The movie 300: Orientalism, alive and well

A break from the facebook parts for a bit (will come back to them).

So I finally saw the movie 300 the other day. You know, the movie everyone has been talking about.

The graphics, shot sequences and animation were amazing. They’re probably the best thing out there so far. Every head chop, sword clash, and facial expression is captured in a way you’d be hard pressed to find in another movie already out there.

That said, there are some serious problems with the movie. The script, acting, and dialogue weren’t exactly stellar, but that’s only the beginning.

The main problem is the unbelievable Orientalism running throughout the whole movie. I mean my god, talk about Bernard Lewis or Thomas Friedman being orientalist, but this movie takes it to a whole different level.

Spartans are white, good-looking, muscular, strong, noble, manly, and fearsome warriors. They are also British (which is bizarre, considering that Spartans back in the day would’ve never heard of of the place) and Western. Each of them has a well defined personality and is given a human dimension. The Persian hordes (another orientalist stereotype with a long history) are ugly, sissies, faggots, lesbians (which is ironic, considering how homoerotic the Spartans are depicted as, with buffed up totally waxed and tanned guys strutting around in little more than thongs flexing their muscles. They are however of the “manly” type, and if we want to use local Bahraini metaphors they would definitely not be “takers”, where they even at one point refer to Athenians (known for their “taking” and “giving”) as something along the line of “boy lovers”), disrespectful of women, and evil. Most of them (the Persians) are faceless (literally), lack independent personalities or free will, are pretty much machines that follow orders, and are dehumanized to a point where you cannot really say they are people. Their sole goal in life is to wreak havoc and destruction. They are the inferior, unattractive, immmoral and deluded “other”, the complete opposite and mirror image of spartans. Spartans love to rant on about defending freedom, justice and that sort of banter (with their king sounding in the process like a hyper coked-up George W. Bush). In fact, their whole objective in the movie is to defend their civilization, freedom, justice, etc. from the invading barbarians from the east. In contrast the Persians are ruled by a highly authoritarian king who is the antithesis of all of that. Sounds familiar ?

Basically, the Persians are all the bad stereotypes you can think of and more rolled into one. They are evil incarnate. The Spartans, although with fault, defend many of the honourable things in life. The two sides stand in stark contrast to each other and each is used to highlight and accentuate the characteristics of the other side (the evil persians serve to emphasize how good the spartans are, and the noble spartans serve to emphasize how evil the Persians are). And just to throw a spanner into the works, the movie uses the age-old tactic of conflating different vulnerable groups together as well as throwing in a few horrible traits in the mix just to play one group against the other. Thus, to take one example, Persians are often Black or of dark-skin colour. This, when combined with the undesirable traits listed above (being evil, devoid of free will,etc), creates a jumbled up picture of the different groups in which each can percieve a fault in and a reason to hate the other. Thus those who identify more with persians might feel agrieved that they have been likened to blacks or blacks might feel agrieved that they have been likened to persians, and this grievance stems mainly from being associated with the bad characteristics (evil, no free will) that are identified with the other group in the movie, and not from being associated with the other group itself. IN OTHER WORDS (and to simplify this convoluted argument), in the movie blacks might be associated with persians (or vice versa), and this might piss off some people that identify themselves as black (or persian) because in the process the bad traits of being evil hoards, etc that are identified with persians translate over to their group. Unfortunately some Iranian bloggers have fallen into this trap and have started voicing objections to Persians being depicted as “black” or of “African origin.” This is unfortunate as this makes them vulnerable to the accusation of being racist, although it is fundamentally the movie that shows strong overtones of racism.

This is of course to say nothing of historical factual (in)accuracies (which I will not go into since I have no expertise whatsoever on the subject. Pretty much the only thing I’ve ever read that focuses mainly on this is Persian Fire by Tom Holland, from which I take any information mentioned about the battle here). Technically, it is concievable that someone could make an argument that the film is broadly true in terms of historical events, with certain events that did happen (e.g. a battle in a narrow passing) being highlighted in the movie. That’s not the point, however. The point is in the way these events were depicted and how one side was demonized while the other elevated to hero-like status. I could just as well make a movie about the American civil war that is broadly accurate in terms of the events’ time line but that depicts Yankees or Southerners as effeminate, ugly, evil, bloodsucking monsters who like to eat babies for breakfast and unborn feotesus for dinner while drinking fermented vaginal blood as wine.

