Sunday, March 18, 2007

300 review - but just the comic book

I haven't seen the movie. And, oddly, I don't find myself interested in seeing it. Which, if a person knows my movie tastes, which tend towards action movies, and knowing that I'm a trifle bit of a Hellenophile, well, it might strike one as odd.

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.

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12 Comments:

Krystalline Apostate said...

I've actually read the graphic novel, & I loved it.
Besides the testosterone pumping, it kinda plucked a few chords in me.
I never considered the racist angle, because, well, the Persians have as a rule been Semitic, which lends itself to swarthiness. NTM being in the sun all the time. & the Greeks, while Mediterraneans, have as a rule, been somewhat white. & for the record, the Athenians DID indeed condone pederasty.
I'd not heard that about the Helots & bathing only in olive oil, but the latter makes no sense. Most soldiers are taught to keep clean, to prevent infection. Like a link on the Helot topic.
& the Muslims ARE persecuting the Jews. If you can find it (it gets taken off the internet soon as it appears), watch 'Obsession'. The Iranian prez is ON RECORD as stating that they'd like to push the Israelis into the sea. Mein Kampf is the #6 best seller among Arabs, & the Mufta of Jerusalem was in cahoots w/Hitler (AH actively recruited Arabs in WWII).
That being said, the Spartans ARE over-glorified in the book. They lived in a police state, no doubt. Hardly the arbiters of freedom as portrayed.
For the most part, it was fairly historically accurate.
Can't revise history because it offends some folks.

March 18, 2007 12:35 PM  
Brian Dunbar said...

I have not seen the movie - nor read the comic book.

What's so fucking good about it?

For all the failings of the West .. we aspire to better. We fail to match our lofty words but .. we have them. And by aspiring to better we make ourselves better.

March 18, 2007 1:18 PM  
Janet said...

Are you saying that aspiration to better is exclusive to the west?

March 18, 2007 1:29 PM  
Chris Bradley said...

Brian,

What you posted was racist bullshit, just so you know.

Also, off topic. The Greeks of then were not the Greeks of today, nor the Persians of then the Persians of today.

It is clear that everyone is taking this as a statement about the "East" vs. the "West" in a politically simple way. Which is disappointing.

March 18, 2007 1:45 PM  
Chris Bradley said...

KA,

I had posted a comment but I deleted it because I'd forgotten some of the stuff I wrote in the article I actually posted, that you responded to, and it was pretty weird in context. So I'm writing a better post. ;)

Oh, sure, Iran today is ruled by a wannabe genocidal dork. Sixty years ago, Europeans murdered six million Jews. More recently, well, no one knows how many Jews Stalin killed. Racism -- including anti-Semitism -- is on the rise in Europe, especially Eastern Europe. Fairly recently, too, all manner of race based mass murders, some of them genocide, took place in Central Europe.

I'm not saying that Iran isn't fucked up. It is. I'm just saying that the demonization of Middle Easterners for their racism is pretty bizarre given the West's long history, and recent history, of absolutely murderous racism.

Which isn't to say that anyone -- regardless of nationality -- shouldn't call a spade a spade. But we've got some spades over here, too, and not in some remote past, either. What happened in the Balkans, or in Nazi Germany, or in Stalin's Russia -- or the upswing in racism in the West right now, and I'm not just talking against Middle Easterners, but generally, stuff like attacks on Jews in Europe and America -- isn't remote. There are living people who took part in and survived those genocides.

We should all be aware that, yeah . . . er, I tried to spell the Iranian President's name and fucked it up, hehe, but everyone should be against that sort of thing, but they should be just as much against it when it's said by Russians or Frenchmen (Le Pen, anyone?) or Austrians as by Iranians. You don't have to go over to Iran to hear that SOME people think that, how did Coulter put it? That we should conquer the Middle East, cut off the heads of the rulers and forcibly convert them to Christianity.

March 18, 2007 2:01 PM  
Brian Dunbar said...

