While I certainly appreciate and welcome the clear homoerotic tone of Matt Click’s review of the movie “300,” and while I certainly will refrain from taking issue with the blatant distortion of historical accuracy of the film (I do not turn to Hollywood for history, after all), still, I am troubled by the reviewer’s clear adoration for the fantastical and bloody mutilation of the Persian army and why he is “thankful” that the cinematography was such that it captured not the chaos and confusion of war, but provided instead a position from which one might comfortably view the “collective dismemberment of the Persian army.”
It is good to take this film for what it is: an adaptation of a comic book treatment of Herodotus’ history of the battle at the pass of Thermopylae.
It is clear that the reviewer understands that. What the reviewer does not understand—or perhaps does not want to address—is that there are social ramifications for depicting “spears skewering Persian after Persian, their swords removing legs, arms and heads by the dozen.” A truly thoughtful treatment of this important film would consider not only the film itself but consideration of the timeliness of its release. The identity, strength and purpose of PLU lies in the fact that students here are unwilling to cater to the status quo of American pop culture, to feed the maw of mediocrity; I find that this review does not reflect PLU’s commitment to “thoughtful inquiry” as a tool of conscience.
But I opened The Mast (PLU's campus paper) last Friday morning to find a letter from Professor Brenda Ihssen regarding my review. Ihssen made an exceedingly valid and enlightening point concerning the subversive effects of the film. “What the reviewer does not understand—or perhaps does not want to address—is that there are social ramifications for depicting ‘spears skewering Persian after Persian, their swords removing legs, arms and heads by the dozens,’” Ihssen wrote, calling to my attention to the fact that, indeed, in this time of conflict and strife in the Middle East, there are definite and irrefutable consequences.
I pondered the letter over the course of the week, at first tending to my injured ego (“homoerotic tone” – come on, really?) and then seriously considering the reactions such a film might warrant. Can a movie depicting Greeks slaughtering Persians really be apolitical at a time when America is at war in the Middle East? Could Snyder really have crafted a completely neutral action film? For one, wild moment, I almost agreed with you, Professor Ihssen.
But Snyder has persisted that he absolutely did not intend the film as a social statement. Come on, we’re talking about the guy who somehow managed to remake George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” – a film ripe with critical allusions to American commercialism – free of any and all social commentary. “300,” from its days on Frank Miller’s drawing pad to its final hours in the editing room, was always meant to be a simple tale of 300 men facing unfathomable odds. It’s a pseudo-historical, somewhat mythological story of passion and perseverance, a legend many have come to know over the centuries as a hallmark example of standing up for what you believe in.
You see, Professor Ihssen, it’s not that I didn’t understand the social ramifications of such a film, and it’s certainly not that I wished to overlook them – it’s that “300” is a simple action movie; an adaptation of a hyper-stylized and gratuitously violent graphic novel. For me, “300” was merely a kickass action movie. That’s what I went in expecting, and that’s exactly what I received in return.
Would you find subversive social commentary in films like “Die Hard” and “Predator?” Like all art, what you take from the film is a direct result what you bring into it; our reactions depend heavily on our own personal preconceptions.
You may have found these social facets of the film severely prominent, and I can most assuredly respect that. I cannot deny the parallels between the film’s theme and our own troubles times. In return, however, you must be content with the fact that I’m a simple guy who enjoys well-made action flicks. You might call this naivety, or blissful ignorance. Call it what you will, I am but a humble film commentator who knows naught but cinema.
And in the end, why can’t a movie about a bunch of guys kicking the crap out of each other simply be a movie about a bunch of guys kicking the crap out of each other?