Here’s the quote (emphasis mine):
One of the things about Greek mythology that’s so interesting is just how horrible the gods are. The gods are really not exemplars. You might aspire to have the kind of power that they have, but, for the most part, they aren’t virtuous. They’re petty and selfish. The fact that they have achieved this ideal situation of having all the power, eternal life, the ability to fulfil every desire has not made them good people. If anything, it has done the opposite.
That was something that I really wanted to explore in Circe: this idea of when you do get everything you want, when you do have absolutely everything, it doesn’t make you a good person, actually. It makes you kind of a terrible person.
Psychological studies have proved that that is, in fact, correct: When human beings are given ultimate privilege and ultimate power, unless they actively fight against it, [their] empathy immediately starts dropping. You start assuming that if I’m way up here, I must have gotten here because I deserve it. And therefore, everybody who’s down there, they don’t deserve it. So I’m better than they are, and therefore I can treat them terribly if I want to.
I think it’s so interesting that the human brain goes there and that the Greeks knew that, and they manifested that in their mythology.
Listen to the interview episode here. The interview is by Ezra Klein on his podcast.