One person told me, “but in the beginning of the movie it is obvious that the narrator is Spartan, and so this movie is told from point of the view of the ancient Greeks (which historical records show was in the main (obviously) very anti-persian) and this excuses the depicition and the viewer knows that.” I sincerely doubt that 95% of those who watched it realized that. I’ve had more than one person tell me this is based on true events, and the movie leaves beyond doubt as to whose side your affections should lie and who you should be cheering. Some people excuse it by saying it is a ficitional story albeit loosely based on true events and hence should not be taken seriously (which is an argument the producers and the company that made the movie used). This does not wash either. As mentioned before, many people failed to realize that the movie is a pure work of fiction (beyond realizing that monsters are fictitious). For many people this is the first time that they ever hear about this battle or event in history, and if I am to make a rash statement I bet most people will come out from that movie actually believing that the Spartans were indeed in the right, that they were the good guys while the Persians were the evil and bad guys. i.e. they will come out believing that the spartans really were the goodies and the Persians really were the baddies. The movie obviously also tries to make a strong connection to the actual historical events, or why would so many historical occurences be reproduced in the movie? If the whole point was a fictional story loosely based on the original events, then it would make much more sense just to make up events as one goes along and not relate it so much to the actual historical events. The fact that there has been such a great effort to stick to the broad historical timeline of events suggests strongly that there was a concerted effort to try to present the movie as broadly “historically accurate”, if one disregards the fantasy-novels features in it (e.g. monsters), and indeed this is what many people have argued about it!

If one does believe this, and he/she does swallow the movie’s take on historical events (while disregarding the fantasy noverl parts) then one most probably will also gullibly swallow the ideas in the movie of the Persians being the baddies, ugly, devoid of free will, effeminate, etc (for these themes are not logically related in anyway to the fantasy parts of the movie). Unfortunately this I fear is what many people will come out of the movie believing.

One person has argued to me that the movie is so bombastic, so in-your-face, so crassly racist that in fact it is just one big irony. In reality, the makers were depicting the American government as the Persians and the local populations defending against invasion (e.g. Iran, Iraq) as the Spartans. After all, it is the Persians (in the movie) who similar to the American government are invading other territories and are made up of an array of armies from all around the world , and it is the Spartans like Iran or Iraq who are defending their countries. This, although a nice thought, is completely dillusional. To believe this you would have to assume that everything in the movie is supposed to stand for the opposite of what it stands for. The Spartans, who are white, talk about democracy and justice, very independent-minded, etc, should instead stand for people who are invariably depicted in the Western media as the complete opposite of these traits. That just sounds utterly ridiculous to me. Indeed, since time immemorial the battle of Thermopylae specifically and the war(s) between the ancient Greeks and Persians generally have often been held as a defining moment of the “west and “western civilization” in contrast to “the east”, “the orient”, etc. Montaigne, Byron, John Stuart Mill, and Hegel, to name but a few, all commented on this.

It is hard not to conclude that this movie is a racist propaganda piece of the most in-your-face and no-subtlety-whatsoever type. It is not the first (“Rambo 3″ versus. the soviets comes to mind, although this pales in comparison and looks like a model of sensitivity/evenhandedness when compared to 300) nor is it the last. It also takes on a heightened dimension when one takes into account that the U.S./U.K vs. Iran governments are in an adversarial standoff at the moment in real life, with the former constantly using arguments about democracy, freedom, lack of self expression etc to discredit the latter (not to mention the fact that many people are talking about a “clash of civilization” now between “muslims” and the “west” with the west being the “superior civilization” that should be defended, and this movie will only serve to fuel such talk). And indeed many people have not failed to take notice of this. Just look at some of the comments being written about 300 on the internet. Many liken the Spartans’ experience to the American government and America’s war on terror. Others explicitly identify Spartans with Israel (which is not a new idea. Israel, described as a small, paranoid and highly militarized nation that seeks to dominate and exploit its neighbours by force has often been compared to Sparta).

The apologist for the movie try to defend it by using a banal “it is a fictional story” excuse. One could easily imagine a movie about the Crusades or a battle between the Byzantines and the Arabs which also depicts Arabs and muslims in an equally bombastic and horrendous manner.

To take an extreme example, Leni Riefenstahl’s (of the Nazi propaganda movie “Triumph of the Will” fame) experience show that masterpieces of art can unfortunately be used to produce questionable propaganda (it is interesting that Hitler himself explicitly compared the German 6th army to the Spartan 300. In fact, the battle of Thermopylae has been often used in Nazi propaganda). It is a shame that such amazing use of graphics and technology was used to produce a shamelessly Orientalist piece of propaganda as 300.

Orientalism, nearly 30 years after the publication of Said’s groundbreaking book with the same name, is still unfortunately alive and well.

54 Responses to “The movie 300: Orientalism, alive and well”

  1. Sedition Says:

    Nido, before I comment on this post, I would like to ask some clarification on your position regarding the historicity of the film and the subsequent angle of critique.
    First you say that the movie is fictional:

    “As mentioned before, many people failed to realize that the movie is a pure work of fiction (beyond realizing that monsters are fictitious).”

