Thursday, March 08, 2007

How to make liberals hate a movie in 6 easy lessons.

Here's a review of the new film release 300 that is positively burning with righteous indignation. The author basically throws everything and the kitchen sink at this film, including:

  • Reductio ad Hitlerum. The review begins (author's embedded link):
    If 300, the new battle epic based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, had been made in Germany in the mid-1930s, it would be studied today alongside The Eternal Jew as a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war.
    Let's take this criticism seriously, even though a little thought would suggest that pure-breed Aryan neo-Nazis would most probably hate a film that stars a bunch of "southern Europeans" as the main heroes. That said, this isn't an entirely absurd point in the sense that the Third Reich did model some of its military practices on Greek or Macedonian models. Except that Hitler was arming Germany for an offensive total war while the Spartans are waging something less than total war in this film (otherwise the movie would have been called 30,000 instead of 300) as a defense against an invader that was trying to subjugate all of Greece.


  • 300 is too bourgeois. The review continues:
    Since it's a product of the post-ideological, post-Xbox 21st century, 300 will instead be talked about as a technical achievement, the next blip on the increasingly blurry line between movies and video games.
    That this criticism directly contradicts the previous one goes unrealized by the author. Or to put it another way, 300 has somehow managed the minor miracle of being both mindlessly technically oriented and shockingly Hitlerian panzer-esque dramatic.


  • 300 is just another American otaku fanwank. The next criticism is that:
    The comic fanboys who make up 300's primary audience demographic aren't likely to get hung up on the movie's historical content, much less any parallels with present-day politics.
    This is apparently that rare film that is simultaneously too high-, middle- and low-brow all at once.


  • 300 might inflame tensions in the Middle East. The review worries that people who hate America might be induced to hate America even more after viewing this film (author's embedded link):
    But what's maddening about 300 (besides the paralyzing monotony of watching chiseled white guys make shish kebabs from swarthy Persians for 116 indistinguishable minutes) is that no one involved—not Miller, not Snyder, not one of the army of screenwriters, art directors, and tech wizards who mounted this empty, gorgeous spectacle—seems to have noticed that we're in the middle of an actual war. With actual Persians (or at least denizens of that vast swath of land once occupied by the Persian empire).
    Yeah, I'm sure that modern day Iraqis are really pissed off by films involving the slaughter of their idol-worshipping pagan ancestors from 1100 or so years before the founding of Islam.


  • 300 is too resolutely warlike.The review states:
    One of the few war movies I've seen in the past two decades that doesn't include at least some nod in the direction of antiwar sentiment, 300 is a mythic ode to righteous bellicosity.
    It seems odd that a nation that is being threatened with total annihilation by an invading enemy would indulge in the luxury of an antiwar movement. But this is patently false since the Spartan governing counsel is dominated by an outspoken antiwar politician (not to mention the Spartan king's sleepless nights). Of course, in 480 B.C. taking a payoff from an enemy nation leads to rather "pointed" questioning of one's patriotism instead of the book deals, media prestige and potential presidential candidacy that it leads to today.


  • The Spartan king resembles George W. Bush.The review states:
    But Leonidas is not above playing the tyrant himself. When a messenger from Xerxes arrives bearing news Leonidas doesn't like, he hurls the man, against all protocol, down a convenient bottomless well in the center of town. "This is blasphemy! This is madness!" says the messenger, pleading for his life. "This is Sparta," Leonidas replies. So, if Spartan law is defined by "whatever Leonidas wants," what are the 300 fighting for, anyway? And why does that sound depressingly familiar?
    This is a subtle reference (with a rather sickening display of faux-ignorance) to President Bush, who is portrayed as "overriding the constitution" to create an "unrestrained executive" in some contemporary Democratic party propaganda. Somehow the reviewer has overlooked that part of the film, traditionally called "the beginning", that actually somewhat explains how the Spartan political process actually works as a friendly guide to the audience.

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