I saw “300” yesterday. I loved it. Visually, I found it to be amazing. The music was amazing. And for all the criticisms of it, the sexist and racist and nationalistic themes and all, I absolutely loved the movie. I will see it again. When the DVD comes out I will buy it. Just like I bought “Gladiator” and “Troy” and “Sin City” and all those other movies that people had issues with but I loved. I loved “300” because you knew they were doomed, but they fought anyway. They fought hard and brutal and bloody and without thought or care or back up, without anyone telling them how or why they could, without remorse or sympathy because they believed in what they were fighting for. They fought because that is what they do. And it made them happy. It made them feel alive. Feeling alive is not always an easy thing to do, you know. Sometimes it’s more like being that body on a table than a Spartan…
I prefer the Spartan feeling…because that’s about fighting, not just being a body. You may die, and it may be futile in they eyes of some, but at least you did something. Your own way. Without support. In a way no one else approves of. Because. It’s what you do.
Okay, before I start with stuff that is actually interesting, let me first regale everyone with my historical knowledge of sparta and the battle of thermopylae (however it's spelt, the ancient greeks unfortunately decided that if you didn't have at least two vowels stuck together or had super elongated recurring phonetical structures going on it wasn't a real word, and I am bad with names anyway, and worse with geography) on which historical event the movie "300" is based on...
Okay, what's really pissing me off about what I'm hearing from people who've seen the movie is that the movie doesn't deign to point out why the 300 stood and died there.
This seems to me to be a teensy tiny oversight, I get the impression that it's being presented as the spartans (alone by the sounds of it) who are fighting the persians (who are looking phenomenally black in the advertisements, when modern day persians (not to be confused with "iranians" who are people from iran (which is arabic for "persia"), persians are a distinct ethnic group in iran) are basically "swarthy" to the same degree as the greeks and turkish are, black to white folk, white to black folk - hated by golf clubs in other words, who explode trying to figure out whether they're allowed let them in or whether to discriminate against them, resulting in a Barackian Explosion of racialist confusion) and that's the greco-persian conflict - if the spartans don't hold the line greece will be overrun by those barbaric woggy types.
Ah. I hate to drop history into the mix but my soul is irritated...
Okay, what happened in reality was that sparta and athens realised that they couldn't possibly fight the persian army fairly so they decided to funnel the persian forces into the small valley (thermopylae) that the persians would have to pass through on their way to the greek city states, classic military strategy - if you have the smaller army, make them more effective, your enemy less effective and pick a battle ground that favors the smaller army and makes it very very easy for your to win, and makes it as easy as possible for them to lose.
So the greek coalition took up at Thermopylae, and the combined force managed to hold off the first attacks of the persian army but it became clear that the persian army could quite happily just throw men at the greeks ww1 style until the greeks lost through pure atrition.
So a cunning plan was needed, and one was devised: all of the greek army but 300 volunteers (leonidas steps forward and volunteers a large bit of the spartan forces. "nah worries mate, we'll stay and sort these fuckers out nah problems" - leonidas always strikes me as australian for some reason) would retreat, but the 300 who stayed behind would keep the persian army occupied while the athenian navy went around to the ass end of the persians' supply lines and won the war by cutting the persian army off - once again, logistics wins the a war - forcing them into retreat.
And so the greek forces, prior to retreating and leaving the 300 to it, built a little wall (apparently) which I mentioned in the previous post.
Now what you've got to understand is that the wall didn't exist, most likely, it's too good a symbol of greek unity from a time that post-dates thermopylae by a few hundred years - during the polyponesian wars, the spartans and athenians went at each other, and the spartans prided themselves on how they didn't need walls like those sissy athenians, because their proud and gay (in all senses of the word) Spartan Manhoods could protect sparta from any one - especially the helot slaves who made up the majority of the spartan society, and who were, as a race, owned by the spartan noble men from birth with no hope for freedom, except if they actually pulled off a successful uprising for once - and so the athenians kept their wives locked in doors all the time and became extremely good architects and proceeded to gradually move beyond Phalanx-centric warfare (yes, it was as Manly and Heterosexuals as it sounds, most greeks fought in the nuddy apart from their armor), while the spartans buggered each other senseless to instil a sense of espirit d'corps in their very phallanx-centric armies.
