09 August 2007

The Right’s 300

Watching “The 300” this past weekend reminded me of some of the negative reviews it received from those who were bent on seeing it as pro-Bush/Republican/War-on-Terror and anti-Persian/Arab/al-Qaeda.

Here’s one description (posted by “Reasoninrevolt”):

… “The 300” perfectly intersects with the world-view of the Bush-loyal wing of the Republican party and their…allies across the world.

In "The 300" we learn of a king (Leonidas, aka G W Bush) who has identified that Sparta (aka USA) must go to war with Persia (aka Persia/Iran) in order to preserve the liberty of the freemen of Sparta (aka largest slave-holding city of Greece at the time). He knows this because the big black man who came to ask him to surrender to Persia insulted his very white wife (I guess, he didn't say anything to her that a typical Republican traditionalist would not have, but he was black after all).

Unfortunately, the corrupt Senate (elected officials versus hereditary king) won't send the army to fight. So the king must go on his own, with his loyal posse of 300 soldiers, not nearly enough to fight off the 1 million Persians! Gosh darned pesky elected officials!

Leonidas' wife...waves him off in a field of golden grain (slaves not show, of course) as he and his 300 go to face Al-Qaeda, er that is, the Persians.

Leo is able to kick butt and kill may an Arab in gruesome form. Xerxes, the king of the Persians, turns out to be an eight foot tall drag queen, who offers Leo to come (literally and figuratively?) to his side by kneeling before him. Leo is no fag though, and he rebuffs Xerk.

Xerk sends wave after wave of blacks, gays, retards and Arabs to attack Leo. But Leo and his men are too white and too hetro to be overcome.

Notice what “Reasoninrevolt” has to do to the plot in order to make out his case. Leonidas has not decided that Sparta must be defended against the Persian (not Arab) Empire simply because the Persian army is coming. No, it’s because the Persian emissary, who is bringing an absolutely reasonable request (i.e., to “ask” for Sparta’s surrender) is a “big black man” who insults Gorgo, Leonidas’s “very white wife”. I for one felt really stupid upon learning that, according to Frank Miller, the cause for war was not that the Persians were invading with the intention to conquer all Greece but that a black man insulted a white woman. (Incidentally, we know Persia was coming to conquer Greece because in the film, Xerxes offers to make Leonidas master of all Greece.) Finally, there is this inconvenient fact: Persia was already in Greece; the invasion didn’t come after Leonidas killed “a big black man” who insulted his (white) wife.

Imagine how little evidence there might be for Reasoninrevolt’s case if only a white man had been cast in the role of the Persian emissary. (But then, we’d have been treated to cries of “Foul!” because the Persian empire really wasn’t populated by white people.)

One has to note also, how this reviewer must ignore both a key detail in the movie and a key detail of the contemporary scene in order to make a connection to the President. According to him the movie reveals that it is the fault of a “corrupt senate” that all Sparta does not go to war, requiring Leonidas to go into battle with only 300 soldiers. In fact, in the movie a religious holiday – observed in accordance with Spartan law – is what concerned the senate. This fact required that Leonidas climb a mountain to seek the will of the gods via consultation with the ephors (whom Dilios, narrating the story, refers to at least twice as “inbred swine”). According to the movie it is the council of the ephors – and only one senator – who are corrupt. The key detail of the contemporary scene is that the United States’ military machine is more comparable to that of Persia, not to 300 Spartans. I believe Leonidas would have preferred the position President Bush is in! There is also the fact that, unlike the Spartan senate, the Congress authorized the President to use military force in Iraq. (Whether he has used that force wisely is another matter.)

(On the subject of the ephors we should note that Miller’s portrayal of them in the movie is a departure from the historical record. The ephors were a council which existed to ensure obedience to the Lycurgan law, if anything more of a Supreme/Constitutional Court than a council of pedophilic priests with a fondness for teenage girls! One wonders why “Reasoninrevolt” did not see “The 300” as an anti-religion movie, with the “thousand nations of the Persian Empire” representing the religious hordes of all the (irrational) religions of the world (i.e., “the thousand nations”), led by none other than James Dobson. And the Greeks, under Spartan leadership, leading the revolt of reason, democracy, and religious skepticism against mysticism and tyranny led by Christopher Hitchens.)

“Reasoninrevolt” also objects to the films depiction of Xerxes as “an eight foot tall drag queen”. Drag queen?

This…















is a drag queen?

I thought this…















was a drag queen.

Enough said about that, I think.

Again, “Reasoninrevolt” ignores both history and the film in treating us to this gem of wisdom: “Xerk sends wave after wave of blacks, gays, retards and Arabs to attack Leo. But Leo and his men are too white and too hetro to be overcome.” One would not know that it is a simple historical-fact condition that after a Greek traitor named Ephialtes helped the Persians encircle the Greek forces at Thermopylae, Leonidas dismissed all but his Spartans and a 700-strong contingent of Thespians and 900 helots (i.e., Spartan “serfs”) and that the losses of the Persians through the entire campaign at Thermopylae were disproportionately larger than that of the Greeks. And I cannot recall that Herodotus attributed this to the sexual orientation or skin color of the Greeks. Also, given that the film depicts Leonidas and his Spartan-led contingent being thoroughly defeated one just has to wonder how “Reasoninrevolt” can claim that the film informs us that Leonidas and his men are too white and hetero to be defeated. The film tells us what we know from history: the strength of the Spartans was the phalanx, not their skin color or sexual orientation. There is in the film a conversation between Leonidas and Ephialtes, during the course of which Leonidas attributes the strength of the Spartans not to skin color or sexual orientation but to the phalanx, especially the shield which is used by each Spartan to protect the man next to him from neck to thigh. (Besides, the sexual practices of the Spartan males is the subject of some disagreement among historians.)

This review at DailyKos was better. It had the merit of being the author’s speculation of how the movie would be viewed by right-wingers, as opposed to the out-right assertion that the movie was a bit of propaganda.

Clearly, I think “Reasoninrevolt” and the DailyKos reviewer are mistaken about how the right view the movie. To the extent that any of us on the right took away anything from the movie with any contemporary significance it was, at least for some of us, this: A smaller, highly-trained and well-motivated professional force can do a great deal of damage to a larger force, if that larger force relies upon nothing else for its success than its numbers. In other words, don’t get cocky just because your army’s bigger. The battle is not necessarily to the strong (see Ecclesiastes 9.11).

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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