    Then there is an attempt at broad historicity, and here I don’t really know what “original events” you are talking about

    “The movie obviously also tries to make a strong connection to the actual historical events, or why would so many historical occurrences be reproduced in the movie? If the whole point was a fictional story loosely based on the original events, then it would make much more sense just to make up events (sedition: which they did) as one goes along and not relate it so much to the actual historical events. The fact that there has been such a great effort to stick to the broad historical timeline of events suggests strongly that there was a concerted effort to try to present the movie as broadly “historically accurate” (sedition: a very difficult statement to make without a closer reading of the |Persian Wars section of the Histories by Herodotus, whom I will return to when you make things a bit clearer)

    Then you also dismiss those who agree that it is “broadly historical” going full circle back to…fictional?

    “Some people excuse it by saying it is a fictional story albeit loosely based on true events and hence should not be taken seriously (which is an argument the producers and the company that made the movie used). This does not wash either.”

    I agree there is much to say about the rampant orientalism here, but orientalism is a word too mild to even begin to describe this so called “film,” I for one prefer to describe it as a cartoon, which in fact has some validity since I have been told (not confirmed) that the production is based on a comic strip, and not on any serious historical interrogation of any texts, ancient (The Histories, Herodotus), or contemporary. (i.e. the work of Tom Holland which I consider the printed extension of fashionable popular epics we see a profusion of today: Troy, Gladiator, and Rome the series, etc.)

    More in the next salvo…

  2. hujairi Says:

    Nido, I for one share your sentiments on this. Not only is ‘300’ another fine specimen of blatant Orientalism, but it comes at a very politically explosive time. I tried to explain this to my friends who aren’t from the Middle East, and they just don’t understand why it’s just wrong to create another humdrum hollywood blockbuster, exploiting political sentiments and cashing in on it.

    Orientalism is so not ‘too mild a description’ (and yes, Sedation, I took note of your underlying sarcasm). But, Orientalism is basically a literary play on words in which the “Orient” is the void created by the Occident in which it sees itself as a separate entity on a cultural, geographical and even genetic plane(despite there not being any real boarder between Europe and Asia in the Eurasian landmass – the choosing of the Aural mountain range as being a separating line is very arbitrary in itself). The Orient is a metaphorical shadow cast on a faraway wall if the Occident claimed itself to be the source of all light and culture. I’m very impressed with Nido’s choice of wording.

    Keep ranting, buddy.

  3. amal Says:

    Nido, I couldn’t agree more with every single word you said. You left me speechless.
    Great post, impressive blog.. Keep it up!

  4. BB Says:

    This movie was was crap on so many levels it beggars belief that graphics and montage can possibly make up for it. Even my greek friends thought it was a piece of kaka. The overt villification and orientalist depiction is just one shortcoming that was so condescendingly obvious that its not even worth describing, they clearly weren’t going out of their way to provide for a more nuanced or balanced conflict. The persion king, Cyrus portrayed like a drag queen out of a gay pride parade in Berlin at one point says to lionedes, “you greeks have your logic. Use it” and apparantly all the persians have is ‘mysticism and tyranny’.

    Anyhow, this was a failed attempt at being another Gladiator spoof, except the main actress was ugly, the acting was terrible, the love story was missing, the sex scenes were vulgur and did not serve the plot by any length of measure, the script was so bad they were using modern day cliches at some point. It failed to move the viewer, emotionally engage or make any form of impact other than than being aesthetically or musically entertaining.

  5. nido Says:

    Sedition:

    Obviously I’ve screwed things up and jumbled meanings up in writing the post, so it’s best to begin by admitting that! I definitely need to clarify what I meant. Now to your points:

    1. Regarding “making a strong connection to historical events.” Like I said previously I really don’t know much about the historical incidents so I could be completely very wrong here (maybe you can help out on this). I’ve never read Herodotus first-hand (only what others have said on him) so I can’t comment on that (a few people, however, have said that quite a bit of the dialogue in the movie is actually quoted from Herodotus’s account).
    My main point was however, if one disregards the fantasy elements, the wardrobe, and the particular characters/events dramatization and dialogues (which are obviously made up and as you alluded to based on a graphic novel) at some level or another it is possible to argue that the movie does try to correspond to historical events (300 spartans against a lot of persians, a battle at thermopylae, a narrow passing etc etc). This is in fact what what quite a few people have argued
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-0703110434mar11,1,5700401.column?coll=&ctrack=1&cset=true
    (once again I’m not arguing this, just leaving the possibility that it might be so). So even if the movie is not historically accurate in some parts, it definitely tries to make a connection to historical events at some level or another. In fact some of the people working on the movie have been quoted and argued that the movie is historically accurate and that they have been told so by historians. Here is a link to what the director Zack Snyder said (it is under the “historical accuracy” section):

