Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Three Hundred

I have not seen the film “300” yet, other than the 6 or 7 clips available on Yahoo!Movies. Although I suspect that those 6 or 7 clips probably give a pretty good flavor of the primary themes and direction of the film, I suppose you should take what I say with a grain of salt.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I fully intend to see this film and I’m really looking forward to it. I think it will be a blast. You see, I am already biased in favor. Just thought you oughta know.

At this point, however, what fascinates me most about this film is the way the publicity has been unfolding. In general the critics hate it, the public loves it, and the historians are tearing out their hair.

It seems that the critics hate it because they are, for the most part, complete wieners. They come across as prissy little mommy’s boys (and girls) exhibiting a haughty distaste for what they see as crude, over the top, film-making with a bludgeon, saturated with (gasp) violence, and (even worse) racist and (most horrific of all) homophobic overtones. All the while they make knowing winking remarks about the buff bodies of the Spartans, as if this only proves that homophobes are all homos at heart. Hmmm.

I could be wrong (I’m not) but all such reviewers, the legion of them, seem to have committed the cardinal sin of the literary critic. They fail to judge the film by it’s own standards. Girls! Listen up. It’s a comic book!

When you read a comic book, you judge it by the standards and conventions of comic books. You allow for extreme action, superhuman postures, heroic proportions. It’s all part of the genre. Are women really shaped like that? Well….not most, that’s for sure. Men? We like to think so, but no. Can Spiderman really…? How can Wolverine do that? The simple answer is…it’s a comic book. Exaggeration, bombastic speeches, witty repartee, exciting action – it’s all just part of the fun. If we didn’t want that, we would just read Jane Austen and be done with it.

Their complaint seems to be that "300" is badly done Jane Austen. What they want is well done Jane Austen. Fine. But this is a moving comic book and they just don't seem to like comic books. I have no sympathy or much patience for people who don't like comic books. Their distaste is mostly an affected desire to appear intellectual, high-minded, or both. They do not wish to dabble in the vulgarities. Heroes, they contend, are for fools. To enjoy the heroic is childish.

The masses think differently. It seems the masses long for heroes. Bombast and big muscles have a thrill factor. They appeal to something deep. Not base. Just deep. I suspect that may be the appeal of "300." It is a story of heroes told heroically.

I have a bit more sympathy for the complaints of historians. I heard recently of a high school class that was required to see “300” as if it were a documentary on the Battle of Thermopylae. Hmmm. Not so sure that’s smart. I can see where historians are envisioning everyone from 2007 forward growing up thinking that Xerxes was a hyper-gay super-pierced drag king whose empire consisted of mobs of monsters, freaks and fiends. Of course, he wasn’t and they weren’t. And it’s probably true that many people will be unable to separate the fantasy from the fact.

But, consider this. Now EVERYONE has heard of Thermopylae. Now EVERYONE will remember what the Spartans did there. That is worth knowing. And maybe a few will be inspired by that story to do something worthwhile at great cost. Maybe.
I’ll provide my own review after I’ve seen it. Maybe I’m wrong (probably not) but I think it’ll just be a hoot. I’ve always loved comics.

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