300: Freedom Isn't Free-Association


...And this morning, we invented Hell,
apparently, because it's fucking 480 BC.

Like everyone else in the country, I saw 300 over the weekend, and I figured I might as well write something about it before everyone stops giving a shit.  This isn’t a review of the film, however, so much as it’s a review of the reviews.  I'd insert some kind of notice here about whether it “contains spoilers,” but as far as I know, the term spoiler is only relevant to movies that have plots.

By the way, it feels retarded to be italicizing a movie title when the title is just a number, but that’s the rule.  So, in case you were wondering, that’s why 300 looked funny a few lines ago.  They should have called it The 300, so it didn’t look as funny.

Anyway, in one sense, 300 was awesome.  If you like action movies, it was a fucking amazing action movie — one of the best of all time, in fact — so no complaints there.  I’m also not going to complain about historical inaccuracy, at least not in any senses that are unrelated to the stuff I am going to complain about. 

What I am going to complain about is, predictably enough, the infamous political subtext.  And not because it “offended” me so much as because a) it had more holes in it than a porn star in Plato’s Heaven, and b) regardless of how amateurish it was, it fucking ruined the movie.  Instead of paying ten dollars to see what could easily have been the awesomest action movie ever, I paid ten dollars to get called a faggot for two hours.  Seriously, 300 draws out the word “faggot” longer than an Ann Coulter punchline.

But weren’t the Spartans super-duper-gay themselves (at least in the ancient sense of ritualized same-sex pedophilia, even though in modern culture homosexuality and pedophilia are totally different), you ask?  In real life, yes.  In the movie, however, they are the only people in the world who aren’t gay.  They are also the only people in the world who are white.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

300 opens with someone holding the infant Leonidas over the edge of a cliff (so at least it acknowledges one of the two ways in which the Spartans were the spiritual predecessors of Michael Jackson).  As is the Spartan custom, they will chuck him over the edge if he is a pussy baby and not do so if he is a manly baby.  Baby Leonidas evidently looks enough like whatever a badass baby looks like to be allowed to live, and he grows up to be King, but not before proving his adolescent manhood during the rite of passage known as agoge, during which he kills a wolf.

Historically, of course, during the agoge, upper-class Spartan youths actually had to hunt and kill a slave.  But I caution you not to bet money you need on this being the biggest problem.

What we’ve established so far is important because it allows you to realize that, during all of the ensuing Spartan speeches about “freedom,” which are the cue for the audience to start chanting “USA! USA! USA!,” the freedom in question apparently means that, if you are going to have a totalitarian society where pussy babies are thrown off cliffs and aristocratic children prove their manhood via the ritual murder of slaves, it had damn well better not be one that pays tribute to gay non-white people.

One day, an emissary of the Persian King Xerxes shows up and demands of King Leonidas that the Spartans submit to the advancing Persian Army without a fight.  Leonidas makes a predictable ballsy refusal, but this scene is primarily important because it allows the audience to notice the fact that the Persian emissary — as many subsequent Persians will also be — is really, really Black whereas the Spartans are really, really white, even though in real life they were all the exact same color (and still are, so it’s not like this even would have required research).  But hey, there are only two ways to establish who the good guys and bad guys are in a movie, a) skin color, or b) characterization.  And “b” is obviously for fags.  I hear they were also going to have Jar-Jar Binks running around yelling “Mee-sah a Persian!”, but it got cut at the last second to make room for more homophobia, so that all the prejudice would be fair and balanced.

What ensues is a quote-unquote “plotline” (that’s right:  quote-unquote written out as words plus actual quotation marks — that’s just how in-quotes the word plotline is here) wherein all the good-looking macho Spartans who don’t hate freedom want to go to war with the Persians, and all the unattractive pussy traitor Spartans are against doing so.  Oh, and the macho Spartans wear red capes and the pussy Spartans wear blue capes, for some reason.  This is about as subtle as trying to rip a silent-but-deadly and then shooting your entire intestines across the room so hard that they stick to the wall.  Of course, in the movie, using the word traitor to describe the pussy Spartans is totally fair, because they literally are traitors, which we know because we see their leader getting paid off by a really, really Black guy.  In the movie, the “case for war” is that there is a million-man army standing ten feet away comprised entirely of easily-identifiable uniformed soldiers from one specific country that has already been good enough to send word that they plan to kill you starting tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock sharp, and by the way they have a Lobster Man.

That is indeed a very compelling case for war... in the movie.

Things are further complicated by the fact that, in order to even begin to think about going to war, Leonidas has to get permission from the Ephors, a cabal of deformed old priests who live on a mountain.  They of course say no, because they have been paid off by the same really, really Black guy, but for the sake of appearances, they still go through the motions of consulting the Oracle, a sexy slave girl who occasionally gets high on magic vapors and makes prophecies but really spends most of her time getting gang-raped by the Ephors.

