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The Social Ramifications of '300'

Category: 300 News
Article Date: April 17, 2007 | Publication: Rocket Number 09 (Blog) | Author: Matt Click
Source: Rocket Number 09

Posted by: DaisyMay

Could the "collective dismemberment" of an entire Persian army put forth the wrong idea in these troubled times of ours? Or should "300" be taken in as any other action film?

Several weeks ago, shortly before the Easter holiday, I reviewed “300,” Zack Snyder’s innovative retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae. I praised the film for its stylistic visuals, carefully choreographed action and larger-than-life characters. It was an immensely enjoyable film, one that I had been anticipating for quite some time. I walked out guilt-free and completely satisfied, not thinking twice if only of how awesome it all was.

But I opened The Mast (PLU's campus paper) last Friday morning to find a letter from Professor Brenda Ihssen regarding my review. Ihssen made an exceedingly valid and enlightening point concerning the subversive effects of the film. “What the reviewer does not understand—or perhaps does not want to address—is that there are social ramifications for depicting ‘spears skewering Persian after Persian, their swords removing legs, arms and heads by the dozens,’” Ihssen wrote, calling to my attention to the fact that, indeed, in this time of conflict and strife in the Middle East, there are definite and irrefutable consequences.

I pondered the letter over the course of the week, at first tending to my injured ego (“homoerotic tone” – come on, really?) and then seriously considering the reactions such a film might warrant. Can a movie depicting Greeks slaughtering Persians really be apolitical at a time when America is at war in the Middle East? Could Snyder really have crafted a completely neutral action film? For one, wild moment, I almost agreed with you, Professor Ihssen.

But Snyder has persisted that he absolutely did not intend the film as a social statement. Come on, we’re talking about the guy who somehow managed to remake George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” – a film ripe with critical allusions to American commercialism – free of any and all social commentary. “300,” from its days on Frank Miller’s drawing pad to its final hours in the editing room, was always meant to be a simple tale of 300 men facing unfathomable odds. It’s a pseudo-historical, somewhat mythological story of passion and perseverance, a legend many have come to know over the centuries as a hallmark example of standing up for what you believe in.

You see, Professor Ihssen, it’s not that I didn’t understand the social ramifications of such a film, and it’s certainly not that I wished to overlook them – it’s that “300” is a simple action movie; an adaptation of a hyper-stylized and gratuitously violent graphic novel. For me, “300” was merely a kickass action movie. That’s what I went in expecting, and that’s exactly what I received in return.

Would you find subversive social commentary in films like “Die Hard” and “Predator?” Like all art, what you take from the film is a direct result what you bring into it; our reactions depend heavily on our own personal preconceptions.

You may have found these social facets of the film severely prominent, and I can most assuredly respect that. I cannot deny the parallels between the film’s theme and our own troubles times. In return, however, you must be content with the fact that I’m a simple guy who enjoys well-made action flicks. You might call this naivety, or blissful ignorance. Call it what you will, I am but a humble film commentator who knows naught but cinema.

And in the end, why can’t a movie about a bunch of guys kicking the crap out of each other simply be a movie about a bunch of guys kicking the crap out of each other?


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