    “The events are 90 percent accurate. It’s just in the visualization that it’s crazy… I’ve shown this movie to world-class historians who have said it’s amazing. They can’t believe it’s as accurate as it is.”

    http://66.102.9.104/search?q=cache:DVaya1kPtckJ:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/300_(film)+300+movie+historians&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=4

    2. Regarding saying it’s a “pure work of fiction.” Obviously saying what I said above and then saying this sounds a tad bit absurd (I blame this on my mediocre English writing skills!). What I meant is that the film SHOULD be treated as a pure work of fiction, that even though one might be able to construe it as roughly based on historical events, nothing whatsoever should be read into it as historically accurate. It is best to treat every single thing in it as fiction. In fact you put it perfectly in saying it should be seen as no more than a cartoon. The problem (and the point) is however that unfortunately I think a lot of people will not see it only as that. They will read historically into it (they might end up thinking the greeks were actually the goodies, the Persians the baddies, etc etc) , and hence it will not be seen as only a cartoon.

    So I accept the points you level!

    And come on! The Tom Holland book is not as bad as Gladiator or Troy! OK it’s no high-browed scholarly work but it is not a Hollywood movie history rendition either!

  6. nido Says:

    Hasan,

    Cheers man, and good luck with your concert. It sounds really awesome, and I wish I could hear your rendition of Marcel Kahlife (if it’s going to be recorded then let us know if copies will be sold or available online). Good luck and enjoy it!

    Amal,

    Thanks for the really great message. You really know how to flatter someone!

    BB,

    Yeah, the script and acting were not classics. But you have to admit some of the visual sequences were pretty cool! No?

  7. BB Says:

    Definitely, the high colour saturation, the fantastical graphics, all those shaded in muscles, the special effects, the mind-blowing fighting scenes, and slow motion. But it was clear after 20 mins that the pedantic attention to details came at the expense of all the other important aspects of the movie. The female protagonist just irritated the shit out of me, she was there just for effect, they could have casted in such a better and more charismatic actress, her voice, her presence, just way too contrived. Frankly, who felt sorry for her in the rape scene?

  8. Odd Says:

    Great review! It took me exactly one McChicken meal (with chocolate milkshake rather than coke) – to read it!

  9. Sedition Says:

    Many of the valid points you raise do not need duplication by me. However, here are a few thoughts I would add, perhaps only to suggest a new direction for this discussion. The following might make it clearer why we cannot be making statements about “historical facts, and actual events, original accounts.”
    Herodotus, so called father of history, living in the fifth century BC, is famous for his “treatment” of the Persian wars, contemporary to his life. However his more or less average life span (as far as we know) did not stop him from writing about a period spanning two and a half MILENNIA (Egyptian pharonic times, till the expulsion of Persia from what was loosely considered to be the Greek speaking area of the Aegean sea. This gigantic temporal sweep is matched only by the vast geographical sweep this fellow decided to consider when writing The Histories. (Libya to India, and Southern Russia to Sudan, where in these places there are people who paint themselves red and eat monkeys, drink their enemy’s blood, prostitute their daughters for a dowry, and bury their dead in honey among other nonsensical things that make for enjoyable fiction reading) That said, what he gives us (that survives) is the ONLY substantial account of the series of conflicts between the Persian Aechemenid dynasty and several of the Greek city states in a seriously enjoyable but nevertheless mostly ahistorical text that is more based on lore and hearsay, the proof being that Herodotus could not have lived for 2500 years, nor did he go to India or Arabia Felix (Yemen) where there were flying snakes that guarded the frankincense trees (most probably locusts in my opinion)
    Herodotus’s account of the conflict with the Persians is also more concerned with the rising storm that is about to hit Greece, with descriptions of how the Persians “are” rather than the actual conflict itself. In that sense the movie is a childish, cheap exaggeration of Herodotus’s writings, I stress, HIS writings, not what actually happened, hunaka farq, farqon kabir. In any case, I highly recommend that one reads the book, its fantastic, literally. The problem is when we consider it to be an authentic account, comparable to contemporary historical scholarship that involves meticulous nitpicking of (in this case non-existent) primary source material, and heavy archaeological undertakings given the period we are talking about.
    The bigger problem is however is when such productions (300) are furnished with an air of historical legitimacy only because there is a caption at the opening scene in small print saying that “this films is based on real (or “historical”) events. Were there battles at Thermapolae and Salamis? Yes. Did generations of Persian emperors try to conquer Greece, Yes. Did the Greeks manage to eventually maintain their partial independence and attain an eventual riddance of Persia, Yes. (people forget However, that most of Greece was either conquered by, or allied to Aechemenid Persia, especially the Asian parts of Ionia, all of Thrace and southern Macedonia, as well as the eastern Greek islands.) Were there 300 Spartans who held out against millions of Persians, no. Did the Persians use espionage to get round a tight mountain pass, perhaps. Were there millions or hundreds of thousands of Persian soldiers? Absolutely NOT. The number of soldiers engaged in or killed during wars, being the most basely exaggerated of all figures historians will quote, even today. However, all this is IRRELEVANT. As alluded several times by Nido, it is the ridiculous construction of an image is what we should be concerned with, the creation of eternal enmities between good and evil, east and west, etc (what pisses me off the most is the reason/rational vs. the emotional/intuitive bullcrap. Thanks hujairi for your attempt to define Orientalism for me, as “a play on words,” but I am familiar with the phenomenon, and think it’s a shit load more than that.
    Moving on, the naivety and even moderate ignorance that will result in people believing the events is an unfortunate manifestation of Hollywood’s control over the willingness, and even somewhat the ability, of the viewer to decipher and engage with a production. Rather, we are spoon-fed spectacle and imagery since instant gratification through beautiful effects, stunning action, and sexually attractive characters will bring in more box office dollars than any problematising, probing, interrogating, and nuanced account of what is, and will always remain, a fascinating historical period will. The biggest problem of all however, which will make this a more locally specific discussion if it intrigues, is when I step out of the cinema, already exhausted by the film, to hear an acquaintance say “wasn’t that great?”, or another say “ I really didn’t see what you’re talking about in the film, I just liked the graphics,” or yet another say “what an epic” Statements of such catastrophic nature should be ridiculed immediately, on the spot, and without mercy. There will always be drivel propagated, we will always have people trying to construe “history” or legitimize some sort of epistemic regime that de-humanizes, the tragedy is when people believe it, either as factor of ignorance which is the sort I have encountered so far, but also as some sort of self-reflective “honesty” which I am sure I will have to deal with sooner or later, kil shay yi6la3 minhom thelain.