I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that the Ephors are supposed to be the U.N.  Now I’ll go out on much less of a limb and say that this is retarded.  Since the Ephors are religious officials who only even have power because they are purported to be magic, wouldn’t this work even better as an illustration of the fact that religious superstition does not provide a sound basis for policy decisions?  What’s that — only if you hate freedom?  Oh, okay.  Sorry.  By the way, the idea that the lecherous, deformed, traitorous, money-grubbing Ephors are supposed to be the U.N. is the more charitable interpretation.  The less charitable interpretation is that they are supposed to be the Jews.  That reading might be baseless paranoia if 300 weren’t openly and unapologetically racist in an infinite number of other ways, but it is. 

In the film’s defense, though, the Oracle chick is hot.  So good job there.  I’m not sure if she’s supposed to represent some stupid thing too.  Possibly the negative influence of Hollywood or something, since she gets an extended slo-mo sexy dance sequence where you get to see her bewbs.  It would, of course, be problematic for a film that clearly went out of its way to break the record for “Most Violent Movie Ever Made” to be taking swipes at Hollywood for corrupting the youth, and to be doing this by including a slo-mo naked dance sequence for the purported purpose of criticizing movies that include slo-mo naked dance sequences.  Would it be the biggest problem?  Once again, no.  Anyway, since it’s clearly established that she gets raped all day long, we guess Oracle Girl is mainly there to bolster the depiction of the Ephors as “out-of-touch elitists who act smart but secretly base all their decisions on the fact that they are perverts” thing.

"I symbolize something!"
"Like you care!"

So the long and the short of it is, Leonidas gets told he can’t go to war — by perverts, fags, traitors, smilin’ pitch-black Negroes, assorted pussies, sexy teens, and the Jews.  Only one thing can save the Spartans now, and you'd better believe it isn’t the perfect cheer.  (Although, now that I think about it, these Spartans did also have a “perfect cheer” that they performed a lot; they didn’t do so to the strains of that “y’all ready for this?” song, but they just as well could have — battle scenes are segued into amid strains of videogamesque rap-metal, so it wouldn’t have been the only anachronistic music in the film.)  Leonidas calls up 299 of his most oiled-up friends and sneaks off to fight anyway, over the objections of the lead blue-cape-wearing homo — who, despite being a homo, later rapes Leonidas’s wife just for good measure, in a subplot I’m not going to bother discussing because it sucks.

Speaking of how manly and totally not gay they — and this movie — are, it bares mentioning that King Leonidas and his dream team wear nothing but leather g-strings, are slathered in Crisco, and have abs that are quite possibly assisted by CGI.  I am totally calling that an insane six-pack is going to start getting called a “300-pack.”  In any case, the Spartans of 300 are some seriously gay homophobes — but they’re cured now, and besides, it was all the Corinthians’ fault for tricking them into doing crystal meth, so whatever you do, don’t drop the “d” from “dream team.”

Anyway, for what I’m sure were purely strategic reasons, they plant themselves in a tight crevasse between two smooth and beautifully sculpted cliff faces and wait impatiently for those incorrigible dark-skinned Persians to swoop in.  And when they do, they do so with style, carrying their God-King Xerxes on a ginormous portable throne.  The good news is, Xerxes is not really, really Black:  he’s more “the color of café au lait,” as assorted divae have sung of Lady Marmalade.  The bad news is, he’s only less Black so they can make him look more gay.  In addition to sporting his own thong-tha-thong-thong-thong and copious amounts of guyliner, he is also a fucking jewel-encrusted giant, like when Homer Simpson dreams about winning the lottery and ripping the roof off of Mr. Burns’s house.  And because the filmmakers thought that the point still hadn’t been lubed up and hammered home sufficiently, during their pre-battle conference, Xerxes starts giving Leonidas a backrub (which is all Leonidas had paid him for, besides the crystal meth).

Homer golden giant lottery jewels
Handel wrote an opera about me!

Leonidas subsequently gets cured, reaffirms his faith in Christ, is forgiven by his congregation, and then the fighting starts.  The awesome, awesome fighting.  I definitely want to make it clear that I am not saying you shouldn’t see 300.  You should totally see it, because all the fighting is unfuckingbelievably awesome.  And unlike in a lot of giant-battle movies, the fighting is not edited so fast that you can’t tell what the fuck is going on — there’s lots of easily-discernible detail (which is also occasionally political:  I remember seeing a seemingly deliberate closeup of someone’s blackheads and thinking “Wow, they’re even tacking a real men don’t exfoliate rider onto this shit”).  The battle scenes are a million times better than any sword-fighting movie outside of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (all Star Wars films are disqualified because lightsabers don’t count as swords, and because one-on-one dueling is a different animal altogether from a “battle scene”).  This essay’s goal is to rip on the racism and stupid political allegory, and should not in any way be taken to imply that it is not awesome when hoplites fuck up ninjas.

