2007-03-19 : Tonight we dine

We went and saw 300. It was pretty dumb. Racism and misogyny, yep.

But did anyone else notice? People are like, "most Republican movie ever," but the only remotely plausible mapping of it onto current US-centric world affairs is, the US is Persia. "Their king thinks he's God? Ha! Let's bog him down in this ugly little quagmire where his numbers don't account! Eventually the entirety of

Islam Greece will rally. And even if they don't (beholden as they are to the US dollar

coins with Xerxes' face on them) they'll remember that right here, a tiny, dedicated, austere, suicidal force stood against the greatest army in the world!"

The hooya-ing Spartans weren't US marines, it just doesn't map. The immortals were. Who, after all, us or the insurgents, has the war elephants? Who has the giant armored rhinocerous? Who has the executionator?

Eh, now I've thought harder about the movie than its makers did.

1. On 2007-03-19, Julia said:

I'm glad somebody noticed that. I was blinded by the shiny chests, but a war movie is a war movie is a war movie. You just have to figure out who fits what metaphor.


2. On 2007-03-19, Tom said:

Yeah, some people have complained that compared to Persia, the Greeks were really just a bunch of barbarians who paid lip service to democracy and that's it.  That everyone would've been better off if the Persians had won it.

But my take-away was that:  "Even if you're an empire with liberal policies, a multi-ethnic, multi-religious population and a huge military force, don't expect your opponents to roll over and die just because they're wrong".

On the other hand—that movie rocked!  Did you see the part where the guy was all like "YOU WILL KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!" and the Greek dude was all "Bring It!" and they did, but then the Greek guys just tore into 'em and then pushed them off a cliff?  That totally rocked!


3. On 2007-03-19, Scarz said:

The fact the movie is based on (an obviously fictionalized but fairly accurate) historical episode aside, the reason people make the comparison is because islam does indeed have the numbers, when talking about sheer untrained conscripts, as well as the willingness to use terrible weaponry such as IEDs and targeted media beheadings.

They also have the exact same goal of enslaving other civilizations. Yeah, I know. We Americans are "enslaving other civilizations all the time" because once there's an American presence in town, they set up a McDonalds and a Coke stand, and thats "all the same thing." But I'm talking actual enslavement. The historical King Xerxes really did send out emissaries who asked for "Earth and Water". Nowadays we just get a threat letter from Ahmadinejad every once in a while.

Xerxes demanding the Greeks kneel and accept him as a god, is not really that much different than Al Qaeda demanding Spain be returned to the "Andalusian Caliphate" (and that the citizens of Spain become muslims and renouce earthly law in favor of sharia) or be destroyed, or that tribesmen of the Darfur region kneel to the Janjaweed Mujahideen (who have managed to slay at least 200,000 people since 2003).

Whereas the Spartans have a coalition of only 300 highly trained volunteers and around 3700 others (Greek slaves, and allies from Arcadia, Corinth, Thespiae and Thebes)—the Spartans have technology and tactics (the bronze shield and the phalanx) on their side.

Thats the basis of the comparison. I don't know how accurate it is. The graphic novel actually came out in 1999, and the movie is pretty close to it.


4. On 2007-03-19, Avram said:

Wait, Scarz, you're complaining that the Persians enslaved people? Ever hear of helots? There's some actual enslavement for you.

Under the Achaemenid Persians, subject nations could live their own lives and follow their own faiths. (It was Cyrus the Great who freed the Jewish hostages of the Babylonian Exile, and encouraged them to rebuild the Temple.) The Spartans, on the other hand, were a totalitarian military state living on slave labor.


5. On 2007-03-19, Ben Lehman said:

Why are the greeks white in the movie?  Is it explained?  Does the movie start with a little trailer saying "We now take you to an alternate dimension where Spartans were white and totally heterosexual"?



6. On 2007-03-19, Vincent said:

Yeah, and why are the Persians black? We played a game: spot the Persian who actually looks conceivably sort of Persian. We won once!


7. On 2007-03-19, Meguey said:

And why were the Spartans so non-hairy? Full beards + no body hair = weird. It sure was comic-booky, though!


