Day by Day

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Politics of "300"

I guess there are people crapping kittens over the "politics" of the movie 300. Get a load of this:

Moreover, the Spartans are portrayed as strong, upright and conservative - there's even an image of Leonidas in the pose of a Christian martyr - whereas the Persians are depicted as effete, weird and decadent, all kinky and body-pierced. No wonder, then, that the Persians were lousy soldiers, victorious only because of behind-the-scenes maneuvering and outright betrayal. Indeed, the most sinister figure in the film is a Spartan politico who specifically identifies himself as a "realist."

And so go the parallels today, where for many Americans "realist" is code for "cynical," "cowardly" or, worst of all, "French." These Americans believe the United States is destined to lead an epochal struggle against the forces of evil - led by Iranians, aka Persians - in the Middle East. In addition, they believe that Uncle Sam's chances for victory in the ongoing war are being jeopardized by "cut-and-run Democrats" and "white-flag Republicans" in Congress and the media.
Now, I can't tell if this guy is sneering at the film or not, because later in the piece he says this:

But wait a just second here. Isn't Hollywood liberal? Don't lefty studio executives love to tear down America? Well, maybe they love, even more, making money, selling lots of tickets to big red-state audiences. Or maybe they, too, adore a rollicking story put on screen.

Or maybe even out in L.A. they know that Thermopylae is a touchstone of Western civilization, a sacred piece of our common cultural inheritance. And so it's worth remembering what happened there, long ago, without regard to the transitory politics of the millennia since.
But I like what Kid Various has to say:

To which Kid Various can only reply – maybe it’s not such a bad idea for America’s teens to understand, in the phrase of J.S. Mill, that war is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. Maybe it’s not such a terrible tragedy for young men and women in our country to get the message that there are things that are worth going to war for. There are things worth dying for.

It might even be a good idea for young American men and women to understand why Thermopylae was important for the survival of Western civilization and that, yes, there is indeed something distinct called Western civilization. That this civilization is characterized by pluralism, individualism, democracy, rationalism and reason.** And that more so, the rest of the world does not necessarily share these values. That most of the population of the world has, from time immemorial, suffered under the constraints of tribal/traditional culture that has led them only to despotism, penury, superstition… and defeat.

(emphasis in original text)

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