Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Then unite heart in hand like Leonidas' band . . .

So finally 300 has been seen by me! I must say first that I'm with those who love it. It's not meant to be a "real history" like the abominations that were Troy and King Arthur. It's meant to be based on a graphic novel. For something based on a graphic novel loosely based on history, I think they did a fair amount of research but also took artistic liberties. And for how little clothing the women were wearing, it's pretty amazing I can say the men were wearing even less . . .

I have to confess also that the movie reminded me weirdly of The Lord of the Rings and Braveheart with some Hunchback of Notre Dame (well, Hunchback fo Thermopylae) thrown in.

I personally could have done with less blood, but I did like how they showed some of the fighting. A lot of it was obviously fictionalized, but it wasn't completely ignorant.

Also, though the story does seem exaggerated and at times hypocritical (in that they're talking about freedom but secretly they have helots), it makes sense because a Spartan is telling the story. It seems, to me, like the beginning of a mythology, and I like that.

Anyway, many people have been comparing this movie with America (which I won't really comment on in terms of current politics, except to remind people that the graphic novel was done before the currenet political situation), but this story has been associated with America since the nation's inception. A song written by Thomas Treat Paine (not the famous Thomas Paine of "Common Sense"--he would never have written something with this title!) in 1798 called "Adams and Liberty" ends such (to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner):

Let Fame to the world sound America's voice;
No intrigues can her sons from their government sever;
Her pride is her Adams; Her laws are his choice,
And shall flourish, till Liberty slumbers for ever.
Then unite heart and hand,
Like Leonidas' band,
And swear to the God of the ocean and land;
That ne'er shall the sons of Columbia* be slaves,
While the earth bears a plant, or the sea rolls its waves.

It's worth clicking the link to the entire song to see how mythology and the ancient world were wrapped into America's notions of freedom at the time. It's also just an amusing song--especially with the image given of George Washington!

*"Columbia" being America, as I guess they were still deciding whether Christopher Columbus or Amerigo Vespucci deserved more credit.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rumor has it that the graphic novel on which the new movie is based was inspired by the older movie 300.

7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised you liked the movie, Glaukopidos. Didn't you find it at all racist and/or homophobic? The Persians are all characterised as disfigured freaks, as opposed to the Spartan "master race". Moreover, the Persians are strongly presented as effeminate homosexuals, and, while this does have some ancient precedent to appeal to, when combined with the depiction of the Spartans as macho heterosexuals effectively turns the battle of Thermopylae into a battle between gay and straight (if I can use those anachronistic terms), freaks and "normals". The movie was nothing more than an adolescent fantasy loosely based on Greek history.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

I forgot about the older movie (and haven't seen it), but I was mostly addressing the fact that the Spartans were all fighting practically nude, which I thought was from the graphic novel.

And considering it was supposed to be from an individual Spartan's POV, I wasn't surprised that he would make the enemy (in this case the Persians) into some exaggerated evil. The Persians were their enemies--it's more a product of that historical fact than racism (to me at any rate). As for the homosexuality, I think it was more about the Persians being too sexual than homosexual.

And yes, it is only loosely based on Greek history, but they're very up-front about that, and I've seen worse.

And if I really wanted to pick, I could say it was anti-religion too and anti-disabled people (but then how many other movies would we have to include in that?).

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Robyn said...

After seeing the movie for the second time I couldn't help but think that most of the battle scenes were like a "best of" scenes from Lord of the Rings, hahah.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I definitely think that the Persians were negatively represented as homosexual. Recall the girl-on-girl Persian concubine action, and the moment where Xerxes puts his hands on Leonidas's shoulders. Definitely gay. And also the anti-gay comment about the Athenians as boy-lovers by Leonidas.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Robyn: Glad someone else noticed the LotR scenes too. ;-)

Anon (the third): Honestly, they put girl on girl in because they think people want to see that. Xerxes' hand on Leo's shoulder I just do not buy. The Athenian comment is the closest thing, and that did make me raise an eyebrow but it's not *wrong* either. Seriously, you could make a *much* better case that the movie was anti-religious or anti-disabled (if you really wanted to be offended by something). And apparently, there are people actually complaining it was promoting homosexual relationships. So there doesn't seem to be consensus on why, exactly, this movie is offensive. And, personally, I just didn't think it was offensive. But then, I don't really offend that easily either.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Dave Csonka said...

"The movie was nothing more than an adolescent fantasy loosely based on Greek history."

I'd imagine you could say that about a great deal of entertainment from renaissance to modern times. Shakespeare comes to mind...

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Keelie said...

I actually really liked the movie too and I went into it with a feeling of dread from such crap as Troy and Alexander. I'm usually a stickler for historical accuracy but...I really didn't mind this movie. The only thing I didn't like about the blood was that it was so computerized, which pulled me out of my suspension of disbelief and back into 'oh right. I'm watching a highly digitized movie.'

I have friends who are just hands down offended about the whole 'gay Persians' thing but that didn't ruin the movie for me. I thought it kind of made it hilarious considering the whole Greek boy-love thing that usually gets brought up over and over and over again.