8. On 2007-03-19, Chris Goodwin said:

Funny.  Once I realized about a third of the way through that, barring 3000+ intervening years, the Persians were, in fact, who the Iranians are now, it clicked for me the other way.  It got to the point where I just kept rolling my eyes every time Leonidas opened his mouth.

The beleaguered armies of freedom, led by King Leonidas W. Bush, were making their final stand against pretty much the whole Middle East.  All of the "we fight for freedom" rhetoric was meant to show that the Spartans were, in fact, Our Side, and the piercings and perversions were meant to depict Them.  The "liberal" in "Congress" who was against Supporting Our Troops (By Sending More Of Them To Die) was even depicted as a traitor, having taken Persian money (Why Do You Hate Sparta?).

(And I've known a few Marines, served with a few while I was in the Air Force, and the Spartans were definitely supposed to represent them.)


9. On 2007-03-19, Moreno R. said:

I don't know how "comic-booky" is the film (I didn't see it yet), but it seems it's more comic-booky than the comic books, where the Greeks doesn't appear so nordic to me...

(sorry, but the fact that hollywood movies are much, much dumber that the comic books they copy, and still people talk as if it was the other way around, it's a pet peeve of mine. And I fear for the next Watchmen movie. I already suffered enough viewing the dumbed-down V for Vendetta movie...)

In the comic books the fight is between "gods" and "laws". Leonida fight for the law, not for democracy (and say so, many times). For human law. Every man-of-god in the comic book is corrupt (the spartans priests), or want to enslave you (the emperor-god).

After rading the book, it seems clear to me that Frank Miller see BOTH al-kaeda and George Bush as Persians.

(and anybody read his very short story about 9-11? It's only 2 pages. It show a flag, with wriiten over it "I am sick of flags", a cross, with written over it "I'm sick of God" and the falling towers, with written over it "I've seen the power of faith")


10. On 2007-03-19, Kaare Berg said:

Maybe it is the european in me, maybe it is me sitting in safe little Norway who had like 70 troops in Iraq and then pulled them out.

Me in little Norway who due to our own laws can not extradite a suspected terroristleader, or little Norway that struggled with "well its been long, and she is sick now" when it came to extradite a terrorist who hijacked a plane and executed the captain of said plane.

But both here and over at story games people are getting bent out of shape over 300. A fictional visceral and stunningly visual story that happened to be based on a historical episode. A story that is so over the top macho that it makes Swartzenegger look like a "girly man". A movie based on a comic book. A movie that does not bog down in political and historical correctness, but blantantly give it the finger.

Why is it so?

Have the intelectuals on the other side of the pond (and yes I do consider you intelectuals) become so scarred by the state of affairs in your own house that you have to take affront by everything that isn't political correct.

I know the effects of racism, I deal regularly with both white on everything racism, and the inverse of it. I deal regularly with violence, I get paid to stop drunk/doped people from hurting each other, often I use violence to do so. I have served my country abroad and I have taken a moral stand when people from my platoon crossed the line according to our rules of engagement. I do not discriminate against women because the thought just doesn't occur to me.

Yet I thought 300 rocked. I was sated after watching it.

And I am trying to understand why you all seem to get on your indignant morally superior horses and condemm 300 so. Looking for political agendas, looking for symbolism and drawing comparisons that to me seem ... well like trying too hard.

300 has the following:
an unbelivably wonderfull visual style
macho quotes to fill a lifetime
and graphic violence in slow motion

it is great entertainment
it is noncomittal fun

it really isn't more than that

And to me that is ok, why isn't it so for you?


11. On 2007-03-19, Vincent said:

Hey Kaare, you might be carrying your frustration here from there. Here, I don't see anyone outraged (except you) (which is fine, feel free).

I just think that the movie was really, really dumb.


12. On 2007-03-19, Vincent said:

Oh but let me say, an entire movie set in Xerxes' court? With that visual style and those effects? About intrigue and sex and betrayal and stuff? I'm THERE.


