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22 March 2007 @ 12:11 am
by direct order from mishloran  

First, some blather about 300. Discussion in our Core Readings class today devolved into me defending the movie from a pure "fun" standpoint against the two other people who actually talk in class. 

The one who saw it (call her I Saw It or ISI) didn't like it for these reasons: 
     A) it wasn't historically accurate
     B) the Persian elite guard looked like samurai

(i will debunk these shortly)

The one who'd only seen the trailer (call her Didn't See It or DSI) isn't going to see it for these reasons:
     A) because that whole "Freedom" thing from the trailers bugged her (too modern, too excessive)
     B) once again it has the white people = good guys, brown people = bad guys.

First, it delights me to no end that I totally beat down ISI.  Hard.  Let's take her first point - did the movie EVER pretend to historical accuracy?  Hell NO.  Why would one even think that it does?  It's based not on a historical event, but on Frank Miller's graphic novel romanticizing a moment in history.  Did people get pissed that Frank had taken liberties with the truth?  Did they believe that Frank was going to pervert the minds of the world with his illustrations? 

Ok, maybe some did.  But I like to think that people with brains are not going to run around believing that the Persian king was a sexy giant, that Spartans ran around only in reinforced speedos, and that rhinoceri were used in every major battle. 

Here's the other thing - the measured evidence, so to speak - at no time does the film act like a historical recreation.  The visual texture and tone of the entire film has been touched, smoothed, brightened, softened, and digitally altered.  All of the backgrounds were digitally created, all of the sunlight is artificially placed, heck, even the wheat fields move at an artificial pace. This movie constantly reminds you, visually, that is a constructed and idealized vision.  Finally, the narration is eventually revealed as a fireside story - the valorized myth told to warriors the night before their battle.  How, precisely, does that kind of oral story telling ever indicate the "truth" or historical accuracy? 

And as far as the Persian elite guard looking like samurai - can I just say she's wrong?  Yes, I think I can.  Samurai look like this:

NOT like this:

As far as DSI goes, she was far more rational, and once I'd explained it's a fantasy she was willing to concede the whole freedom thing - she didn't like it, but hey, we're dealing with people's fantasies of the Greek city states.  And as far as the white/brown thing - well, she's kind of got me dead to rights there.  It did suck.  They were, however, drawn that way. 
xanzpet on March 22nd, 2007 02:16 am (UTC)
*applause* I've been hearing ISI's argument ad nauseum ever since the buzz for this movie began over a year ago. You'd have to be a fucking moron to think a movie with this much money behind it would be historically accurate. You want accuracy, watch the History Channel. Why don't more people do that? Because it's boring.

Now, as a trained Classicist, I can somewhat appreciate her rather foolish insistence on preserving the historicity of the battle. The bottom line is that very little is known about Sparta from actual Spartans. Not to mention, most the primary sources regarding the battle are suspect because they were written by Greeks who most definitely had an agenda. In other words, there's so much we just don't know. So, she really needs to just STFU and get over it because this is a movie and nothing more.

I freely admit I bitched about Troy because it was so grossly inaccurate from the Iliad as to be laughable. But there's a difference: the Iliad is a book (in public domain, no less!), thus providing the screenwriters no impediment to producing a faithful adaptation. They chose not to, and the film suffered for their stupidity by being stupid in it's own right. I mean, Achilles was 19; he wasn't 40 (sorry, Mr. Pitt). And Orlando Bloom? LMFAO. He's kind of pretty, but casting him as Paris would be like casting Paris Hilton as Helen of Troy.

And I've just realized that I've gone off on of my frequent tangents, for which I will apologize and shut up now. ;D
Muriellemurielle on March 22nd, 2007 02:26 am (UTC)
"He's kind of pretty, but casting him as Paris would be like casting Paris Hilton as Helen of Troy."

