300:The Aesthetics, The Politics, The Ethics…..

Got around to seeing 300 last week. A decent-enough film on a superficial level – I enjoyed it, but it can’t hold a candle to Sin City (another Miller adaptation) or Dawn of the Dead 2004 (Zack Snyder‘s previous work).


Two flaws gaped me straight in the face in regard to the overall execution. First thing – the visuals came off as overdone, too try-hard; whilst I certainly love that Sin City approach to aesthetics, I saw it as laughably overdone at some points in the movie (particularly that sex scene which at the same time managed to be arousing). The cynic in me suspects that certain parts got slow-moed in order to stretch out the running time and paper over the plot and chara deficiencies, which brings me to my second point – the thinness of the characterisation. Now, what little of it Snyder and Johnstad saw fit to provide worked well enough – lionhearted Leonidas, and sinister Xerxes leading their troops into battle – yet the film’s players never really rose beyond this Saturday Morning cartoon level of definition.

Perhaps, as many suspect, with (not-so) good reason…..


Many a person, including wisdomdancer, made mention of this film being nowt more than a slab of thinly-veiled, Neo-Con, doublethink propaganda with pretensions toward “historical accuracy”; after watching the film I can certainly see how they could have arrived at the conclusion……

….however, I have two alternate views on how the flick could be read…..

1) Republican (Sparta) vs Democrat (Persia) satire. Highly unlikely, but a mildly entertaining possibility nevertheless, the director could be having a laugh at the expense of both parties and the values they (claim to) represent. Highly regimented, repressed,(off-camera) pederastic Sparta representing “freedom” and mocking Athenian “boy-lovers”? Persia embracing diversity and “deviant” lifestyles in a garish, comic-book fashion? Seen these caricatures painted anywhere before?

2) East (the Spartans) vs West (the Persians). Often it’s the nations (relatively) bound and reverent to theocracy who view the (relatively) free nations as dens of decadence and rapacious imperialism (ala Persia in the film). Sparta the rogue nation eager to assert self-determination, ups the barricades and marshals the troops in the face of freewheeling, foreign influence. Persia, viewing itself as the culturally-fitter superpower, fights to overwrite the rigidity and antiquity of Sparta, increasing its hegemonic hold on the world.

In short, it may well be propaganda Jim, but not as first thought….


All this said, the flick proved effective at inspiring a ethical mini-debate between me and the friend I saw it with.

“He was a cunt, ” he said eloquently

“Who’s that then? ” I enquired.

“That hunchback!”

The hunchback in question being the deformed Ephialtes, whose parents fled to prevent him falling victim to Sparta’s post-natal eugenics plan; scorned as a monster and rejected by his fellow Spartans, he hardly sees much call to refuse the Persians when they make him a better offer, offer him a better shot at life.

“He could have simply not got involved,” Al said when I pointed out the benefits of his betrayal.

“But why be loyal to those who don’t value you?” I asked.

On one level (the level I endorsed) Eph’s betrayal seemed like the best thing to do for himself…..

…..however (in the film at least) Leonidas himself treated Ephialtes with respect, even when his troops failed to do so; his reasons for refusing Eph’s aid (the latter’s inability to lift a shield) made perfect sense to me and did not spring from a knee-jerk prejudice.

So to those of you who still read I ask this, out of simple curiosity: what would you do in Eph’s shoes (or should that be sandals)?


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