingly. Goodbye, Magic Mike. Hello, Captain Underpants.
Here’s Who To Blame for Why He's On Valentine's Day Cards
In two words? The Victorians.
The Victorian Era laid the foundation for Valentine’s Day as we know it today — including its close ties to Cupid. The Victorians were the first to put a romantic spin on the holiday, already a religious festival for centuries. They were the first to crank out mass-market Valentine’s Day cards. And they were the first to start linking Cupid to the holiday. Given how cool they were with child labor, maybe that shouldn’t be so surprising, but still…
Given that some Victorians only bathed once a year, meanwhile, it is surprising that they were so amped about romance.
What's your deal when it comes to Valentine’s Day? Do you send Valentine’s Day cards? Are you more of a Galentine's Day type? Who would you cast in the gritty Cupid biopic coming to Peacock in 2028? Drop your casting choices in the comments below. Dibs on Jack Black.