13. On 2007-03-19, Kaare Berg said:

Okay, sorry I am not trying to attack any one,

I just don't understand why there seem to be some sort of filter that people I respect seem to watch this film through.

Now the taste issue, I won't touch it. You didn't like it fair enough. But all this reading stuff into it, I am trying to find out where it comes from.

And I figured this here would be a safe and constructive arena to pop that question?


14. On 2007-03-19, Kaare Berg said:

And I am not outraged, just a bit puzzled.


15. On 2007-03-19, Vincent said:

There's something in the flick that makes it feel like propaganda. Like it demands that we line up on one side or the other. I dunno why we fell for it, probably it's Pavlovian.


16. On 2007-03-19, Devin said:

The weirdest part for me was the Ephors.  I mean, these guys are the only elected part of the Spartan hierarchy, really sort of the spearhead of democracy (okay, giving a voice to the working slave-oppressor, maybe not the best, but start with a democracy of the ruling class and historically it does seem to trickle down over a few thousand years).  Miller re-writes them as mutant rape-priests.  I don't get it.  He writes the Spartans as much less free than they actually were.

Kaare, speaking only for myself, I read into deliberate authorial choices.  When you drop a caption in there about a "last hope for reason, justice, and freedom" I have to assume you mean that.  When you do that thing with the Ephors I have to assume you mean that.  When Leonidas says something, okay, that's just how he thinks about himself.  But when you break in with a caption to tell me about it, then I can only figure it's something you're trying to say to me.  ("you" here referring to Frank, but also to any author who talks to me in the same way.)

I would have liked the movie and comic a lot better without those captions.  Stick to Leonidas's internal monologue (and if that was supposed to be his internal monologue, why does he seem to have a 20th Century historical perspective on things that he hasn't even done yet?  Is he really a ghost from out of time? (actually, that movie sounds pretty cool too, though not as cool as Vincent's King of Kings one)).

Vincent, hella Pavlovian, now that you mention it.  I think I can still hear the bell ringing.  But I can't stop myself.


17. On 2007-03-19, Larry L said:

Hey Vincent, didn't you just launch a whole site to accommodate potentially-thorny things like this?

Interestingly, the History Channel has been running a new show show on Thermopylae and the Spartans. Visually, they've given it the "300 treatment"—heavily processed colors in the same palette as the movie, (still safe for basic cable) portrayals of shocking violence, lots of (still safe for basic cable) exposed muscular manflesh. Probably, a suitable reality check to rinse off your brain after seeing 300.


18. On 2007-03-19, Kaare Berg said:

So these pavlovian responses truly are a sign of the times?
And then maybe my embrace of this movie comes as a response to what I see as my own country's failure to take a stance, any stance, towards anything.

And then this extremist propaganda "take a stand" movie becomes a sort of wish fulfillment fantasy for me.

But is it really so easy as it is a gutresponse to the propaganda feel (the entire movie being an "on the eve of battle" speech I find this appropiate), or is there something else at root here.

I ask because all these other elements you keep mentioning like racism, misogny and homofobia do not present a problem for me. Yes I have to deal with both my own and other peoples predjudices every day, but the bottom line is that I do not reflect on it much, mostly because being either of those three is unnatrual for me.

But then so is being political correct.

And I am struggling to articulate what I mean here.


19. On 2007-03-19, xenopulse said:

"Political correctness" is a nonsense term that was developed to suppress progressive ideas and give people with prejudices a shield against criticism.


20. On 2007-03-20, Avram said:

Actually, xenopulse, it originally came from Marxist rhetoric, and was adopted by western Leftists in the 1970s as a kind of ironic, mocking term of internal criticism.

But the more widespread use, in the mid-'80s and on to today, yeah, you're 100% right.


21. On 2007-03-20, Moreno R. said:

People, do you remember fahrenheit 451?

Do you remember the REASON given for the burning of all the books?


22. On 2007-03-20, DC said:

The only real racism I see in the movie comes from Hollywood casting Nordic-types as Greeks. As always. The Persians share this problem, of course.