  10. Aatish Says:

    BB: “Frankly, who felt sorry for her in the rape scene?”

    I usually appreciate comments that make apparent the sad and abject realities of things by refusing to mince words and conform to a politically ‘correct’ language. But really, this is a bit much. The insinuation that there could ever be a situation in which a woman deserves to be raped is nothing except repugnant. Is this just some attempt at caustic humour gone terribly awry?

    Perhaps one of the reasons you ‘didn’t feel sorry for her,’ besides her lack of charisma and originality, was the fact that the movie portrayed her rape as a noble exchange painful mainly because her rapist told her ‘she was not going to enjoy it’ whilst making her face the pillar. The implication being, had he been a loving and gentle rapist, the exchange would have been sad but necessary and ultimately worthwhile. 300 portrayed the event in such a way that you were only supposed to mourn her experience after it got rough, and even then only really after he didn’t follow through on his part of the bargain the next day. It did not make clear that her position in Spartan society, though apparently much better than her potential position in Persian society, was so confining that it made any notion of consent in the exchange irrelevant. I really don’t have any interest in going on and on about this, there are innumerable criticisms that could be made about her (or any other female protagonist in a major Hollywood movie), most of which would be obvious, boring and repetitive. So yeah…women don’t ever deserve to be raped and importantly this insinuation is used nearly universally as a way to justify the rape of women. But you must know this….

  11. Aigre-Doux Says:

    BB: Your anger over 300 and its ridiculous yet predictable representations is shared. However, that does not make the following question any less abhorrent and unacceptable:

    “Frankly who felt sorry for her in the rape scene?”

    I’d be one of the last people to enforce political correctness but I find this shocking. There is I’m sure, no need to patronize you with a list of reasons for why one shouldn’t have a problem with such a violent and cruel objectification not to mention the moral harm caused by its utterance. ‘Rape’ is not an acceptable source of humour and to treat it as so, particularly in a space like this but really anywhere, is highly irresponsible.

  12. BB Says:

    Talk about paralysis by analysis. Sorry to offend you, its a movie and i wasn’t condoning the use of rape. I was merely alluding to the fact that the storyline was so bad that even such a horrific act of rape failed to move the viewer. I did not feel the pain she was feeling, and i didn’t feel backstabbed when he betrayed her the next day. The whole thing was just way too predictable for that have an impact. This is a personal opinion of course. I just did not engage with the film, did not find it moved me in any way.

  13. The PC Police Says:

    BB: Hmm…We’ve found ourselves in a unique position. Why didn’t you just say what you meant in the first place?!!! Now we just feel like white liberals deluded by their moral vanity.

  14. The PC Police Says:

    P.S. That should be signed- Aigre-Doux and Aatish

  15. BB Says:

    Criticism is good but often the exaggerated attention that a so-called ‘blockbuster’ of the century gets serves to crowd out more worthier and understated films. For example, how many ppl here watched the movie, Days of Glory?