And I definitely have to agree that Miller meant for this to be a Pro-Iraqi-war montage. But again, that didn't ruin it for me and I'm anti-war. I found the movie to be entertaining and I LOVED the fighting and I LOVED that they worked the 'famous' lines into it.

And okay, okay. I loved all the nearly naked men. Which is why I didn't mind that they didn't dress them in what Spartans actually would've gone to war in. Because hello: HOT.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous tamerlane said...

I'm Anon (the third), and I take your point Glaukopidos that the anti-homosexual elements are not as obvious as the anti-disabled, or anti-religious.

I think this film is an interesting mixture of ancient and modern prejudices. We see the Ancient Greek and Roman habit of effeminizing orientals (e.g. Paris' effeminate portrayal in the Iliad, or Turnus' labeling of Aineas as a 'semivir Phryx' (a Phrygian half-man) in the Aeneid, or Herodotus' treatment of the Persians for that matter). In a way, by making Persians out to be physically deformed, the film goes much further than Herodotus did in demonizing the Persians in accordance with the ancient value system, which associates moral quality with physical attractiveness and integrity – something usually assigned to lower social orders in antiquity rather than worthy foes in battle.

The modern prejudice becomes conflated with the ancient ones in a few revealing parts. In the ancient world the power dynamic with regard to homosexual acts was that the active member (older male) was masculinized, whereas the passive member (young male) effeminized. Whereas modern western values largely dictate that all homosexual acts are suspect and effeminizing. So the comment about the Athenians being 'boy lovers' is ironic on a number of levels. The Spartans in 300 had to disavow the notorious Greek (and Spartan) penchant for homosexuality in order to meet modern standards of masculinity. This is in turn ironic because by the ancient ethic, paiderastia was a very masculine act. The act of Xerxes putting his hands on Leonidas (which certainly had homo-erotic overtones!) was by modern standards threatening/dominating in a sexually troubling/effeminate way, whereas by ancient standards it would have been a clearer symbol of masculine domination.

Of course, 300 is dripping with homo-eroticism of the modern kind, which grants it to heterosexuals on the sports-field – as long as it lacks the sexual element .
I dislike this kind of thinking in general, but i wouldn't single out this film for contempt, since any male-orientated action blockbuster has these elements to greater or lesser extents. I was impressed enough by the special effects and amused by the cheesiness to enjoy it overall.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Marcus said...

Haven't seen it yet, also I do dislike the Spartans and that rotten proto-fascist state of theirs. Frankly if it was them or the Persians I would hope they'd lose.

One thing I always miss is the 700 Thespians, are they even in this movie? I do think their role has been underplayed, probably because of 1000s of years of idealizing militaristic values, while the Boeotians were ignored as champions of democracy.

Even Hanson makes this point too.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Thalia said...

This is completely off-topic, and I apologize, but I'm posting this here because I can't find an email address for you (if there is one here). I came over here from the Wild Hunt blog on the basis of the name alone, and, now, seeing that you are going by the name Glaukôpis I thought I should point out that I just drew a picture of Athena Glaukôpis that you might like. Or not, but I'm linking anyway, since Glaukôpis is kind of rare.

Now, if Blogger will let me post (fingers crossed).

1:04 AM  
Blogger Eileen Joy said...

Glaukopidos--I am afraid I am going to have to chime in with "anonymous" here, and here's my evidence: if "South Park" picked up on the homophobia implicit in the depiction of the Persians and used it in a recent epidose ["D'Yikes"], then how can we say it isn't there? Of course, "South Park" is also homophobic, but that's a whole other story.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Eileen: I'm afraid that while I do know what South Park (generally) is, I've never actually seen it! I know, the shock and horror!

Marcus: There are other mostly nameless Greeks in the film . . .

Tamerlane: Thanks so much for putting a name to your comments! And I do agree that it's a mixture of ancient and modern prejudices. I guess I should be more annoyed by them than I am, but I think part of the reason I find it interesting and not-so-offensive is that I see it more as an attempt to show ancient prejudices through modern ones. I guess I can see where that can be offensive and politically incorrect, but I wonder how else you'd convey the prejudices to an audience that doesn't know about them otherwise. And I'll concede, also, that there may be more offensive intent than I chose to notice, but I guess I liked so many other things about the movie as entertainment (and, again, don't very easily get offended).

Also, a friend described the hand-on-shoulder scene to me again, and now that I remember it, I do "see it" now. I actually have a tendency to over-notice homosexual suggestions in movies/books/whatever, so I tend to discount anything I don't think is completely overt. Unfortunately, that means I often discount things everyone else thinks IS overt. :-P

Keelie: I think I have to agree with you. The movie did so well in other aspects (unlike Troy, which just failed at all points, except for good looking guys) that I overlooked things I might have found offensive in other contexts. I mean, I could see how they could be interpreted as such, but I don't like looking for offense, I guess, and I thought *some* of the reaction was a little too much.

10:23 AM  
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8:50 AM  

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