You can read current politics into most anything. You can read most anything into most anything. That's how I double-majored in English and Religious Studies without ever breaking a sweat. It's not a movie to think too hard about. Yet everyone does. Curious.


23. On 2007-03-20, Scott said:

You know, 300 left me strangely hollow...for me, there's nothing remotely visceral about watching digital paintings for two hours.  And without the emotional connection, I just didn't care to get worked up about any of it.  Although when the Queen said "freedom isn't free" I expected a country-western song, or at least Team America, to make an appearance.

Jeez, there are such better films out there to discuss.  Take Behind the Mask for example; it turns out to be a clever send up of slasher flicks - a bit like what Christopher Guest might do if he were to take a stab (natch) at the genre - while simulataneously being a pretty drak romantic comedy.  But of course, no one one is seeing that...


24. On 2007-03-20, Vincent said:

DC, that's the "only" real racism I see, too.


25. On 2007-03-20, soundmasterj said:

Marines = Immortals:
Haha, you just made me go watch that movie! Under that premise, it might be an experience my lefty mind can stand.


26. On 2007-03-20, Vincent said:

Also, Moreno, censorship? Please. Dude I'm a shill for the movie, witness soundmasterj. Scott's really right.


27. On 2007-03-20, James Jeffers said:

Am I the only person who hoped that the President would see this movie and be so inspired as to join the Marines in Anbar along with his family? Do you think our foreign policy would change for the better because of it?


28. On 2007-03-20, Kaare Berg said:

""Political correctness" is a nonsense term that was developed to suppress progressive ideas and give people with prejudices a shield against criticism." - Xenopulse

which is in itself a predjudiced statement against those who see political correctness as paralysing concept. And you need not look further than Norwegian politics to see this in effect.


29. On 2007-03-20, Moreno R. said:

Vincent, you misunderstood my (rather criptic, I admit) fahrenheit 451 comment. I don't see anybody here calling for the burning of books (or comic books, or movies). I was talking about the fact that it's simply not possible to write (or film) anything without hurting somebody's feeling or values.

In fahrenheit 451, this caused the burning of all books, to "protect the people" from this. In the real world, I think it simply caused a lot of efforts to produce movies (or books) without saying...  anything. 2 hours long balloons of hot air. To avoid making waves.

(While we are on the subject of movies from comic book, I would love to talk about the changes in Spider-Man made in the movies to exorcise all the society criticism present in the Lee-Ditko stories, but I don't want to derail the discussion)

I don't know, I certainly don't want to condone racist propaganda, or to tell people that they should shut up. Centainly they have every right to tell their opinion, or to be enraged, or to laugh about somthing foolish. But, at the same time, I see a lot of searching for "something that could hurt someone's feelings" to criticize in the threads about the movie in the net, as if it was something bad by itself and not a normal effect of having different opinion.  I don't know where is the boundary between these two things, and I aknowledge the fact that I probably are more sensitive to some issues and less to others, so what it's hurtful to another person is almost nothing for me (and the other way around for other things). So I don't want to say people how they should react, but at the same time I see a disproportionate amount of reaction, even searching to force some square metaphore in un round film to be able to be more annoyed. (I don't know if these rambling are making some kind of sense or not.  There's is the problem of writing in another language, as always, but the fact that I am conflicted to the issue and believe contradictory things don't help to lessen the confusion, too)

This is the impression I got reading the threads about the movie in a lot of places (for example,, story-games, and some movies forums), not only in your blog. And your blog until now had the most equilibrate comments of the lot. So why I am telling this here, and not there? Because I wanted to say this where there were equilibrate people, not somewhere where I would be put at the stake by a lot of angry people. Sorry if it came out as I was singling out people here as would-be censors or something like that


30. On 2007-03-20, Brand Robins said:


To folks like you and I it seems pretty obvious that the Persians are the Americans. The vast empire with vast resources cracking down to impose its rule on little nations that have no wealth to compare with its own? Yea.

