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The Spartan Demographic

Perhaps the biggest box office surprise of the new year is 300, which as of this weekend, has made almost $180 million. The movie is an adaption of Frank Miller’s graphic novel about the Battle of 300-1.jpgThermopylae in which King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian Army. Last Friday, CD saw the film with a group of college friends who, it just so happens, fit the viewing demographics spot on — 19-25 year-old male geeks and gamers (sorry, CD).

But another demographic has emerged — this one even more insidious than the nerds. In fact, this group could well be the most dangerous group in America: Patriots. Not only have many conservative bloggers hailed the film for its inspirational no guts / no glory ethos, but reports of U.S. servicemen and women seeing the film en masse have circulated. Was Miller, co-writer / director Zach Snyder, or the studio aiming at patriotic conservative types? They ain’t saying.

L.A. Times reviewer Carina Chocano, in an article entitled ” ‘300’ Mixed Messages,” laments this apparent ambiguity:

Even before it became a box-office sensation, the director was sloughing off questions of whether the movie was a metaphor for the current war, or any war we might happen to have in the works. Any political message was “inadvertent.” That people were picking up on some political message — well, you could have knocked the director, producers and studio marketing department over with a feather. As for some people’s fixation on certain words, 28375929.jpg“When someone in a movie says, ‘We’re going to fight for freedom,’ that’s now a dirty word,”[Director Zach] Snyder told Entertainment Weekly. “Europeans totally feel that way. If you mention democracy or freedom, you’re an imperialist or a fascist. That’s crazy to me.”

. . .Frank Miller, on whose graphic novel the movie was based, has a political point of view. On NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” last month he expressed his dismay about the “state of the home front” and his disappointment at the fact that “nobody seems to be talking about who we’re up against — and the 6th century barbarism that they” — by which he meant not just terrorists, but entire civilizations — “actually represent.” (He also, incidentally, quoted philosopher Will Durant’s line — “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within” — which opened “Apocalypto,” another movie that was either a comment on our current political situation — or not.)

In all fairness, the author makes a good point about “. . . how ‘entertainment’ has come to be accepted as a valid, irreducible argument against interpretation; how, in sprit76.jpga broader sense, the act of putting things in context has come to be seen as inherently suspect.” But what appears to tweak Cochano equally is the right wing fan base the film is attracting. No doubt, this is Why the Left Hates ‘300’, prompting one Slate reporter to go so far as to call the movie “. . .a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war. . .”

And all this from a comic book.

While many continue to ask What Made ‘300’ a Hit?, it’s obvious that part of the appeal of the movie is its cultural and historical resonance. Like it or not, American culture and freedoms are the byproduct of struggle, and often war. Somewhere, someone, has fought to the death for me to blog — or at least, speak my mind.

Multiculturalism — one of the central planks of liberal ideology — suggests that all cultures are equal, or at least, equivalent. As such, the notion that one civilization is intrinsically “better” than another is the height of political incorrectness. Does Frank Miller eschew multiculturalism by suggesting that America is up against “6th century barbarism”? If so, more power to him.
300.JPGIt’s sad that, nowadays, patriotism is viewed as a dirty word. In this case, interpreting ‘300’ as a metaphor for America’s war on terror somehow makes one a “warmonger.” So Iran condemns the movie and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accuses Hollywood of “psychological warfare.” Big deal! The “barbarian” denunciation only makes me want to see the film even more.

I’ve no doubt that America’s slide into the sewer is inevitable. Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that, amidst the spineless, politically Persian hordes, there remains a Spartan demographic.
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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • GerM April 2, 2007, 12:51 PM

    Of course cultures are different. But American imperialism is a source of great evil in the world. How are we any different from Al Queda’s plans to subject the world to their ideology? When you couple that with our military strength, America is truly dangerous. The reason the movie is so popular is becvause it appeals to our bloodthirsty powerhungry nationlism. Maybe if we respected other cultures more we wouldn’t be killing innocent people in Iraq.

  • Mike Duran April 2, 2007, 5:10 PM

    Wow! Last I looked, America attracts more immigrants than any other nation. Why? Is our “evil” that big a draw? People like yourself conveniently overlook the contributions of Western culture and values to civilization. It cracks me up how, when we’re not accused of being the world’s policeman, we’re accused of being selfish with our resources. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. And how many orphanages, medicinal cures, and art museums originate with Islamists? Furthermore, the majority of the killing in Iraq is being done by the “barbarians” Mr. Miller references — you know, the kind that strap explosives on themselves and pray for the highest body count. Just imagine what someone like that could do with a nuclear device. The threat of terrorism is not imagined. Perhaps if we approached the barbarians as “evil” rather than “unenlightened,” we’d spend less time criticizing movies like ‘300’ and more time assembling armies. Anyway, uh, thanks for the comments, GerM.

  • David April 3, 2007, 9:37 PM

    Mike, I agree with you 100%. I know for fact that the troops we have in Iraq (in our imperialistic quest, cough, cough) would have been able far more able accomplish what is supposed to be their primary mission at this point: helping restore the power, water, and sewage infrastructure, building schools, markets (stores), hospitals, etcetera, (how barbaric and imperialistic of us) if it wasn’t for having to maintain the patrols to help prevent the tribally minded lunatics from blowing themselves and each other up.

    It is an unfortunate reality of our fallen world that peace cannot be accomplished via passivity. Those who understand only force are only persuaded by force. Saddam Hussein, as bad as he was, understood that the only way to maintain peace among the tribal feuding was to do it by instilling fear.

    Peace to you.

  • David April 3, 2007, 9:38 PM

    Ah! And you failed to mention that in our “terribleness” it is amazing that many of the despots of the world harbor their families here in America… for safety.

  • Elaina April 4, 2007, 3:19 AM

    Not a whole lot to say other than that I live in a small military town with a crappy movie theater that almost never plays new (brand new) movie releases. However, they have played 300 from opening night. I get so sick and tired of the media portraying how our Marines (I live near Marine base) and soldiers feel about this war or war in general.

    News flash — they enlist or are commissioned to do precisely what they’re doing and that’s why this film resonates.

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