Janet said...

Are you saying that aspiration to better is exclusive to the west?


No.

What you posted was racist bullshit, just so you know.

No it's not. My definition of 'the West' is pretty broad and does not just include white folks.

March 18, 2007 2:08 PM  
Chris Bradley said...

Brian,

So, you're saying that Persia is the West? If you are saying that . . . well, what you said was still racist bullshit, because the urge to self-improve is universal to humans everywhere, regardless of their other failing. It isn't relegated to what people normally consider the West, or Islam, or South Asia, or East Asia, or Africa, or however else you wanna slice it.

And that's what you said. You said:

For all the failings of the West .. we aspire to better. We fail to match our lofty words but .. we have them. And by aspiring to better we make ourselves better.

Now, you might try to play a little game and say that you didn't say that other people also don't have that, but the context is clear. We aspire to be better vis-a-vis non-Westerners.

Racist bullshit.

March 18, 2007 2:14 PM  
Krystalline Apostate said...

Chris:
Hey, calm down a little.
I think Brian was just indulging in a little high-flown rhetoric. But you're right: people everywhere aspire to improvement (though it doesn't seem that way sometimes).
Yeah, I can't spell the Iranian president's name either, so I just call him the...above.
Stalin, as I understand it, actually relocated the Russian Jews, unclear as to whether or not he enacted pogroms against them.
I'm just saying that the demonization of Middle Easterners for their racism is pretty bizarre given the West's long history, and recent history, of absolutely murderous racism.
Hey, we all gots our warts, don't we? Racism's wrong, no matter who does it.
That being said, it's blaringly obvious that the under-educated in the ME are being led down a dark, dark path by their leaders. The old 'us vs. them' is just stupid savagery. But it takes people's minds off their current situation. Better to scapegoat. It's sad, but it's still a current meme in the human condition.

March 18, 2007 2:40 PM  
Krystalline Apostate said...

This post has been removed by the author.

March 18, 2007 3:17 PM  
Krystalline Apostate said...

Oops.
Seems there's a huge hubbub about this film.

March 18, 2007 3:18 PM  
Brian Dunbar said...

For all the failings of the West .. we aspire to better. We fail to match our lofty words but .. we have them. And by aspiring to better we make ourselves better.

There is nothing in the above statement that is racist.

I think that, perhaps, your definition of 'racism' is pretty slippery. I go by this one;

racism
n 1: the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races

Which isn't where I'm going.

What I'm on about are the values transmitted from the Enlightenment - summed up in the phrase 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' - establish the parameters of a culture that by most standards is pretty good and a rousing success.

One of the best parts about it is that anyone can join. The second best part is that we're always improving - I note that you're not satisfied with the current state of affairs which is a pretty good example of that.

Racist? No. Culturist? Not even that. I freely acknowledge that what we've got going on here would not work for everyone.

You can call an apple an orange if you want to - but it's off for a guy who wants to make his living with words to be sloppy like that.

March 18, 2007 3:38 PM  
Richard F. said...


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.


I stopped reading this overly wordy post right there at sexism. Why? Because you clearly demonstrated the fact that you have no idea that Spartans had open marriages and husbands more often than not let their wives have lovers...whom were welcome in the home of the husband. Both men and women were encouraged at a young age to take the friendship and love of an older peer of their sex, it was common practice and lasted a lifetime.

Spartans wanted native Spartans born so they could put'em through the agoge and put'em in the army.

This leads up to "glorification of war". Spartans didn't glorify it, they exemplified war, they were the war machine of Ancient Greece. Before their decline in the mid 400s, not once had they, as the Spartan army, been defeated in battle. Not on land, not on sea. So why not be a bit haughty about the known supremacy of your army? They lived for war, were bred for war, died for war, being a Spartan man meant being a soldier so I fail to see how it's a glorification of war and not a realization of war.

March 20, 2007 1:06 PM  

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