But that isn't the vision that a lot of Americans have of their own country. In the eyes of a large scale public vision, we were the victims. On 9-11 they (the Oriental they the very idea of whom was created during these wars) attacked us and tried to steal our democracy. They did so with cowardice. They are all weird other people who probably have slaves, and they want to take away our freedom with their vast oil money. They are Bad. They are From the East. They are the Evil Axis of Evil Empire.

At the same time, our Marines don't even have body armor. They're sent into combat situations without proper support. There was a period about a year ago in which every night on the New York news that I get from across the boarder there was a story about how some local father had to spend thousands of dollars to buy bullet proof jackets and such for his child, because the military would not supply them. We are bombarded by constant rhetoric about the values of freedom, rationality, and faith in our way of life. Our forces in the Middle East are vastly, vastly outnumbered—because we only have so many to send, and there are infinite numbers of brown people over there!

Then start adding the cultural movie/comic book tropes in. The US Marines are often played with a large degree of jar-head, college fraternity "thank you sir can I have another" adolescent male-power dynamic masturbation. That image matches up almost one to one with how the Spartans are portrayed in 300. Similarly, the orientalism and exoticification of the dark body that is done to the Persians in the cultural context of 2500 years of writing about the exotic orient very clearly places them as "not us" at the same time that the whiteness and habitual cultural appropriation of the Greeks as "the first America" places the Spartans as "us." (Incidentally, my Greek friends tell me that most Greek movie critics hated the movie almost as much as the Iranian critics because the Greeks are sick and tired of us appropriating their culture.) The weight of cultural symbolism does pretty clearly point out that what the movie wants to say is Spartans = Marines. We don't have to buy that, of course, and can deconstruct and reconstruct—but that is what the movie points towards.

I don't know if anyone remembers anymore, but this same discussion came up during the Lord of the Rings movies. Iraq was Sauron, until Vigo said they weren't and that America was. Then there was kerfuffle, and the story died out. But you'd still occasionally see the imperialist acquisition of the story by right-wing forces.

The whole thing comes down to something pretty simple: when you have a story about Good vs. Evil everyone will try to map themselves to Good. But when you have a massive weight of cultural baggage attached to one side or the other, the mapping becomes more and more difficult. I don't, for example, see a lot of Iranians being able to easily say "Greece is Iran and America is Persia!" Nor do I have any doubt that in the minds of many who watch the movie without critical analysis the Spartans are, in fact, US Marines because they are played the way US Marines are played in so many other movies.

So sure, if you are a liberal American who is critically analyzing the movie and able to reconstruct the tropes it uses to create meaning into something other than they were fairly clearly intended to be—this can be a movie about America as the Evil Persians. But to most people it won't be, because they won't read it that way. And just because we can chose to read it that way doesn't mean that the message that is trying to be conveyed is that which we are choosing to take away.

The question, in culture studies, is never "what can I take away if I chose to exert my will against it" it is "what will the average pop-corn munching escapist member of the audience who watches and believes the biased mass media believe at a gut level when they watch this movie." And in that analysis, we lose. Because while we may be able to keep our own minds clean and clear, every brick in the wall against us just makes the gap that much bigger and wider.


31. On 2007-03-20, Kaare Berg said:

And Xenopulse before I come of as totally confronting you, this debate is giving me flashbacks to this thread about violence.

Because this movie is a celebration of violence if any movie is. And violence entertains.


32. On 2007-03-20, soundmasterj said:

I think this discussion has been very far from talking about what needs to be done with Sparta. The discussion was about how we thought about it, how we experienced it (not me, of course).
Or at least that was what I took from reading it: On one hand - giant armored rhinocerous. On the other hand - stupid military racist propagandistic whateveristic intention. Do we like it? Do we like it the same way the film makers want us to like it?

Or am I wrong?

It was not: Oh, this is how people react, let??s do this to change it. It wasn??t even: oh, this is how people react to sparta. It was: Hey, how did I even react?

also some1 pls maek sparta rpg


33. On 2007-03-20, Brand Robins said:

I also suppose my whole post above could be summarized like this: "I don't care what unique snowflakes think about the movie, I want to know what the aggregate average across the market is going to think."