And I thought ... Don't give them ideas! LOL!
xanzpet on March 22nd, 2007 02:29 am (UTC)

Well, there was that rumor going around a little over a year ago which was that Paris Hilton was to be cast as Mother Theresa in biopic by an Indian filmmaker. Thank Jebus nothing came of it. Can you imagine? Paris Hilton as Mother Theresa would be akin to fucking for chastity. O_o
my monkied brain: glory - evil incarnatekatekat1010 on March 22nd, 2007 03:07 am (UTC)

where's the brain bleach when you need it????
xanzpet on March 22nd, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC)
If you find it, let me know. It's been haunting me for years.
Rainne: Alice - We're All Mad Herexdawnfirex on March 22nd, 2007 01:30 pm (UTC)
OMG I heard that rumor. Talk about organize a boycott...
xanzpet on March 22nd, 2007 10:16 pm (UTC)
::nods:: Another reason to boycott Paris Hilton. I've been keeping a tab, and it's now several volumes.
BJ: Gasp!dara_starscream on March 22nd, 2007 10:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you for not contributing to my mental health.
xanzpet on March 22nd, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC)
Why should I be the only one in pain? ;D
Muriellemurielle on March 25th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
That's really scary. LOL!
my monkied brain: willow - grrkatekat1010 on March 22nd, 2007 03:06 am (UTC)
Thank you! It makes me glad to know that I'm not the only one who *gets* the fact that the thing is NOT attempting historical accuracy - in fact, they might even laugh at people who try to suggest it!

Question for you, oh Classicist one, do you have trouble being analytical when you're watching movies that are about the time period, even when they're clearly for entertainment and not for accuracy? Because I go back and forth - sometimes I'm able to set aside my inner critic, and sometimes that's *all* I can hear. Generally I tend to evaluate movies that can silence my analytical side as effective ... whereas if I'm sitting there going "oh my god, that's so ... (racist, sexist, marxist, whatever ist)" i tend to think they didn't do their job as storytellers. But that's just me.

As far as the historical accuracy of the battle scenes go - yep, i completely agree with you that: she really needs to just STFU and get over it because this is a movie and nothing more.!

Troy totally grossed me out from the moment buzz went up about the thing - I didn't actually see it until it came out on the movie channels a little while ago and I was so BORED i couldn't manage to keep it on for half an hour. Rant all you want dear one - I happen to agree with you about everything.
xanzpet on March 22nd, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)
Question for you, oh Classicist one, do you have trouble being analytical when you're watching movies that are about the time period, even when they're clearly for entertainment and not for accuracy? Because I go back and forth - sometimes I'm able to set aside my inner critic, and sometimes that's *all* I can hear. Generally I tend to evaluate movies that can silence my analytical side as effective ... whereas if I'm sitting there going "oh my god, that's so ... (racist, sexist, marxist, whatever ist)" i tend to think they didn't do their job as storytellers. But that's just me.

No, that's not just you; it's me too. I do have trouble with such movies. Either I'm over-analytical (which sometimes translates to overcritical) or I become so enraptured that it's ridiculous. I think it all comes down to how well the studio did in producing the movie. Bad movies (i.e. Troy) make my teeth ache, because they're trying for a level of literary of which they fall so far short it's insulting. However, something like The 300 which any SANE person knows going in is not based solely in history, then I'm able to lose myself in the action/adventure/RuPaul guy (OMG, he SO looked like RuPaul!).
Arielkikucutie on March 22nd, 2007 02:43 am (UTC)
I disliked the movie for different reasons (although that ISI girl had it sorta geographically right with the samurai comment - she should actually be thinking about the demonic male Noh masks, not samurai), mainly that the writing was genuinely awful (which, as I understand, most of it was actually taken directly from the "comic"), the characters were static, and also, probably most importantly to me, was the fact that I'd seen it all before. I've never been one of those people who've complained about how trailers spoil the movie. I rather like trailers, but in the case of 300, the only cool things about the movie to me were things they showed in the trailer. The other stuff I'd already seen done better in The Two Towers, The Return of the King (I shall not enumerate the obvious comparisons for you), and the 2nd and 3rd Prince of Persia videogames (seriously, you need to see them, because the resemblance is uncanny). The 1st game in the series was awesome, but because it didn't sell well enough, they made the second one EXTREME!!!!! to appeal to 12 year old boys, basically. They made the violence stylistically over-the-top, the game's time-manipulation mechanic meant that time would speed up a slow down during battle (sound familiar?), and it even had awful, jarring rock music when certain EXTREME!!!!! moments were happening in the game.