    Another war epic… a genuinely astounding piece of cinematography about the north african muslims who fought with the french against the nazis but failed to get the recognition that their french counterparts received. Chirac apparantly even changed the law in their favour after watching this movie. Yet it won’t even make it to much of the english-speaking world. Watch out for any films by Rachid Bouchareb, his next one is about Bob Marley I heard. Screw Zack Snyder.

  16. nido Says:

    Odd:

    Thanks! I hope your diet is not regularly made up of McChicken meals though.

    Sedition:
    No bones to pick with you on your points. I agree one of the more worrying stereotypical depictions is of the Persians or “orientals” being irrational and governed by “passions” and instinct etc. It’s a complete cop-out. It’s basically an inability to explain something except by using the “inexplicable”. “They’re Arabs, Persians; that’s why they act irrationally. You won’t understand it. It’s in their nature. It’s party of their mystique”

    And you’re right. THe saddest part of it all is how a lot of arabs internalize this crap and believe it. They end up gulping this orientalist rubbish and seing themselves and those around them just as they are depicted in movies, books, tv, serials, etc. Nothing more ridiculous then seeing an Arab dude repeat the same garbage that he picked up somewhere in another place about “what arabs are really like” or his “real nature.” Talk about irony.

  17. Deonna Says:

    I think it is strange the film comes out now as the West is B***thing about Iran. Of course, the movie deals with a pre-Islamic period but how many of the American viewing public will really know these things? I think popular culture can feed into political culture, and this movie unintentionally helps Americans demonize “Persian” culture so we won’t feel bad when America starts military action. Just a thought…

  18. nido Says:

    Deonna:

    Definitely a lot of people will exactly read into it what you’ve said. A lot of people will certainly also project current events into the movie and might even think that there are traits in the movie that might also apply to modern-day “Persians” or “Iranians” or “Muslims” or “Arabs”.That’s why it could be seen as such a blatant piece of propaganda. I mean no one knows if the makers overtly intended it to be like that, but it will definitely be seen as representing that by some.

    BB:
    I haven’t seen the movie yet. I’ll make sure to check it out!

    There is also an interesting discussion on how fascism relates to Sparta here:

    http://timesonline.typepad.com/dons_life/2007/04/history_carniva.html

    (It also mentions this blog!).

  19. Isa Says:

    first and foremost…this is the first time i stumble onto your blog. It was refered to me from a friend. Is everything in this world not to your liking? Really for the love of GOD it is just a movie, and its a movie from the view of the writer. It was never ment to insult anyone…Didn’t the arabic world cheered for Kindgom of Heaven. That movie portraied Salah Al Deen correctly, but when a movie…and let me say again it is a movie shows the way that western world looks at us then that makes people angry. I swear people and you in particular concern your self with things that will never effect your life. Keep ranting, and keep saying whatever is on your mind. All I can say is that people like you make the world a bit dull….Always sinical and just nothing makes you happy. Instead of writing of what food you don’t like…what people do in their free time…and movies suck..why don’t you try to provide things that can make society better. Have you ever joined a charity organization….(a real charity organization). Try to help your country instead of making negative comments about it. I leave you with this question….Why do you care of what people do?

    Cheers Mate

  20. Natna Says:

    Hmmm…we have some interesting posts going about here…however, I must say something that was posted by Isa…

    Isa….do you know the difference between Sinical and Cynical..Get your words right next time…..

    Nido…Your doing a good job….yet another way to kill time at the office….

    As one said it..I am the Epiphany of the Nido Generation…….

  21. Aigre-doux Says:

    Isa: Ignorant, uneducated apathy of the kind you embody is the reason Nido and all of us need to write more. “Is everything in the world not to your liking?” – Actually the point you miss here, is one that people have reiterated over and over again on this blog – everything in our world is to our liking precisely because it comes at the cost of a majority of the world and your immediate society finding daily life unbearable.

    While I agree this can’t be solved by discussing whether Mirai is a waste of time or not, your solution to be quiet and not discuss how knowledge with implicit power relations is produced and perpetuated through a movie like 300, and to be philanthropic and join a band-aid charity organization(that too in the service of some abstract concept of a nation?!?!) is hardly the other alternative.

    Rather than remain content with the monthly cheque you donate to some vague ‘society’ in Bahrain (that really only helps dumpy bored housewives get picture time in the press) , the discussions that take place on nido and in other spaces should/could hopefully inspire some real moves towards social action, activism. Maybe you should be asking yourself why you shouldn’t care about what other people do?

  22. Sedition Says:

    Where does one start with a person like “Isa”…sometimes its just not worth it.

  23. nido Says:

    Isa,

    I don’t particularly have anything to say to you, not now anyway. Maybe another time and another place. Enjoy your, I’m sure, “very exciting” life and good luck.

    Natna,

    Thanks for the kind words. Join the club! You’re not alone!

    Aigre-doux and Sedition: Thanks as always!

