Monday, March 19, 2007


Getting A Spartan Chance

On the basis of a late-evening Friday show, I helped keep 300 at the top of the box-office this weekend.

I generally liked it -- though it seems more akin in spirit to, say, The Lord of the Rings, than a true adaptation of an actual historical event. The various CGI-enhanced creatures that the Persians bring out to battle the Spartan fighter seem more cast from mythology and creator Frank Miller's comic-book roots than from reality. And, like great comics and classic films, there is a a black and white depiction of who the good guys are and who are the bad guys.

Still, the strong total embrace of the movie by conservatives, is mildly surprising.

Actually, in a sense it is not: Conservatives who are embracing the "values" of 300, are those who would rather elevate the "defense" and non-PC aspect of conservatism -- arguably, to the detriment of other parts of a contemporary conservative message:
Help me out here, because I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around a few things: When, early in the film, a sneering Persian emissary insults King Leonidas’s hot wife, threatens the kingdom, and rages about “blasphemy,” the king kicks him down a bottomless well. And yet nobody in Sparta asks, “Why do they hate us?” and seeks to find common ground with the Persians on their doorstep. Why not?

The Spartans mock the god-king Xerxes (whose traveling throne resembles a particularly louche Brazilian gay-pride carnival float), mow down his armored “immortal” holy warriors clad is nothing but red cloaks, loincloths, and sandals, and generally give their last full measure to defend Greek civilization against superstition and tyranny. Where are the liberal Spartan voices raised in protest against this blatant homophobia, xenophobia, and racism?

The only way this bunch of refugees from a Village People show can whup our heroes is by dangling some dubious hookers in front of a horny hunchback who makes Quasimodo look like Tom Cruise, and by bribing a corrupt legislator to tie up reinforcements with various legalistic maneuvers. When the queen finally kills the councilor, the others call him a “traitor.” Isn’t that both blaming the victim and questioning his patriotism?

You’d think 300 was a metaphor for something…

I heard the other day that one of the creators of this film is… yes, a closet conservative. And now he, whoever he is, is a rich closet conservative.
However, the very first statement heard in 300 are words that should disturb other more conventional conservatives. Forgive the SPOILERS that will come with this making this observation.

The narrator casually explains that Spartan baby boys are examined to see if they are healthy. Those that are not -- or are deemed weak or too sickly -- are, well, discarded. As in, tossed and left to die.

Call it complete post-birth abortion.

Furthermore, the film, arguably justifies this by -- another SPOILER COMING UP -- a plot point that turns one of the few survivors of this quaint cultural practice, ugly hunchback, into a traitor. Ephialtes betrays the Spartans by throwing in with Xerxes (after being told by Spartan King Leonidas that he is of too low a stature to be of help his fellow Greeks on the battlefield). So, there's a lesson for a "proper" military culture: Kill the weak and sickly -- lest they help destroy the best in your society.

That may be (in certain circumstances) an important message to be heard -- but it is by no means a conventionally "conservative", which is to say, a "pro-life" one.

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