Part of this is that I know how I feel about 300. And about the Greco-Persian wars (something I've studied at length). And about America's imperialism and Iran's current government of the insane. I don't expect 300 to change my mind about any of that, or even have a lot of influence on it. I've done my thinking. Vincent's done his thinking. But what about those who haven't?

As for how I personally reacted: with a constant sense of frustration. The anger came later, long after contact with the material. Mostly I went in wanting to like this. I fucking love the Greco-Persian wars. I love the noble last stand as a motif, to the point where thinking about even a generic noble last stand can bring me to the point of tears. (Thing Borges would have something to say about that?) But all through 300 I felt frustrated, not just because of the bad history or racism or sexism, but because the way those things were thrust into the story killed my noble last stand. And it did so in a way that didn't turn it into a gritty movie of the brutal pragmatism and sacrifice of war. Instead I ended up with something that just left me wincing, wanting to be able to get into the story at any angle, but constantly kicked back outside by the fact that I couldn't want anyone to win, and wasn't given enough of an outside view to decide that I wanted everyone to lose. Instead I felt that I was left with a movie that wanted me to root, root, root for the home team, but didn't give me anything like a home team to root for.


34. On 2007-03-20, Devin said:


Will you be my wince-buddy?  That is exactly what I was trying to say, only much clearer.



35. On 2007-03-21, Curly said:

The Bush Administration has been pumping a great deal of money, without congressional authority or oversight, into three Sunni jihadist groups connected to Al Qaeda.

Bush and Al Qaeda are the same team.
They've got the overwhelming force, and the will to use it.

Who are the 300?  Take your pick.  Her, maybe?


36. On 2007-03-21, xenopulse said:


I didn't think you were that confrontational :) And thanks for reminding me of the violence thread—I forgot how much I posted there. Had a great follow-up discussion via email with Ralph and someone else as well, on the requirement to enforce law.

But back on point: I don't support the idea that we can never say or do anything that offends other people. I think that's what opponents of "political correctness" are afraid of. But calling it PC isn't helping. If we want to talk censorship, that's a different thing. The whole concept of the Oppressive Political Correctness, as it's applied, is used to attack people who criticize established prejudices.

So again: this is not about forbidding people to say what they want. People who oppose PC think that it's not ok for public groups, like the government, to think about whether what they are doing is sexist, racist, etc., because it "paralyzes" them, as you say. I think that's a way of paralyzing the efforts to be progressive, to reflect on what we do and how we do it. Not to avoid offending anyone's sensibilities, but to avoid being racist, sexist, and so on, which is much more serious than just Political Correctness.


37. On 2007-03-21, Kaare Berg said:

I am starting to loose sight of where I wanted my line of reasoning to go, and I am afraid that I might had my own pavlovian response in that I began arguing for my side of things instead of paying attention to what I am intensly curious about, and that is why people react so strongly to a film that in my eyes was brilliant and sating entertainment, and nothing more.

And that is ok sometimes, isn't it?

Thanks Brand for giving me some insight into why you didn't like it.


38. On 2007-03-21, NinJ said:

Haven't seen the movie. I rolled my eyes at the comic several years ago.

But then I picked up Age of Bronze, which is a much better comic and all was well. The characters aren't white. They have dark, curly hair (except for one family, who's blonde. Family line is important, so they share features). It's a black and white comic, but they look Mediterranean; they look like the people I've met in Italy and Israel, not the ones I've met from England and Germany. Which, that's cool if it's the Niebelungenlied, but not for Spartans.


39. On 2007-03-24, Marco said:

The movie is Republican on it's own terms. Analyzing it on other terms is possible as well—but in the context of its creators and its internal message the Persians are just the Persians. Brand is right.

1. The Spartans are white. They talk about Freedom (capital F). They exemplify western values (individualism, heterosexuality, etc.) They are square-jawed. They are rugged.  Their leader isn't taken with the polytheist "ancient" (and corrupt) religion.

They are who "we" identify with.

2. The Persians are the "Other." They are "Them." To the American viewer (the one who counts for this film) they are exotic, unsettling, and sexually corrupt. They are morally bankrupt.