  24. Elephino Says:

    Isa, get a life.
    Nido, you’re the man.

  25. Natna Says:

    Hi there Elephino

    The underlying issue with Isa is that he lacks the aptitude to comprehend the content of the Nido Blog. Don’t be so hard on him Elephino!!!!!

  26. Some person Says:

    If it makes you feel any better, the glorious abs were actually painted on and CG-ed. Besides, there’s no reason to expect historical merits from a movie based on a comic graphic novel.

  27. nido Says:

    Thanks Elephine, short and straight to the point!

    Guys, take it easy on Isa. After all, it is people like him that are one of the main reasons for this blog. It’s all good talking to people that agree with you, but preaching to the converted can only get you so far.

    Isa, you still there?

    Some person:

    I’m not sure why it should make me feel better but thanks anyway.

  28. Mariam Says:

    Isa,
    Maybe you didn’t watch 300 or something or maybe you just clearly don’t get it. 300 is a blatently racist movie. Its not one of those movies where you have to sit and analyze and then you realize its racist. No its one of those that is clearly so.
    And please don’t say that its “just a movie”. Maybe you havn’t been watching the news recently, but the US government has been gearing US public opinion for a war or attack on Iran. To do this, you have to villify the Iranians and that’s what the movie did. I mean didn’t you notice the clear metaphors and political undertones that the movie had? The kind (bush) wants to go to war. The parliment (congress) doesn’t want to. The people should listen to the King (Bush) and not Parliment (Congress). The message is loud and clear. Too bad you didn’t get it.
    Nido – excellent review of the movie. Did they bring the movie to Bahrain or something?

  29. Mariam Says:

    By the way Kingdom of Heaven does not even compare to 300.

  30. nido Says:

    Yup it’s been out for a couple of weeks now. And unfortunatley many people in Bahrain think it is really amazing!

  31. Mariam Says:

    Thats crazy!! How can that be possible?! People just never cease to amaze me

  32. nido Says:

    Those great graphics, awesome fight scenese, and bombastic speeches are unfortunately enough to convince many people!

  33. EVI Says:

    Most films, even when they purport to be based on ‘true stories’ are very far from what the probable truth was. It’s also questionnable how you can ever portray dialogue and substantive experience to capture any balanced-what-actually-happened-account particularly in war films which are designed to set two ‘sides’ againts eachother. Fundamentally, what about the ultimate perspective (mine) that the futility of war and men’s aggression across the world to want to dominate through the expression of violence or force? War was again portrayed as glorious (which it probably was at the time, but I’m no expert on that). It amazes me how the Captain only sees this when his son dies and the main point of his freshly inspired “hate” is that he didn’t get the chance to tell his son how much he loved him. This shows their culture to be rather lacking in the basic freedoms and principles. If you can’t love your family and show it then how do you love your neighbour….

    As a ‘westerner’ I would have to agree that the script, plot and portrayal of the Persians (and their historical motivations for being the aggressor) were all lightweight and cheap.

    Unfortunately there will always be a mass of people who don’t question why, whose expertise is gained in one reading/ insight and who then base their opinions on this single source of ‘truth’. This mass of people can come from anywhere in our world…

  34. lebinbah Says:

    I can’t stand people who dissect a movie that was only meant to entertain people for 120 minutes!!! … the movie was fun and entertaining stop thinking alot

  35. EVI Says:

    Lebinbah, I mostly agree with you …. However, after the 1000th killing, in spite of the brilliant cinematography it sort of stopped being entertaining … at which point the mind wanders …

  36. nido Says:

    EVI: I agree with what you say. The movie obviously is a highly biased portray of history. Once again though I point out that the movie makes an explicit attempt to refer to historical events (as the comment by Zack Snyder shows) and give them a particular spin that compares them to the current political events in the world, and this is the dangerous part in it.

    LebinBah:

    Again, if the whole point of the movie was only to entertain and people would not read anything else into it then I have no problem with the movie at all (other than the script and acting being lousy and it becoming a bit repititive and “too much” after a while). The movie was not only that however (and as person who’s taken a course in media or film studies would tell you, movies are often not only that. Movies often carry messages, ideas, representations, interpretations, etc in them). As mentioned above, even the director explicitly relates it to historical events. Also, just go and look at all the comments about it on the Internet. People comparing the movie to and using it to justify George Bush, the American government now and it’s fight with Iran, Israel, clash of civilizations, the west versus. east, etc. Obviously the movie had the effect of way beyond only entertaining, and this was the whole point of the article!

  37. dobber Says:

    If Bruce Willis had starred in this film it would only need to have been called…

    ‘1’

    Whilst I really appreciate some of the comments on this blog (and the main article itself) about the film 300 and how it pertains to orientalism there has to be a line drawn somewhere.