If you want a good laugh, here's A.O. Scott's take on 300. And I find it a little disturbing that you would refer to the RuPaul look-alike King Xerxes as "sexy." That was one of those things about the movie that kinda made me want to laugh. On second thought, I think it did actually make me laugh, along with that David Wenham line about his eye. I'm glad you liked it though, because 300 is a movie I would have liked to like. In the meantime, I will maintain that 300 is AWESOME like Snakes on a Plane was AWESOME (which it was). And thanks. You're post got my mind off of job-related stress. I'll tell you about it later. Now I can get some sleep....
my monkied brain: _anita - snarkkatekat1010 on March 22nd, 2007 03:14 am (UTC)
ISI girl is an Asian Studies major - if she'd meant Noh masks she totally should've said Noh masks. (That was a slam against her, btw, not against you or anything)

I guess I didn't have the "ive seen it all before" problem because I'd read the comic before, so I'd seen everything except for the storyline about the wife back home. But I thought they actually did a pretty good job of incorporating other things that I liked just as much that didn't occur in the trailers.

Now, as far as not having done it better than LOTR, I think we're gonna have to agree to disagree on that one. Not that LOTR isn't great, cuz it is, but I actually think the processed nature of the *entire* film made the totally CGI moments really blend in - in ways that even LOTR didn't.

And you know i'm disturbing, right? Cuz I did think the guy was hot. But Ru Paul? I dunno where you're getting that. He was effeminate, sure, but that was part of the hot.

Though I like your whole 300 = Snakes on a Plane (even if I haven't seen SoaP yet). Glad you found some way to enjoy it!
literate and stylish: what JC didmishloran on March 22nd, 2007 08:01 am (UTC)
re: historical accuracy - I thought they were pretty fine as far as this was concerned! They could have done A LOT worse and I was, if not impressed then at least I grinned a few times 'cause of it. They'd obviously paid a lot of attention to 5th C Athens and borrowed from them (the council of elders or whatever, the billow-y robe effect was *very* Death of Socrates, vague sort of democracy thing going on, when Sparta was Yey Tyranny, well, you know what I mean!) but it all flowed quite nicely and I liked the general FEEL of the film was quite Spartan, I think? With a bit of Gladiator thrown in for good measure - that film has a lot of answer for, large fields of wheat being a particular WTF, STOP IT of mine. But the shields and the phalanxes I enjoyed, the fighting style, the general ha ha haa we are Spartans We Fuckin' Rule, Stupid Any-Other-Greek-Nation type thing. (I haven't figured out whether black cross fighty guys were supposed to be Athenians or not, but I kinda guessed from the what's-your-profession-uh-pot-painter type scene?) Yes, maybe the armour, or lack thereof was a bit wonky (but how much armour did they actually wear? I don't think it was as sophisticated as the Roman army, for eg.), the scenery was surrealesque, but COMIC BOOK AWESOMENESS and there were LOTR-esque monsters, but I think that's generally in keeping with the mythologising of ancient times, and also of Sparta in general. No-one knows all that much about Sparta, what we have is from the Athenians etc...

I really like how the surreality lends the film an edge, and how it's not trying to be historically accurate, whilst maintaining some ties to reality. I like to think of it as continuing a tradition of mythologising the past which begun even further in the past than Homer's time. Stories change and evolve (through new media, such as comic book->film?) and as they do some of the original is de-emphasised (there's probably a word for that) and some is changed or emphasised in order for the focus to be changed. It's what's happened since mankind started telling stories and transmitting them orally, why should this tradition have stopped for canon, or for historical accuracy?