Now: you can argue that "Them" fits the current US administration far more than "Us." I won't disagree with you.

But let me ask you this: do you think the cheering crowds (who also cheered the racisism and, perhaps, sexism—certainly a pretty Republican view on homosexuality) thought of it that way?

If you do, you're kidding yourself.

You, yourself, caught on that it was propaganda. Do you think it was Anti-American propaganda? I think if it actually *had* been—if your anaylsis of Xerxes's army as the US Army was *on target*—then you'd have felt a *very* different vibe than you did.

Yeah: it does ask you to line up on one side—the Republican side. The side of the Spartans. That came through loud and clear. Seeing it any other way is interesting but isn't in context with the message itself.




40. On 2007-03-26, Jack V said:

The violence was stylistic but still disturbing in its presentation, but maybe I'm just prudish.  However, I didn't take the point of this movie to be about war at all.

It was all about sacrifice and honor and noting that what you do in your life is about more than your here and now accomplishments, that your story can live on to have a great positive impact on the world.  That choosing how to live, and choosing how to die, are truly important things.  As silly as this movie was, that message came through surprisingly well, and is a message I don't see a lot, with so much of the culture I'm exposed to focusing on the fact that a person should do whatever he or she wants without much concern of the larger societal impact of those actions as long as no one else is obviously hurt right here right now.

Maybe I'm just not culturally sensitive enough to understand the broader connections, but it just seems so obvious that this movie, while nominally about historical Spartans and Persians, is really set in a world as fantastic and make-believe as the Star Wars galaxy.  I don't know how one can stop from laughing at the outlandish costuming long enough to find offense in this show.  It's THAT silly, and to dismiss it as immature junk is fine, if the greater story doesn't resonate.  To find offense, though?  I don't know.  Might as well say that since Chewbacca is the only character from a race that was enslaved, Lucas is equating African-Americans with large hairy beasts who can't speak.

300 is one long 14-year-old-male action fantasy in support of a really great story of honor and duty that is made all the more powerful due to the mental priming of the visceral action sequences.

But, then again, I don't really know what I'm talking about, so it's all good!


41. On 2007-03-27, Matthijs said:

But... you all saw the trailer for the movie, right? What did you expect? I saw it and went "mmmyeeeah, could have been cool, looks stoopid". Lots of guys with bare chests yelling "Freedom!", which is by now the emptiest battle cry you can put in a movie.

(Hey, Kaare... wrt govt taking a stand: what about this?)


42. On 2007-03-29, Kaare Berg said:

and then there was this stand.

I'll knifefight you on this Matthijs. ;)

(Sunday next week can be gameday, if it fits.)


43. On 2007-04-01, Rev. Raven Daegmorgan said:


Holy gods.

No, really, why do I see so much of this "Pool is a racist game because the WHITE ball hits the COLORED balls into HOLES! Doyouseethediscrimination?!?!? FILLLLLTH!!!" intellectual-autoeroticism insanity surrounding discussion of a high-budget action movie?

Honestly, and less rabidly, I think all this discussion of what the movie "says" really says more about the people talking about the movie, and some serious unspoken social and emotional issues underlying the expressed views, than it says about the movie.


44. On 2007-04-01, Vincent said:

Movies, like all pieces of fiction, have text, subtext, and context. It's appropriate to read them critically, as you would any piece of fiction.


45. On 2007-04-01, Rev. Raven Daegmorgan said:

This is true. However, what I have seen lately, and increasingly over the past ten years, is a disturbing trend where such is inserted (ie: cramming, jamming, dry humping, twisting and forcing) in a most uncritical fashion for reasons that seem transparently political and social.

And further, that these interpretations..."what I saw, what I see, what I get out of that"...are touted as not simply personalized perception, nor as a venue to create discourse about a subject, but as the-absolute-goddamned-truth-wahoo.

