While preparing an essay on Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, which I think is the greatest superhero movie ever made, I came across the following review of 300, which for reasons now forgotten, I never got around to publishing. Since my readers have come to expect untimely meditations on movies, I thought I would dust it off. Give me your thoughts.
Zack Snyder’s 300 (Warner Brothers 2007), based on Frank Miller’s popular graphic novel of the same name, retells the story of King Leonidas of Sparta and his bodyguards, all but two of whom died defending the pass of Thermopylae against a vast Persian army in 480 BC. (Since everyone should already know the story, I trust I will not be spoiling the ending.) In addition to the 300 Spartans, several thousand other Greeks also fought, and many of them died as well, but the Spartans are remembered for being particularly unsparing with their own lives.
The story of Thermopylae survives because it is retold. It is retold, because it inspires. It inspires because the Spartans did the right thing, which is rare and hard: they preferred collective freedom, even at the price of war, over peace purchased by submission to alien peoples and ways. Leonidas and his men, most of whom had sons to carry on their names, were willing to sacrifice their individual lives because they hoped to assure the collective survival and freedom of their families, including their common extended family, Sparta herself.
In the retelling, the tale of Thermopylae has inevitably been embroidered and mythologized. There are contradictions and gaps in the surviving accounts. But the real tale of Thermopylae is worth retelling, and it really can be retold. We can aim at complete historical accuracy, and where history does not record every detail, then we can aim at complete historical plausibility. Where our story cannot be true, it can at least be likely.
The only reason to set aside historical accuracy is because one wishes to use Thermopylae to promote values the Spartans would have found alien and repellent. This was done during the French Revolution, when the image of the aristocratic Spartans was used to promote egalitarianism. It is also done in Snyder’s 300, where historical accuracy and plausibility are cast to the winds to pursue another agenda.
The reason so many find 300 a shocking, perplexing movie is that the most straightforward interpretation is as White Nationalist race war propaganda in the vein of William Pierce’s The Turner Diaries.
Although director Snyder preserves Miller’s sepia and red dominated color palate, there can be no confusion about the races of the protagonists. The Spartans are portrayed as Nordic Europeans, physically magnificent and beautiful Nordics, which is historically accurate. The Persians, however, are portrayed as entirely non-white. Some of them are even non-human. Most of them are blacks and racially indeterminate mongrels. The Persian Emperor Xerxes is portrayed by a towering mulatto. The Persian Immortals are dressed like ninjas, and when their masks are removed, they look like orcs from The Lord of the Rings movies.
But clearly 300 was not made to promote White Nationalism. So what is its real agenda? To answer that question, we have to look at Frank Miller’s original graphic novel. My first impression was that 300 is the work of a Jewish neoconservative. But Miller is apparently not a Jew. He was raised a Catholic. Upon closer inspection, 300 reads like the work of an Objectivist: “mysticism” is disdained, “reason” and “freedom” are exalted. In terms of their foreign policy, Objectivists are hyper-bellicose Zionists who disdain the neoconservatives as too soft, sentimental, and unprincipled.
Now that Iraq has been devastated at American expense, Iran is at the top of the Zionist hit list. Thus it makes perfect sense to create a graphic novel and a movie about European resistance to a Persian invasion. Thus 300 plays the same role as Oliver Stone’s Alexander, which also has a clear element of Zionist war propaganda, as I argue in a review here.
In the original graphic novel, the struggle between the Spartans and the Persians cannot be interpreted as a race war, simply because all the characters, even the Spartans, look like Negroes or Negroid mongrels. Why Miller (along with co-artist Lynn Varley) chose this mode of portrayal is hard to fathom. My guess is that their image of the ancients is based on their ideal audience, the “tan everyman,” the brown mongrel race that would emerge through universal miscegenation, the ideal citizen of a universal homogeneous state.
In addition to Miller’s repugnant racial, political, and philosophical agenda, his dialogue is, well, what you would expect from a comic book, rarely rising above the pedestrian, anachronistic, and clichéd.
Yes, there are some good bits here and there, particularly Miller’s treatment of Ephialtes, the hunchback who would have been discarded by the Spartans as an infant, but who was saved by his tender-hearted parents. Ephialtes offers his services to Leonidas, but Leonidas rejects him as unfit to fight with all compassion consistent with being truthful. Leonidas suggests that he is capable of tending the wounded and bringing water to the warriors, but Ephialtes, in a narcissistic rage, instead betrays the Spartans to their doom. Xerxes says that Leonidas was cruel to demand that Ephialtes stand. Xerxes, out of kindness, demands only that he kneel. Leonidas, when he sees that Ephialtes has betrayed him, wishes that he live forever — for a dishonorable life is a far worse fate than an honorable death. It is pure Nietzsche, by way of Ayn Rand, but it is also magnificently Greek, and a fundamental rejection of Christian and liberal values.
But, for the most part, Miller’s script is an insult, not just to Leonidas and the Spartans, but to the taste and intelligence of anyone with a basic knowledge of history and literature. It is really, really stupid.
Director Zack Snyder (who is not Jewish either) was artist enough to cast the Spartans as Europeans, but for some reason he did not tamper with Miller’s vision of the Persians. Perhaps it appealed to his imagination as a monster movie director.
Snyder, by the way, is so talented a director that one occasionally forgets how stupid and offensive the script is.
To the naïve viewer (and face it, that is practically everyone these days), 300 is a visually stunning ballet of slaughter. It is a poetic celebration of the love of comrades, the hatred of enemies, the sublimity of self-sacrifice, and plain old ripped, shredded, berserk, rampaging machismo.
The movie also explains and justifies the brutal eugenic selection and military training of the Spartans. If Sparta still existed, this movie would have sent waves of young men seeking to enlist in its military, just as Full Metal Jacket turned into a recruitment movie for the Marines.
And because of Snyder’s casting choices, Miller’s abstractions about reason and mysticism make scarcely any impression compared to the stark confrontation of Europeans against the invading hordes of Africa and the Near East.
The Persians of 300 do not resemble Ancient Persians at all. Nor do they resemble modern Persians so much as the blacks, Arabs, and North Africans who make up the bulk of Europe’s Muslim invaders.
If in ten or twenty years, Europe explodes into race war and expels the Muslims, the consciousness of the young men who fight will be shaped more by the images of Zack Synder’s Spartans than by almost forgotten figures like Charles Martel.
The sacrifice of Leonidas and the 300 inspired the Greeks to unite and repel the Persian invasion. May they continue to inspire our people to ever newer victories.