Also, just on a "hmm" note, yeah, bad guys = Foreign and good guys = White etc, but for the Greeks, certainly what we have from the Athenians? This is how they viewed the world. Just look at the Parthenon's decoration - it is a monument to Greek, Athenian, Male superiority over anything else: barbarism. For the Greeks, this was what WASN'T them. So yeah, if you wanna portray that on film, use a different race etc (it's not like Bond Villains haven't had funny accents before, or that American film's bad guys haven't been British in the past... etc). The additions that were made eg. elephants, Fighting Rhinos, Blob Guy With Saws For Arms etc pretty much show that this? Is not reality. Which removes the caution that this subject might be treated by, I suppose?

... I think that's all I have to say? Your post both amused and pleased me. Good Kate!!!!!! x
so_sharlemaine on March 22nd, 2007 09:41 am (UTC)
I can't even begin to tell you how annoyed I am with people jumping on the "300 is offensive" bandwagon. James went on a 30 minute rant about it while I just sat and nodded. He's so cute when he gets riled up :-)

Everything is offensive to someone, somewhere. Things offend me every day. Doesn't mean I get to ban them.
my monkied brain: x/c - *snuggle*katekat1010 on March 27th, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC)
Exactly! Although at least you got cute James time in there somewhere - that's got to be a plus.

*sigh* mountains out of molehills, i tell you.
beraht: Léon fdberaht on March 22nd, 2007 09:59 am (UTC)
People are complaining about the historical accuracy of a movie that has rhinoceros tanks, dudes with saws for hands, and demons in monkey masks? Who in their right mind would ever think this movie is trying to be the least bit accurate?

And, having seen the movie, I agree with DSI about the freedom subplot and ISI about the similarity of the Immortals to Samurai. The former was annoying and the latter, while not accurate, was still highly reminiscent.

Also, Xerxes? Ew. Dilios.
my monkied brain: giles - *indeed*katekat1010 on March 27th, 2007 09:13 pm (UTC)
Hey, we're all allowed to have our own preferences for what's cute, right? I can drool at who I want to! *grin*

that being said, i agree WHOLE HEARTEDLY with your first paragraph!!! What also bugged me (although i have refrained from commenting) was the people on my flist who then commented on the historical accuracy (giving the movie a 2 out of 10)... and i wanted to go yell at them WHY??????? but i refrained.
Professor Fancypants von Deth, Esqdwg on March 22nd, 2007 11:31 am (UTC)
Hee! I love reading about 300 debates, because it looks like that everyone has an opinion on the movie. Y'know, other than SHINY SHINY MAN PORN. *licks Gerard Butler's abs*

I kinda hope Frank Miller's just sitting back, smiling to himself about the controversy that all this is kicking up. Personally, I just think it's a hallmark of a good writer if you can create something that A) stirs up people this much and B) manages to be relevant to the events of the day despite the thing being written X many years ago. The amount of headdesking that I've had reading anti-recs for the movie from people saying, OMFG THIS IS A PRO-IRAQ PROPAGANDA MOVIE! makes me want to stab things.

I know enough of my classics to probably get annoyed about historical accuracy, but I'm willing to swallow that because dude, I am not going to be paying good money to watch a documentary on Spartan life, or some kind of biopic on Xerxes and Leonidas. Hell, if I can find it in my soul to enjoy Troy for all the sweaty man-flesh rather than what it did to my beloved Odyssey, I think I can suspend belief for this thing. My major prayer is, "omg please don't fuck this up like they did with Alexander."
my monkied brainkatekat1010 on March 27th, 2007 09:42 pm (UTC)
let's hear it for sweaty man flesh!! and the awesome cruch sounds that occur when they chop people's heads off. Because, i tell you, that's what i was there for - pretty men and pretty violence. And boy was I satisfied about that!

I really feel bad for the people who are reading the whole Iraq war - also, cuz, um, wouldn't the Spartans than be the Iraqis?

have you seen it yet? cuz i can guarantee they absolutely DID not fuck it up like they did Alexander (and i totally watched Alexander and want those hours back)