300 review - but just the comic book
But I've read the comic. I had to try twice, and the second time I just barely managed to choke it down. But I did read it, so I can comment on it.
First off, I guess, is the overt glorification of war. It's war so great! Which isn't enough, on it's own, to stop me from enjoying something. But with hollow phrases like, “Marry and have strong children” . . . I mean, ugh. Not only glorification but sexism. Could you tone down the testosterone just a little? Hey, it's Frank Miller. I guess I should be glad there wasn't a roller skating ninja prostitute in it. But the glorification was extra special glorification. It went that extra step – or two or three – to make it glorious and all. Gloriously glorious. High sounding. About freedom and reason against the forces of barbarism and tyranny (and I'll get to more of that in a minute). It made me wish for something where the glory was purer – about a soldier's vanity to be “the best”. Then I could have wallowed in the callow murderousness of the characters. But, no. This was about defending Western civilization.
I am, personally, sick and tired of all this crap about defending Western civilization! What's so fucking good about it? Because, for a couple of years, the West was technologically and militarily dominate? Some people might blather on about freedom. Except to all those people who were murdered and colonized. Talk to some Indians here in America about how much Europeans were interested in freedom . . . if you can find any, because they're all dead. (My absolute favorite part of "the West's" false sense of superiority is how, nowadays, we're talking about how those Muslims are persecuting the Jews. This boggles my mind. After Hilter kills six million of them, and Stalin kills who knows how many, we turn around and point the accusing finger at Muslims. The hypocrisy is astonishing.)
Second is the racism. The whole bit about, okay, get this, Spartans being the last hope of reason and liberty in the world is rich. The reason why the Spartans were such bad asses? Around 90% of Laconian population were slaves. Rather than have a few more freemen around, the Spartans decided, instead, to completely militarize their society so when the Helots rose up (which they variously did) the Spartans could put them down. Part of the ritual for becoming a man in Sparta was murdering a Helot. The Spartans were the repository of freedom?
Let's look at the idea that Spartans hold any intellectual values. Can you name a single Spartan of note that wasn't a soldier? A single artist, dramatist, philosopher, poet – really, anything? I can't. I've looked. The only art that the Spartans were good at, it seems, was choral singing, but apparently some people thought if flawed because it was relentlessly martial. So, yeah, the Spartans were the repository of reason.
They were filthy, illiterate thugs that advanced neither the arts or sciences one whit. Yes, filthy. Unlike everyone else in Greece, who bathed often, the Spartans weren't allowed to have water touch their skin, because it would then soften. They did bath. With olive oil. Which they never washed off. I can only imagine the mind-numbing stench, which might explain some of their combat prowess. Who can fight while retching because of the overwhelming stink of months old sweat and rancid olive oil?
While the comic, at least, takes pains to paint the Athenians as weak and . . . yes, gay.
I mean, gay? C'mon! Spartans had whole gay cohorts! We're talking cohort orgy stuff. The Spartans calling anyone else gay? Preposterous! But that's pure Frank Millerisms. Gay people can't be heroes. Homosexuals are all twisted, deformed rapists and perverts.
And, hey, you know that reason and liberty that the Spartans were talking about in the comic? Uh, that was not Spartan. It was, however, Athenian, y'know, all those artists, dramatists, philosophers, scholars, teachers and that democracy thing? Which the Spartans ended with the Peloponnesian War. The comparison to the intellectual and artistic output of Greece before and after the war is stunning. Sparta's domination of Greece ended Greece's golden age. If "weakness" means producing some of the greatest art, philosophy and science the world has ever seen, I'm pretty pro-weakness. (I should point out that it is also simply a canard that the Athenians didn't know how to fight. The people who eventually kicked the Persians out were Athenians in a series of naval battles. If the Athenians hadn't broken the Persian fleet, Mardonius would have conquered Greece, Spartans or not.)
Now let us look at the Persians. Would it really be so bad, for us here and now, if Persia had won that war and conquered Greece? Were the Persians really so bad?
Well, no, not really. Persia was one of the great classical civilizations. At the time, the Persians were ahead of the Greeks in all the arts and sciences -- particularly mathematics and astronomy. Greece was a poor, backwaters nation of goat herds and fisherman. Sure, hundreds of years in the future they would do some pretty cool stuff, but the Persians weren't any worse than the Greeks and in some ways better. (Not to mention that the odds are that the Persians wouldn't have been able to hold Greece even if they conquered it. The Persian Empire historically became overextended by the time it reached the Eastern Mediterranean. You see this again and again.) All through history, the Persians produced artists and scientists, going through several golden ages of their own. Really, things might be a little different if Persia conquered Greece, but it wouldn't have been the extinction of light and reason in the world! Ugh.
And, okay, boys and girls, here's a secret: the Persians were Aryans. They were not black. They weren't even particularly brown. At that time, the Persians were basically three generations from being off the steppes. The centuries of mixing with the various brown people they conquered hadn't happened, yet. The Persians were as white as the Greeks.
Sure, the Persians had subjugated a lot of brown-skinned people, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Jews, Assyrians, etc., and the bulk of the Persian army was certainly brown-skinned people. The key thing here being brown.
So, making the Persians black doesn't make any historical sense. So why do it?
Oh, right, you're portraying things between the noble white defenders of reason and freedom against those dumb sand niggers who are tyrants and idiots. Fuck you, Frank.
Certainly, the Battle of Thermopylae is a thrilling story. And, perhaps, it is “pivotal” to “Western civilization” (tho' I think that “Western civilization” is itself a myth, so I don't buy that the Battle of Thermopylae was much of anything other than a battle of one group of murderous thugs against another band of murderous thugs; see my previous comments about the Spartans). But as the comic was conceived it's nothing but a bunch of war glorifying, racist crap. Therefore, my interest in seeing a movie based on it is very low.