A small side issue: spartan women were known as thigh flashers because of an exercise they were expected to do to keep fit so they'd be able to give birth to strong spartan children. They were also "empowered", though to be fair the entire of spartan society was merely differently misogynistic than athenians one - largely because women had to run society while the men were all off buggering each other in the barracks (all spartan men were conscripted into the military, and trained into it from birth) so the traditional greek pursuit of keeping women locked up inside to stop their wombs running free and eating some one (again) was waivered - they were however second class citizens (but still above the helots) who existed purely for hte purpose of giving birth to the next generation of spartans.
And the spartan marriage ceremony was rather encouraging of rape - after the women had done the whole prancing through the woods naked pretending to be bears (don't ask, it's got stuff to do with how artemis was the patron saint of sparta...) things the night before, the spartan groom was expected to kidnap his wife to be, cut off her hair to make her more masculine, and then take her off to his barracks where he'd spent the night doing her.
Which could have been consensual, but what with it being ancient greece, expecting anyone to care about such nuance is expecting too much really.
It is also the most intensely homosexual sounding marriage ceremony I have ever even heard of - largely because spartan men were trained to form ridiculously close bonds with other men to the exclusion of women, like most of those abstinent only anti-gay fundies, to the point where their entire experience of intense emotional affection would be scewed towards men only type stuff.
Ironically for the anti-gay military types, this intensely homosexual military training made them work together better as soldiers - Nobody fights like a big poofy boy who's fighting to protect his closest lovers and friends who are standing shoulder to shoulder with him (with their cocks out of course, the tag line for an accurate 300 movie would have been "tonight they pee in hell!", what with how the phalanx was basically a long line of naked guys standing at a public urinal with their patriotic poking devices in their hands)
But I digress, the wall, well because the wall was the symbol of athenian military might during the polypenesian wars, having it at thermopylae was A) a way to sort of placate athenians, who had buggered off and were doing the unglamorous winning of the war, and also B) to act as a symbol a united greece fighting the abominable Other (who weren't black, but were instead basically gaijins (japanese - lit. foreign bastards) - Not Greeks) that would obviously invade greece at the drop of the hat because of the enlightened nature of greek culture and art.
And the romans did eventually, so there you go; there's always a bigger white man, waiting for you to fall on your face.
I'm rambling, it's late, so let me move onto my next issue with the historical innacuracy; the 300 spent their entire time after the other armies had left, basically oiling their naked bodies up and grooming their hair a lot - this is one of the things that makes the 300 look really cool, leonidas is informed of how the persian arrows will blot out the sun, he says THAT line, and then the 300 spends their time between and before battle grooming a lot - thus inventing the metrosexual.
Now a thing about those arrows: The bow and arrow was considered the cowards weapon by the greeks compared to the manly and erect grooviness of men getting naked, putting on bronze armor and waggling their poking sticks at their enemies.
I read an evopsych litcrit wannabe reading the iliad and that bit where ajax or who ever mentions that he's spent a lot of time fighting other men for their women - and the evopsych guy then declared that to be totally heterosexual and a good justification for his warped furry belief that all men have the innate soul of a chimpanzee or gorilla.
No mention of bonobos cock fencing for pleasure of course.
The bow and arrow thing is why the Amazons were all supposed to have monoboobed themselves - to stop their humongous tatas getting snapped up in the bows that they primarily used, because obviously a society of women could only capture big strong men via sneaky and cowardly methods like the bow and arrow - and of course heracules defeats them anyway with his super charisma (inherited from his relative - zeus, who was able to convince women to fuck geese or at any rate, that's what they claimed when they were caught at it) because women like teh wang, especially the lesbians.