    LOL at the numb-nuts who think that this film is some sort of neo-conservative propaganda being rolled-out to get the western public dancing to the ‘axis-of-evil’ tune. Like a piece of over-wrought cinematic entertainment is going to help bring about a third world war in the middle east.

  38. nido Says:

    Point taken dobber.

    If 300 was simply a “Die Hard 5: Brucie takes on the baddies” then I doubt much fuss would be made about it. The problem is that it has not been seen simply that way, and it doesn’t seem from the comments of the director mentioned above that it was intended to simply be that. As mentioned previously, an explicit attempt to tie the movie to historical accounts has been made. Also, simply by browsing the internet it is easy to see that a huge swath of people have taken the movie to be more than just a fantasy blockbuster, with some people comparing the Spartans to the Bush administration, others to Israel, some others comparing it to “a clash of civilization” that is supposedly occuring now, etc.

  39. Darius Says:

    They should retitled the movie to 300 gay hairless men. A lot of slo mo, shouting, screaming, senseless decapitation, violence, inaccurate historic details etc etc. The type of movie that caters to the dumb generation of today.

  40. Isa Says:

    Hahhahahahah…..You guys crack me up. I expected this reaction from you people…Yeah “you people” The people that think that a movie has to be an atristic movie, Don’t get me wrong there are movies out there that hmmm…are just crap…Such as dude where is my car, or some movies like that. Maybe to some people 300 is, but to me i think its an “entertaining movie” Nido you have some amazing fans backing you up…

    I would like to talk this time to respond to my adoring fans that flattered me with their wonderful comments:

    Nanta: Thanks for the spell check when i have an essay i will post it and you can help me there
    Aigre-doux: No comment
    Sedation: Bring it On!!!!!!!!
    Elphino: HAHAHHAHHA
    Mariam: I go to a movie to relax have fun and remove the stress that we people get from such people like your self and Nido. I go there not analyize the movie, i go there to watch it. If every movie you go to you would analyize and not to enjoy….I’m guessing your a bore..(not a pig…i don’t insult people)…its momela…I’m guessing you hated Babel too? Or had something to say about it…

    Finally Nido….(I have some Nido tendencies…) It is your blog and write whatever you wish on it. You say you are a self hating nedoer…What things do you do that offset the nido-side of yours. How are you better than the people you are commenting about.

    Anyway thanks for all the lovely comments provided…

    Take Care of Yourselves,

    Isa

  41. Isa Says:

    Nanta: Please correct my spelling and let me know which words i mispelled

    thanks

  42. XXX Says:

    haha..Isa you are a idiot…

  43. Mariam Says:

    Isa: I actually really liked babel. Why is there a problem with liking babel? And if there is, then it doesn’t really matter because babel and 300 can’t even be compared. And yeah I watch dumb movies too, especially romantic comedies, and I love most of them. But when a movie is BLATENTLY racist against ppl living across the sea from us (of course I have a problem with a movie that is racist against anyone), then I have a problem with it.

  44. Proud Bahraini Says:

    It is a shame how people like such a weird movie like 300 i watched the movie and i think Hollywood is full of crap, (AMERICAN MEDIA PROPAGANDA).

  45. dave Says:

    i saw the move on hbo for the first time sunday night (6/22/08). i could tell by the movie’s pre-release trailers that racial overtones would be exploited. the first scenes after the spartan ethic was explained portrayed the persians as being black whose armies were peopled by slaves. did the screenwriter EVER read a history book? true, blacks lived all over the ancient world (greece, too) but the producers of this movie stupidly portrayed aryan (isn’t that the root of “iran” who were previously known as persians)? are these the same aryans that that german guy with the funny mustache loved so much? hmm, he must be turning over in his grave now… back to black. even xerxes was portrayed as being black (or light brown which is how egyptologists portray the ancient egyptian ruling class. but that’s another story. this movie reminds me that currents of a violently non-white (but expecially black) genocide continues as a popular desire in the minds of more than a few…

  46. nido Says:

    Hi Dave,

    My only beef with all of what you said is this “aryan” stuff. Of course the movie is racist, orientalist, etc, but this aryan mythology is another form of orientalism in my opinion. It started back in the eighteenth centuries with these new linguo-race theories, where people started connecting race to languages. So somehow Iran became the same “Aryan” race as Germany basically because there were some language connections . Now anyone who has set foot in Iran knows that it isn’t exactly a hotbed of pasty white blond people (although obviously there are a few). In fact looks wise you’d probably hae a very hard time distinguishing between Iranians and people from other Middle Eastern countries. This area (Middle East) is so mixed in terms of ethnicity and culture that any talk of some form of race is pretty much meaningless. Unfortunately some Iranians have bought into this Aryan-german connection race myth because they think it elevates them somehow to be connected to Europeans.

    Thanks for stopping by and the comment.

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  48. judith Says:

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