As an example, see Marco's wording in his reply: "Seeing it any other way is interesting but isn't in context with the message itself." (I'm ignoring the IMO at the end for the mmoment)

Or go out into the wider self-described tolerant/inclusive/progressive culture, express disagreement that a film/book/show/play/phrase is not inherently racist or oppressive, or that a view of it as such is wrong-headed or in error and watch how quickly you are blasted as a closet racist, a confused ignoramous, or (if you are very lucky) just an insensitive ass.

This is a huge cultural hole we've stuck one leg down, forgetting the idea you learn in first-year College English: "Just because you interpret the story the way you did does not mean that is what the story is saying or means. The story says a lot, but you say more through its lips."

"I see racism" is not "It is racist." "I see misogyny" is not "It is misogynistic." It may be, but then again, it may not.

So why is our culture so desperate for certainity? Didn't we historically reject Western religion's polarizing, singular view of morality precisely because that way led to stagnantion and oppression in the name of nobility, justice, truth and good?

Further, there's the problem of there existing a point at which decontextulization to make something fit a particular issue becomes absurd. Once you're that far into reinterpreting the symbolism of something, you're way outside normal contextual understanding. There is such a thing as overthinking something that intellectuals are often prone to.

Hence my criticism of the idea of pool being racist just because we can (rather tortuously) map the idea onto it.

To paraphrase a friend, why do we hold to the belief that racism (or whatever) is so unconciously ingrained that it gets expressed through things like how we construct a game? Why do we behave as though we must be hyper-vigilant, wipe out all traces of these unconcious manifestations of our unacknowledged and unthinking racism (or etc.)?

Or more simply: when did hyper-sensitivity become a virtue? And why is "Decry this as unholy or burn, heretic!" so often the attitude of the day?


46. On 2007-04-01, Moreno R. said:

I finally saw the movie. Or, I should say, the TWO movies. I thought that they had modified the story from the Comic book for the movie, but instead they only added another movie parallel to the first. A movie where people talk in a different way, dress in a different way, the world is different, etc.

Even if I didn't remember the comics, it's easy to see the added parts: people talk twice as much, in a different tone, they seems romans (they seems extra from "The Gladiator", to be blunt), and they want to send troops in Iraq to save their children.

The jarring disconnection between half of the movie with people who say "we must go there to fight", and "don't listen to corrupt politicians that don't want that" and the other half with people who say "we must stand here to defend our way of life from this bigger empire that see itself as more powerful and civil, and don't listen to corrupt priests that want us to honor Gods more than people" is very noticeable.

I think that if they did not add the second movie, they would have made a much better story. (the comic book is a much better story). But they would have got a loss less money. The audience would not have felt that "feelgood" sensation of "we are the heroes", because if you see only the first movie, Vincent's interpretation is much more probable.


47. On 2007-04-09, Lachek said:

Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity (or in this case, greed).

You're in charge of casting for 300. You need to pick a bunch of Spartans. You want the movie to be a blockbuster hit. You know that the most basic formula to capture viewer's attention is to have them identify with the protagonist(s). You know that the movie, as an adaptation of a Frank Miller comic, has a predefined target audience of Caucasian males and it is expected to get its largest audience in North America. You know that on average, young Caucasian males who go to see a 2 hour long movie about stylized, over-the-top melee combat aren't your typical Cultural Studies major, deconstructive type (though there are, of course, exceptions) and some may even be confused as to which side to cheer for (I was rather repulsed by the Spartan method of child rearing in the beginning of the movie, for example).

If I were the producer, and my casting director came to me with a large group of people of obvious Greek heritage, I'd have them fired - historical accuracy be damned, this is about Money. Simple as that. :)


48. On 2007-05-23, Olle Jonsson said:

Book hint: Roberto Calasso: The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

My gaming buddy read it, and regaled us with amazing campfire stories about the depth of the insanity of Sparta. Helots. (The movie shows some interesting wolf story, but what he told about was some kind of serial-killer stylee hazing, "don't come back if you haven't killed someone yet".)

Re: RPG—There was an award-winning Danish con scenario (one-shot game) called Sparta at this year's Fastaval. (Downloadable, in Danish) You play a guy, a God, and something more. It was hailed as great.


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