Some themes never change I guess.
Okay, so the 300 has been fighting the persians for a few days now, keeping them at bay, but then they're betrayed, the persians sneak up their back passage and give them a good poking - all is lost right? Unless there's more proud spartan warriors to replace them...
Well no, like I said, they were buying time not for land based reinforcements to fight off the persians in noble one of one battle, but for the athenian triremes to fuck up the persians' supply system by basically head butting the supply ships to death.
now the athenian navy never gets credited in the mythos of thermopylae, they won the war, and quite frankly they're more likable than the spartans.
The spartans were all slave owning monarchists (possibly constitutional binarchists - they had two kings, leonidas was one of them at this point, and they had a voting system for the senate type creature they had, but only for spartans) who had been conscripted from birth and trained in teh ancient arts of buggery and being naked and feirce - they didn't choose to fight, they were obligated and guilted into it.
The athenians manned their navy with true volunteers, all of them free men, and they built a navy out of that which wasn't really matched until the arabs and vikings came onto the scene a few thousand years later.
And they won the fucking war with that - they didn't beat off the persians because they were better at hitting the persians with rocks than the persians were - the greeks thought global, acted locally, and got sneaky with it, using geography, spartan psychopathy, and athenian rowing power to the maximum to beat an enemy that was so fucking stuck up and self assured that they thought that all they had to do was throw an endless supply of dead bodies at their enemies and they'd crumble.
Personally, thermopylae is of course the weakest and least interesting of all the things about sparta - who are undoubtably interesting, but you have to see how they kept fucking up during the polyponesian wars, and things like how, the first time the spartans surrendered, the athenians let freed helots punish them - and so the spartans were thrown down a deep dark rocky chasm where, if they were lucky, they'd be killed on impact, and if they were unlucky, they'd ahve their landing cushioned by the dead bodies of previous spartans, and then be left to starve, dehydrate or catch something nasty from the rotting corpses they were surrounded by, if the next spartan falling down the chasm didn't kill them that is.
And of course, some spartans were released, because they were given the condition of grovelling and begging the helots to let them go, and they would be released.
And of course they returned to sparta and were mocked and hated by the spartan version of the yellow elephants - forerunners of the white feather ladies who called men cowards if they didn't volunteer to fight in the ww1 european armies - for surviving rather htan being killed in a horrible and agonising fashion.
Because once the fucked upness of sparta is laid bare, you can look at the less fucked up aspects, like how spartan women were proud members of the pythagorean mystery cults - which were a mish mash of a pagan religion and math camp for grown ups, and how they effectively owned property.
And of course how that privelage was gained through the subjagation and exploitation of the helots.
Which is why I can't go watch 300.
You see, it's not merely because it's politically inedible, and historically it's so wrong in all the wrong ways to make me want to spit.
No no, those are all window dressing to mask the real problem.
Look, it's a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, transphobic, ablist peice of war porn, for me to see it I have to ask myself one question: can I justify embracing my heterosexual, cisgender, white, able privelage (I don't get any choice in suffering through misogyny through out the rest of the day, so it's not such a big deal, but still, the issue of paying to watch misogynistic fluff is galling as well) to watch it?
ArandhanaD says "no", inso far as she says there is no real man-on-man action (which would be historically accurate, as well as improve it infinitely), so waht would happen if I did pay to see it is that I'd get half way through it and then I'd get so pissed off by all those problems that I'd either have to walk out (thus wasting that money) or set the theater on fire, and possibly my freinds at the same time just to spite the Gods that are obviously trying to send me mad.
But of course, the reason why ren likes it has nothing to with all that racism, or misogyny or various other -phobias and -isms, here's why she says she likes it:
I loved “300” because you knew they were doomed, but they fought anyway. They fought hard and brutal and bloody and without thought or care or back up, without anyone telling them how or why they could, without remorse or sympathy because they believed in what they were fighting for. They fought because that is what they do. And it made them happy. It made them feel alive. Feeling alive is not always an easy thing to do, you know. Sometimes it’s more like being that body on a table than a Spartan…
Well why didn't you fucking well say so!
