Wednesday, March 07, 2007

History as Rorschach Ink Blot

Via Castle Argghhh!, a most interesting (and I mean that in a clinical observational kind of sense) article on the newly released movie 300. As a refreshing change this particular movie titled as a number is not about homicidal maniacs per se, but history. Which is different. Mostly because there is no ominous theme music to inform the randy teenage lovers they picked a bad time to investigate the noise in the basement ... but I digress. You see, evidently Karl Rove (with the assistance of some Venusian mind-masters disguised as filing cabinets) went back to ancient Greece and set up the battle of Thermopylae just so that Frank Miller (cleverly, in 1998 instead of 2001 to throw conspiracy nuts off the scent) would write a comic book about it and then someone else would want to adapt the vaguely historically-flavored comic book to film to justify our quote completely trumped up and illegal war in Iraq unquote since *everyone* would naturally look at the actor playing Leonidas and think "yep, that's George Bush!" and (shudder) wave a flag or something.

Not that I'm against buff Spartans wearing leather Speedos but it gets damn cold in DC in the winter. (On second thought, maybe it would weed out the weak and the whiny applicants for the position.)

My point (and I do have one, I *heard* that from the back of the room) is Thermopylae is HISTORY. It is messy and inconvenient and has pointy bits sticking out. That's how you know it is true. Always be suspicious of a smooth and uniform narrative, that is a classic sign of fiction. Yes, the elite of Sparta really did voluntarily sacrifice themselves for principle. Yes, Xerxes really did invade for no good reason other than he could. No, nobody tried diplomacy ("surrender or die" doesn't count as negotiation.) On the other hand, the film-Leonidas speaks very passionately of a freedom the helots of Sparta never saw. When Leonidas died (I do hope that isn't a spoiler for anyone) and the emergency backup Spartan king was empowered (the Spartans had a strange dual kingship that nobody but them really understood), said backup king Pausanias tried to "make arrangements" with the Persians! He got kicked for it, of course, but I think it illustrates the whole death-or-freedom thing wasn't as universal in Sparta as it could have been. And also that Bronze Age Greeks understood quite well you have no leverage for negotiating with people who think they can TAKE what they want from you, and will. And have.

Anyway, I strongly recommend that any hyperventilating movie reviewer who "questions the timing" read up on ancient Greek history. It's quite interesting. Especially the part where the Greeks end up getting conquered because they focused on their own internal rivalries instead of banding together against a common enemy.

Let's not repeat that part, shall we?


Blogger BostonMaggie said...

I just watched the behind-the-scenes History channel story of the "300" and I am really looking forward to seeing the movie. You are right about some people reading crap into this.
Although, you Miss-Steve-Jackson-game-girl, should not be spekaing of leather speedos.

9:09 PM, March 11, 2007  

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