Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I saw 300 last night. It was okay.

Actually, except for some mildly pleasant action sequences, my overall reaction to the movie was about as dispassionate as its dull colour palette was pretty much grey. But that could just be me--I am, after all, the guy who never screamed on rollercoasters, and I don't claim to have the slightest understanding of audience mentality. My main interest in seeing the film, actually, was to be able to engage in discussions of the various controversies it seems to've provoked.

One criticism that intrigued me in particular was Robyn's seeming contention that the movie was sort of anti-feminist. Having seen it now, it's my opinion that the movie was not meant to be anti-feminist, in a sense, it isn't anti-feminist, but in practice, it is. About the same thing can be said of some of its other negative aspects; it doesn't mean to be racist, it isn't racist, but in practice, it is. It doesn't mean to be homophobic, it isn't homophobic, but it is.

I think the key to all this is a sentiment director Zack Snyder has expressed in interviews, as in this Suicide Girls interview; "No it’s not for the kids! Fuck the kids! I got some shit I want to show you!"

He wants fun, R-rated movies. Movies with fucked up shit for people mature enough to handle fucked up shit. The only trouble is, most adults these days aren't mature enough to handle fucked up shit, as the giggling from the audience during 300's rape scene demonstrated to me.

You see, I can appreciate a story where we can acknowledge and even admire the military superiority of a few Spartan men over thousands of Persian slaves, at the same time that we recognise that the Spartans tended to kill a lot of their babies and had rigid customs regarding the roles of men and women that invariably put women on a lower peg. And in the Suicide Girls interview, Snyder says, "I always said 'We're not Spartans in the movie.' They throw their kids off cliffs and beat the snot out of them. Whenever I could I tried to remind the audience, 'Guess what? You're not a Spartan. It is fun to be with them and hang out with them. But it ends in death on the battlefield. That’s how that road goes.'"

There are only two problems with this; for one thing, lots of people do beat the snot out of their kids. For another, audiences have short memories. During the slow motion march of the rippling muscled Spartans, they either tend not to remember or tend to forgive a previous scene where baby skulls sat at the bottom of a cliff.

So also there's a very obvious problem with the fact that the movie is white, heterosexual good guys versus stormtrooper-like, homosexual, physically deformed black people. The movie's cheerfully stylised--the heroes are impossibly beautiful naked people, the villains are over-the-top ugly and/or bizarre. That in itself is okay, but coupling dumb fun with obviously loaded social issues seems irresponsible to me. In a story that obviously cherry picked only the facts that filmmakers found most exciting, it's hard to argue it had to be this way. If you choose to make the Spartans fight without armour, in order to show off their muscles, why must you also choose to portray evil as the condoning of homosexuality? Especially since homosexuality was apparently accepted in Sparta. It might also have been worth noting that Spartan women enjoyed greater rights and freedoms than in most other societies at the time.

I wonder if General Pace saw 300 over the weekend before his Chicago Tribune interview Monday when he infamously said "I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts."

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