Saturday, September 1, 2007


Some months ago James and I went to see the movie "300". Good flick - loads of cool splatters and such. But now, months later, I feel an odd compulsion to nitpick this film adaptation of a cartoon book's revisionist retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae (which if you think about it, makes about as much sense as correcting the inaccuracies in "Pirates of the Caribbean" - a film adaptation of an amusement park ride - but still ... I'm nothing if not compulsive).

In "300" King Xerxes is portrayed as a giant hairless androgynous freak who uses a synthesized voice to drive a vast army of unwilling slaves, and King Leonidas as a burly man's man whose gravelly "Come and get them!" inspires his small force of near equally muscled, testosterone-dripping, freedom-loving he-men.

First of all, archeological statuary portrays Xerxes as a lion with a bearded human head. One may assume that Xerxes was not actually a quadruped, but I'd argue that the artist was probably trying to get the facial features correct. So picturing him as a lip-sticked faggot who forget when to stop shaving that morning has to be wrong.

Secondly, the Spartans weren't merely defending their home turf. They'd been engaged in terroristic raids on Persian cities along the Agean for years. The Persians had plenty of provocation before they finally went to all the trouble of crossing the Hellespont to put a stop to the butchery of the Greeks.

Regarding Xerxes' army of slaves: 100 years before the Battle of Thermopylae, the Persian Empire (under Xerxes' great-grandfather, Cyrus the Great) had abolished slavery. No doubt Medo-Persian society had devolved since its vigor under Cyrus, and perhaps by Xerxes' day the Persian army was manned by mercenaries (though we have only the word of the Greeks to support that notion), but let's keep this in perspective. Portraying the Greeks as the defenders of freedom is pure folly.

Let's remember that the 300 "free men" of Sparta were so designated, not to distinguish them from the Persians, but to distinguish them from the 700 slaves they brought to the battle with them. The free men of Sparta weren't "free" in the sense that we in modern democratic societies mean (none of them had voted for Leonidas the fill the office of king); they were free in the sense that they were slave-owners.

As for the doubtful sexual orientation of the film-version Xerxes, we have nothing to indicate that the Persian king was funny that way. But on the flip side of the battleline, hasn't anyone ever read Homer's Iliad? Guys, I hate to break it to you this way, but Brad Pitt [a.k.a., Achilles] didn't go all nutso and kill everyone in Troy because Hector killed Patroclus, his younger cousin (as indicated in the movie "Troy"), but because Hector killed Patroclus ... his older lover.

The Greeks had institutionalized pederasty as a rite of passage. Patroclus was a pedophile and Achilles was enraged by the untimely death of the guy who'd molested him years earlier. So back to my point, in the 5th century BC, whenever all those buff Spartans weren't slicing and dicing Persians, they were busy boinking adolescent boys.

So as I say, "300" was a good flick. But my sentiments are still with the Persians.

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