Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Sometimes a Spartan is just a Spartan

Jerry Stratton, March 18, 2007

I went to 300 Tuesday night worried that I was going to watch a two-hour political screed laid on top of the battle of Thermopylae. I don’t normally read reviews of a movie I’m likely to see, but it was hard to escape talk about this one even in forums not related to it or to movies at all. Even the headlines on Google news and Memeorandum screamed that it was a right-wing metaphor. But if you accept the notion that 300 is a metaphor for the West vs. Arab Terrorists, then it also argues that “the west” is a bunch of loud-mouthed baby-killers who send their surviving children to school to get beaten on by their peers. Like Britain, but with post-partum abortion.

In fact, 300 appears to be about nothing more than the legend of the last stand of 300 Spartans. To make it about anything else requires cherry-picking scenes whose adjacent scenes either counteract or make no sense to the analogy. The comic book itself (which I haven’t read) was published in 1998, well before the current war on terror. But if 300 is “a propagandistic call-to-action for the war on terror”, is it also a call to action for euthanasia and human breeding? A call to induct more hunchbacks into the military?

We’ve become accustomed to interpreting everything as allegory, metaphor, or palimpsest. In some circles saying that a story really is what it is about threatens their very reason for being. On one academic list I’m a member of, one person said:

There’s no such thing as “just a fable.” There’s no such thing as “just a comic book.” There’s no such thing as “just a movie.” If I didn’t believe that, frankly I wouldn’t be on this email list.

But sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar. 300 was a fun movie; over the top at times in a manner that didn’t help the movie but overall engaging. As usual in such movies, I felt it would have been much better without the voice over. The audience I was with made fun of its worst parts (for example, the Persian emissary’s maniacal mad-scientist laugh) and still cheered the movie as a whole when it was over.

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