Something that The Kid finds interesting is the political discussion emerging over the new film 300.
The film is a shot for shot adaptation of the comic book by Frank Miller. The book, loosely recounts in a stylized fashion, the epic Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. where 300 Spartan soldiers under their king, Leonidas, fought to the last man against an invading Persian army numbering in the millions.* The tenacious sacrifice of the Spartans delayed the Persians for 3 days and allowed the rest of the city-states of Greece to get their collective act together and eventually defeat the Persians at the Battles of Salamis (naval) and Plataea (land.) Thus preserving the Greek way of life (the foundation of western culture) from extinction.
Miller, of course, is the towering figure in comic art in the past 20 years, having penned Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – a work of startling genius that not only redefined the epic character of The Batman, but also the comic medium itself. It is also simply one of the great stories of Western literature.
Kid Various has not read 300, but if the director Zack Snyder’s collaboration with Miller is anything like Robert Rodriguez’s collaboration on the adaptation of his work Sin City, the results could be astounding.
In seeing the previews for 300, The Kid thought “Wow, that looks interesting.” Never having it enter his mind, that the story might somehow come to be thought of (by some) as the post September 11th Triumph of the Will.
Like this audience at the Berlinale film festival.
… ran into some surprising reactions at the Berlinale film festival in
“Don’t you think it’s interesting that your movie was funded at this point?” Mr. Snyder recalled being asked in
But then the Berliners would know something about Triumph Des Willens, wouldn’t they?
And read this article by James Pinkerton:
Every young man who sees this movie - and movies are mostly targeted at the young - is going to get a triple dose of adrenaline, male-bonding and macho pageantry. Words such as "duty," "honor" and "glory" are heard constantly through the film. Indeed, if spears and shields were replaced by M16s and Humvees, "300" could be a military recruitment film.
Moreover, the Spartans are portrayed as strong, upright and conservative - there's even an image of Leonidas in the pose of a Christian martyr - whereas the Persians are depicted as effete, weird and decadent, all kinky and body-pierced. No wonder, then, that the Persians were lousy soldiers, victorious only because of behind-the-scenes maneuvering and outright betrayal. Indeed, the most sinister figure in the film is a Spartan politico who specifically identifies himself as a "realist."
And so go the parallels today, where for many Americans "realist" is code for "cynical," "cowardly" or, worst of all, "French." These Americans believe the
To which Kid Various can only reply – maybe it’s not such a bad idea for
It might even be a good idea for young American men and women to understand why
Pinkerton’s dismissive comments about how the film portrays the Persians as weird and effete, and therefore lousy soldiers, hits closer to the mark than he realizes. Read Victor Davis Hanson’s The Western Way of War. The West has consistently been able to defeat larger, numerically superior enemies exactly because its cultural system values things like pluralism and rationalism, allowing for constant experimentation, innovation and pragmatic implementation of the results of that process. The Greeks had that, the
At the very least, it will be a good thing if teenagers could at least be able identify the Battle Thermopylae and have some understanding of why it may be relevant.
For anyone who would like an account of
Update: Somewhat appropriately the NHL has been promoting 300 as hockey is the only professional sport left that embodies the values of the Spartans: Honor, Glory and a good Hip Check into the Boards!
The Spartan swords of Warner's "300" are mixing it up with the slashing sticks of the National Hockey League.
Marking the first time the NHL has promoted a Hollywood pic, the league has cut a 30-second TV spot mixing game play footage with scenes from Warner Bros.' violent ancient battle actioner "300."
Update II: This topic has been picked up at Winds of Change (The Kid knew he couldn’t be the only one thinking of this.)
Conversation in the comments section is interesting, including some links to material by Victor Davis Hanson concerning the political meaning of the film. Of course, as he points out, the book itself was written in 1998, before the beginning of the Long War – indeed, before most people had even heard of George W. Bush. But he notes:
Ultimately the film takes a moral stance, Herodotean in nature: there is a difference, an unapologetic difference between free citizens who fight for eleutheria and imperial subjects who give obeisance. We are not left with the usual postmodern quandary 'who are the good guys' in a battle in which the lust for violence plagues both sides. In the end, the defending Spartans are better, not perfect, just better than the invading Persians, and that proves good enough in the end. And to suggest that ambiguously these days has perhaps become a revolutionary thing in itself.
And as he notes in his introduction to the book 300: The Art of the Movie:
So almost immediately, contemporary Greeks saw
Lessons to learn well…
Update III: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please stay and have a look around... For those of you who don't know us, we at The Idiom tend to specialize in posts about frivolous topics such as the Long War and serious topics such as gay penguins.
* Herodotus probably exaggerates. But the number was certainly in the hundreds of thousands.
** It should be noted that the Spartans were in no way a democratic society. They were a militaristic, class-stratified, slave owning society that was ruled by hereditary elites that also had highly communistic overtones (Personal wealth in the form of precious metals or land was prohibited. Communal “good” was prized above individual status.) This is evidenced by Plato describing the Spartans as the closest to the “perfect” society (the original state from which all others were descended in an imperfect form) as opposed to the degenerate Periclean democracy of
When the Spartans talked about fighting for their freedom, they didn’t mean freedom in the same terms that we speak of, meaning “individual liberty.” Rather they meant freedom in the way that the Arabs currently use the term, meaning “freedom from rule by a foreign power.” Or, more aptly, the freedom to be dominated by your own kind.
Nor did any of the Greeks truly embody modern Western culture. That would have to wait until the European Enlightenment nearly 2,000 years later. However, the political/philosophical ideas of the modern West did germinate there. And the diverse nature of the different political/social systems provided for the tension/competition that provided for rapid innovation that becomes part of the West, as well as the fierce desire for freedom that was, initially centered around communities (the Spartans were fighting for the freedom of other states to have the political systems they wanted – even degenerate democracy – as much as they were fighting for their own right to be authoritarian) that eventually migrated to the concept of sovereignty of the individual.