Oh, yeah — the Persians have ninjas for some reason.  But like I said, I'm not concerned with historical inaccuracy as long as it’s only inaccurate for the sake of awesomeness and not for the sake of furthering the stupid politics.  A lot of people are making a big deal out of how the Persians have ninjas despite the facts that a) the Persian Empire had no contact with Japan, and b) even if it had, the earliest ninjas wouldn’t appear for another 1,000 years.  But this gripe can easily be overturned by seeing the Persian Ninjas simply as “guys who dress real cool and flip around a lot,” which is something that different cultures can evolve independently of one another.  The backup dancer for M.C. Hammer with the lopsided flattop fit that description too, and no-one ever tried to say he was a ninja.

Besides, the Lobster Man is a bigger obstacle if you are shooting for verisimilitude.

And so is the bipedal zither-playing goat.  

We get to meet the BZPG, by the way, during the turning point in one of the subplots that is historically inaccurate for the sake of furthering the stupid politics.  Before the battle, Leonidas is approached by Ephialtes, a really, really deformed Spartan whose parents snuck him out of town as a baby so he wouldn’t get chucked off the pussy-baby cliff, and who now wants to redeem his family’s honor by fighting beside his King.  He even brought his own red cape and everything.  This is the one place where the movie surprised me (okay, this and the Lobster Man).  I figured that Leonidas would allow him to fight and he’d prove himself — you know, like Rudy and shit.  That’s what happens in a movie, right?  But Leonidas tells him he sucks because he’s deformed and to fuck off.  So Ephialtes gets pissed and defects to the Persians.  The BZPG is bringing in the goat-noise and goat-funk during the scene in Xerxes’s tent when Ephialtes is promised a lifetime of sexy Persian hos in exchange for information about a secret passageway that gets the Persians behind Spartan lines.  Ephialtes and the hos give up the info and booty, respectively, and we enter endgame.

I suppose the film is trying to bait us into reacting in a “PC Police” way to the character of the deformed traitor Ephialtes.  Here’s the thing, though:  I wouldn’t be objecting to this angle if the historical Ephialtes had actually been deformed — but he wasn’t.  He was a macho guy like the rest of them, who just happened to also be a traitor.  My objection is to the fact that his deformity is grafted onto the plot seemingly for the sole purpose of introducing the assertion that it is in fact a good idea not to trust people who are different, because they will either fuck everything up or betray you.  This is an all-or-nothing deal, people — you can spot a hunchback pretty easily, so “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t going to work.  It also, of course, retroactively justifies the fucking pussy-baby cliff!  If Spartan wisdom hadn’t been thwarted in its freedom-loving practice of dashing ugly and/or nerdy kids on the rockz bee-low, everything would have gone perfectly — take that, card-carrying members of the SCLU!

For those who didn’t catch it, here’s a play-by-play of how said “Spartan wisdom” operates:

    Leonidas:  I sure hope the Persians don’t find out about that secret passage.

    Brad the Other Spartan:  Totally.  Hey, what happened to that emotionally unstable deformed guy who told us about the secret passage in the first place?  You gonna let him fight?

    Leonidas:  Hells naw.  I told him he could either be our bitch or go fuck himself.

    Brad:  Schnice, bra.  How’d he take it?

    Leonidas:  Not well, actually.  He cursed Sparta and swore revenge on me personally, then hobbled off in the general direction of the Persian camp.

    Brad:  Oh.  So what’s he gonna, T.P. your house or key your car or something?

    Leonidas:  Yeah, prolly some shit like that.

    Brad:  LiMp BiZKit RUleZ!!

So the 300 are wiped out, except for the one guy Leonidas sends back to Sparta to tell their story, because he’s the most eloquent — he prevails upon them, and we close on the field of the Battle of Plataea, which historically ended Persian incursion into Europe.  So, despite initial setbacks, fascist meatheads triumph in the end… except for the fact that the only reason they do is because they send the most eloquent guy back to Sparta to inspire people with the tale of Thermopylae.  “Most eloquent guy” = “writer” = “artists are necessary after all, douchebag.”  There probably would have been an even more eloquent guy who could have persuaded everyone at the beginning of the movie, if you hadn’t thrown him off a fucking cliff when he was a baby.  But the movie doesn’t really point this out.

It also doesn’t point out the fact that the only reason we even know about this tale of bravery that was destined to inspire humanity for the rest of time is because the Athenians wrote it down.  The Spartans didn’t write it down themselves, because they didn’t write anything down.  Or sculpt anything, or paint anything, or compose any music.  But man, could they ever hunt and kill their own slaves.

