Reel Mythology

Blood splashing across the screen like a Jackson Pollock painting; waves of soldiers falling upon razor-sharp blades, stoic musclemen staring their inevitable death in the face – 300 has style and bravado to spare.

The cinematic retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartan warriors held off a massive Persian army is a visual triumph. The source, being a graphic novel by comic book artist Frank Miller and not Herodotus The Histories or Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian Wars, emphasizes passion over historical accuracy. That being said, the film did capture how the Spartans molded their children through adversity to become the hardened fighting machines we see on screen and it highlighted their army’s prowess in battle. At least as far as I can recall – the memories of my lectures are fading quickly. Anyone looking for more detail can borrow my copies of those ancient texts.

But hey, who’d want to do that? This is a comic book come to spectacular life, with all the depth that implies. Multiple scenes appear to be frames pulled directly from pen and ink, much like the last adaptation of Miller’s work, Sin City. This was all clear in the trailer, so I have to question those who complain for getting exactly what was promised.

The film has been labelled racist for its portrayal of Persian (Iranians) as barbaric hordes. It’s been called both homophobic over the androgynous, fey King Xerxes and homoerotic due to the mostly naked, hard-bodied Spartans. Critics have said Xerxes and the Spartan King Leonidas both represent George W. Bush and they both can, depending on where you stand politically. Are the Spartans defenders of freedom, fighting off the forces of terror threatening to destroy a way of life? Or are they defending their nation, willing to die for their land in the face of a vast imperial army bent on conquering the world?

It is the simplicity of the film that critics have complained about that has allowed so many to overlay their own ideas and themes. So, if it’s so simple then why are so many up in arms about it? It’s a comic book where you get to fill in the voice bubbles.


  1. I think 300 is pretty much a comic book on film with a very simple, basic message: Freedom is worth dying for. I think it is this simplicity is what has allowed so many people to read so much into the film. It's a sad fact of life that a lot of people can't simply take something at face value.

  2. This is totally OT, but have you heard the latest Veronica Mars news? I'm sad.

    Jen M.

  3. Wow, Jen, incredibly off topic - but let's work with that. What if instead of the fourth season of Veronica Mars taking place in the future it took place in the distant past. Perhaps she could be a sassy, kick-ass woman in ancient Greece and Rome. She could have some clever sidekicks and battle evil. Somebody oughta make a series out of that...