Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Anti-300 Petition (Spoilers)

Over at Filmstalker, Richard tells us that a certain Dr. Nasab has created an online petition against the movie 300 for its portrayal of Xerxes and the Persian army. Let's take their objections one-by-one.

They write:

It is a proven scholarly fact that the Persian Empire in 480 B.C was the most magnificent and civilized empire. Established by the Cyrus the great, the writer of the first human right declaration, Persians ruled over significant portions of Greater Iran, the east modern Afghanistan and beyond into central Asia; in the north and west all of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), the upper Balkans peninsula (Thrace), and most of the Black Sea coastal regions; in the west and southwest the territories of modern Iraq, northern Saudi-Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, all significant population centers of ancient Egypt and as far west as portions of Libya. Having twenty nations under control, encompassing approximately 7.5 million square kilometers, unquestionably the Achaemenid Empire was territorially the largest empire of classical antiquity.

Now, does this have anything to do with the movie? No. The only part of Persian history addressed in the movie is the Battle of Thermopylae.

Moving on:

Based on the Zoroastrian doctrine, it was the strong emphasis on honesty and integrity that gave the ancient Persians credibility to rule the world, even in the eyes of the people belonging to the conquered nations (Herodotus, mid 5th century B.C). Truth for the sake of truth, was the universal motto and the very core of the Persian culture that was followed not only by the great kings, but even the ordinary Persians made it a point to adhere to this code of conduct.

In reading a little about the Zoroastrian Doctrine, it does not appear that killing to expand an empire and rule its people meshes with its core ideals. But again, it's nice to know these things about Persia, but they aren't part of the movie.

Finally something on-topic:

We did not expect Warner Bros. Picture company, as one of the world's largest producers of film and television entertainment to ignore the proven obvious historical facts, and damage its own reputation by showing the Persian army at the battle of Thermopylae as some monstrous savages, and thus create an atmosphere of public mistrust in its content, and hurt the national pride of the millions of Persians while doing so.

So the only relevant grievance we see in this entire letter is that Persians were represented as "monstrous savages". It's obvious Frank Miller took some creative license with the appearance of the Immortals along with a couple of deformed, monster-like Persians. In both cases, though, the appearance was to an extreme that seemed fictional.

Who did the movie really portray as monstrous savages? It seemed to me the Persians kept trying to reason with the Spartans, and all but once, the Spartans bloodied them for it. We also saw deformed people living amongst the Persians whereas the Spartans discarded them as infants. The Spartans also tolerated and followed religious figures who seemingly kidnapped and raped Spartan women. Spartan law required male children to leave their parents and go out into the wilderness to kill or be killed.

So, who left the movie thinking the Persians were the savages? I didn't. I think the real problem here is that the movie sets it up for the Persians to be the bad guys, and you know what? They were. As savage as the Spartans were, it was the Persians who were the goliath trying to conquer Greece, and most of us are wired to root for the underdog.

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At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Simone said...

Great post on what seems to be a never-ending discussion on the topic. I got bored through it all as people were merely repeating themselves and were not open to reason.

As for the film, if you are at war, how are you supposed to behave? Will you be kind and friendly to your opponent? Will you be all-smiling and generous or will you be aggressive, ferocious and brutal? I think the depiction of a country at war and how their troops behaved was spot on in 300. And with that I meant both sides.

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Hap Moorii said...

I got bored with it as well when I saw people were too set in their beliefs to have a real discussion. There's that old usenet part of me that wants to mess with some posters, but I don't think Richard much likes it. I have let a couple guys get under my skin, though.

The really funny thing about it is that I still can't find anything other than metal masks, filed teeth, and a couple "mutants" where the movie is wrong.

At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Simone said...

By the way, I just had to tell you that I loved your rebuttal when somebody said that 9/11 was an inside job.

And know what you really should write a lot more commentaries like these ones, although very rarely that we get good action films like 300.


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