It also doesn’t mention the fact that the Battle of Thermopylae was primarily significant because it allowed the Greek Navy (in which Athenian ships outnumbered Spartan ships 11-1) to regroup before subsequently defeating the Persian Navy in the maritime Battle of Salamis.  Why did the Greeks win at Salamis?  Because the Athenians insisted on fighting in a location that would cut off Persian supply lines (brains), left eloquent placards written in Ionian Greek at all water holes along the Persian route persuading their Greek conscripts to hang back during the battle (brains), and sent a double-agent to convince Xerxes that they were planning something else entirely (brains).  During the battle, an entire island occupied by the Immortals, the “Persian Ninjas” of the film, was wiped out by one boatload of Athenians.  What did the Spartans do?  Insist over and over that they were in charge, and threaten to beat up the Athenian commander if he didn’t follow their plan, which by the way was retarded and would have gotten them all killed.

Do the Athenians come up in 300?  Yes:  they are dismissed as faggots by Leonidas ten minutes in, and then never mentioned again.  The epilogue skips entirely over Salamis, regarded by most historians as the single most important battle in human history, and fast-forwards to the ultimate Greek victory at Plataea — where, by the way, the Athenians did most of the work again, even after Sparta had allowed Athens to be sacked by the Persians by refusing to send aid because they were still pissed about not being in charge at Salamis, which is the very thing that 300 is ostensibly a movie about how you’re not supposed to do.  Plus, the Spartan force at Plataea consisted mainly of slaves, which is the other thing that 300 is a movie about how you’re not supposed to do.  Oh, and the whole rivalry started when the Spartans refused to help Athens during the initial Persian invasion at Marathon because the Carneian festival was still underway, which is the other other thing that 300 is a movie about how you’re not supposed to do.  Okay, fine, it’s not entirely fair to say that the Spartans fucked over the Athenians before Marathon just because of the Carneian festival — they were also busy brutally suppressing a slave revolt at the time.

Salamis, by the way, was the most important battle in human history because it preserved Athenian democracy, which, ironically, is the thing that the real-life war for which 300 is a shitty allegory is allegedly being waged to spread.  Rhetoricians on the right have been implying for several years now that the U.S. should be more like Sparta than Athens — even though there’s pretty much nothing you could say that would be more likely to make all the Founders rise from their graves and kick your ass — and as a period to this, have evidently decided that 300 is the perfect allegory for their situation... even though the two wars in question could not possibly be more different, and even though the Spartan King, at least, goes to war himself.  But this is the kind of rhetoric you can get away with when your audience is retards.  I don’t believe the rumors about 300 receiving federal funding, but I wouldn’t be that surprised if they turned out to be true either.  It’s certainly more plausible than a movie about Athens being funded by the government, because the Athenians were a bunch of fags.  A bunch of democracy-inventing fags.  Silly Athenians — it’s not like the pen is mightier than the sword or anything.

So, wait a minute:  given all this, how is it again that being a dumb, selfish, slave-murdering retard emerges so easily as the morally superior position in a movie aimed at a mainstream audience?  Oh, right:  because the slave-murdering retards are also buff.  Wow, that sucks — too bad this difference is totally insurmountable, and there’s nothing we smart people can do about it.  Oh, wait, yes there is:  get buff.  We’ve had a lot of fun with this essay, but I don’t want to leave off by embracing victimhood as the default identity for smart people, because that’s not the 1585 way.  See, the thing about being a pussy baby is, if you can make it past the cliff — and past junior high — you actually have the advantage.  Retards can work out all they want, but they can’t get smart no matter what they do.  Smart people, on the other hand, can simply start working out, subsequently making themselves both smart and buff.

Think about it:  300 is equally blatant in both its racism and its homophobia, so why is the racism getting so much more attention?  Because racism is considered worse.  Why is racism considered worse?  Partly because there is a longer history of people paying attention to it, speaking out against it, and being taught that it is unacceptable, and partly because frat-boy bigots are pussies themselves and believe that there is less chance for physical repercussion if they pick on a gay guy.  People who just want to mess with someone because they suck themselves tend to take what they believe to be the path of least resistance.  Is it actually true that a Black guy is more likely to kick your ass if you fuck with him than a gay guy is?  I have no idea.  But the point is, bigots think it's true.  If every gay dude in the country were suddenly a third-degree black belt, the whole “it's more okay to say faggot than it is to say nigger” thing would start disappearing a whole lot faster. 

Okay, I’m done.  All that’s left is for me to apologize for not getting this essay up over the weekend, while 300-fever was at its peak.  I would have had it finished sooner, but I’ve been doing ab crunches non-stop for the last five days.

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