For those who aren't wu xia, and chop socky geeks as well as martial arts geeks - here's a little secret: All those themes that ren is attaching to in troy and 300 and other htings - Hong Kong, and specifically Jet Li, did that ages ago.
Here's a brief list, off the top of my head;
Last Hero in China - any of the jet li ones (all good)
The Barefoot Kid (not hugely rated, but I like it)
Chinese Ghost Story (1 more than 2, much more tragic and quality, but 2 is still fun)
The legend of Fong Sey Yuk (might be misspelling that) - the first one is excellent, the second tries for tragedy and fight set peices, but fails laregly in comparison to the first outing, the scene with the samurais and the princess onthe river is still awesome - also contains one of the comedic mainstays of the comedic wu xia flicks - the drag king potential romantic interest.
That's about 8 good movies, and that's just the good jet li ones I can remeber off the top of my head.
However, only two of them fit the standard that ren is looking for - The Barefoot Kid and Chinese Ghost Story 1, both end in tragedy, and largely consist of the protagonists fighting against odds they can't possibly win against - but they fight anyway because the alternative to fighting and losing, is to not bother fighting at all - and still losing.
That's one of the great Wu Xia cliches, and in fact is a major routine in all good hong kong action movies - hong kong action movies are the movies that are most likely to end with everyone of the main characters dying in a hideous blood bath against insurmountable odds.
Pedicab Driver (sammo hung) should also be likable, however a large aspect of the plot does put prostitutes (one of whom is the main romantic love interest in the peice for one of the main characters) in the role of defenceless acted upon victims - which is actually something of the hong kong variation on the infamous "girlfriend in the fridge syndrome" seen in western comics - prostitutes are generally acted upon or used as McGuffins to advance the plot towards the final fight scene.
However, despite using that cliche in a lot of hong kong action movies, in the wu xia genre there is something to balance it out like the feisty spunky female archetype of the film noir genre balanced much of the sexism:
The Female Kung Fu Protagonist.
They're pretty much unique to the Wu Xia genre (though they did segue into the mainstream hong kong action movies during that period when they were all modern wu xia flicks - which all contained bendy swords for some reason that has never been fully explained) because that's the only genre that really emphasises extremely pretty wire fu wushu set peices - and of course the original wu xia flicks were all adaptions of traditional opera peices (hence their tendency towards tragedy) so of course there was a source of women who had all the training in acrobatics and drama to handle being fully active members of cast - and the writers included them, basically because they could.
So what you've got in most of the wu xia flicks is at least one large set peice fight where these women really just show off - fong sey yuk is something of a mockery of those, because the main character is taught kung fu by his mother - and she really mothers him and is included in most of the fights (and if played by an exceptional actress who's names, I'm ashamed to say, I've forgotten.
But I mentioned the modern wu xia flicks, and what I'm thinking of is things like Heroic Trio or Naked Killer - those films will undoubtably cause radfems to explode (heavy T&A in both) but both of them center around strong female leads.
Of course, while I'm talking about hong kong action movies, I've gotta point out that Tarantino's style over substance rip off of City On Fire is vastly inferior to City On Fire itself, more pathos, and a better plot despite tarantino stealing the plot of City on Fire and making no real addition or subtractions.
As I've mentioned before however, this is all the stuff I can remember off the top of my head from back when I was an anime fangirl - if you delve and are prepared to suffer through the occasional clanger (sturgeons laws: 99% of everything is crap) you'll find stuff that is tragic, and inspiring and heartfelt and just plain Pretty - and you don't even have to piss around putting up with this badly done war propaganda that rapes history and then calls it a slut for complaining.
And now a funny garfield comic for maximum justice:
Some smart ass discovered that if you remove garfields' dialogue from teh strip, it suddently becomes hilarious.
I can't wait to do this to Day by Day and Filmore to see if it can improve them too.