Saturday, April 07, 2007


300 is the historical fantasy film about Battle of Thermopylae, based on the graphic novel of the same name. From an artistic point of view, the film was a well done. From an ethical point of view, it’s a propagandistic idealization of a Fascist State.

I know these terms are loaded, so I’ll elaborate. Ancient Sparta was a militarist state, which the film makes evident. Spartans practiced infanticide, leaving deformed infants on a cliff to die. This was part of their rather Socially Darwinian shot at making their populace fit for battle.

Loyalty to the collective, the military and city-state, above the self, were at the heart of Sparta’s ideals.

The film makes notes of it. Yet, it manages to present them as virtuous and good. It manages to get us to identify and sympathize with the Spartans. It inhibits our moral conscience, so to speak (you wouldn't usually agree with such a statement). This is why I say it is propagandistic.

Some of the wronged parties, such as the deformed infant who survives the Spartan eugenicist’s attempt on his life (Ephialtes), turn out to be villains.

The film was also ironic due to inaccuracies. The Spartan King (hero) talked about the “slavery” of Persian Empire (antagonists), yet Sparta itself had an entire class of slaves. Athens is degraded by the Spartans as nothing but “philosophers and boy lovers”, yet pederasty was quite popular in Sparta.

To give the film (and Sparta) credit, the high status of Spartan women was true.

Of course, it could be that I’m just over-reacting. It’s just a film to be seen for fun’s shake. Then again, if someone positively portrayed Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany, you’d be concerned too.

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