March 18th, 2007

obscure mythologies (photograph)

In which I disagree with previous LJ reviewers

kadyg and I saw the movie "300" today, after seeing several people raving about its awesomeness on our friends lists. Can't speak for Kady, but I sat through the movie and ... meh. It did nothing for me. And after a little more reflection, I simply can't recommend it to anyone.

I saw Sin City and liked it, so it's not just a Frank Miller thing -- it was this movie specifically. (Granted, there are legitimate reasons to dislike the Frank Miller style; I'm just not going to cover them here.) Three main factors, in order of increasing importance, made 300 a more painful experience than I'd have liked:

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3. Painfully Republican.

300 is not a subtle movie.

The very first thing Kady and I agreed on as we left the theater was that it was painfully heavy-handed. And the lessons it tries to draw are at once simplistic, convenient, and very dangerous.

Leonidas' 300 -- and more broadly, his city-state of Sparta -- are repeatedly shown as the sole beacon of freedom, justice, and the Greek way in a world of invading Persian faggots (see #2) and their liberal Athenian surrender-monkey allies. The Persians are an existential threat to all of Greece, but weak-willed politicians and a decadent populace are too blind to see it (especially after being infiltrated by a fifth column of false prophets and bought-and-sold governmental traitors). The Greek politicians initially united against Xerxes (remember the reference to those boy-loving Athenians telling him to sod off?) but have now sold out and would rather throw meaningless festivals and be bribed by bad guys than defend the homeland.

Any of this sound familiar?

It should. It really should. This movie is the argument, in a nutshell, that Bush loyalists have been jumping up and down and screaming at the top of their lungs since 9/11, and are still sticking to in the face of the Iraq war's disintegration. It's Ann Coulter and Michael Savage's shrill denunciations of all liberals as traitors and fifth columnists. It's right-wing blogs' insistence that Islamic terrorism is a threat to the very foundations of civilization and neocons are the only ones with enough clarity to do what must be done. It's culture warriors' denunciations of Teh Gay (see #2) and promotion of an idealized hypermasculinity and strict warrior culture.

Like those blowhards, the movie also suffers from a promotion of rhetoric over reality. On numerous occasions, Leonidas and/or other Sparta mouthpieces repeatedly promote how they stand for freedom, etc. However, look at what the movie (and the history) shows and it's a different story. Sparta is (correctly) shown as a harsh, totalitarian culture, where insufficiently strong children were killed and military strength was emphasized. And contrary to the movie's mythologizing about freedom, ancient Sparta was actually a slave society (those who weren't descended from Spartan blood were called "helots" and were officially serfs belonging to the state).*

In the movie, the only actual instance of Sparta defending freedom of any sort was their stand against the invading Persians. And even there, in reality, the Spartans were hardly alone -- they were certainly the heroes of Thermopylae, but not as the clear-eyed sole defenders of liberty the movie (and graphic novel) paints. The entire scene with the stupid council ignoring the Persian threat was, shall we say, entirely made up. So the movie got progressively more painful every time the rhetoric blasted in.

Look, I'm not the sort of guy who injects politics or ivory-tower lit-crit into everything. (For instance, I'm on record as saying that reading racism into Tolkien is absurd.) But "300" is such a huge, blunt talking-points instrument that it's in a category of its own.

This movie was a barrage of violence between ultramanly good-guy soldiers and demonized Middle Easterners intermixed with heavy-handed right-wing talking points. I've gotten enough of that from the news in the last several years. No, thank you -- won't be seeing this one again.

* To Sparta's credit, they had attitudes toward women that were incredibly enlightened for the time. Wikipedia's notes on Spartan women and adultery are an interesting counterpoint to the movie's treatment of the queen.
pacific torus vedic echoes

Quote (and links) of the day: The power of nukes

The fireball ... was seen 1,000 km [620 miles] away. The heat could have caused third degree burns at a distance of 100 km [62 miles]. ... The explosion could be seen and felt in Finland, even breaking windows there. ... The seismic shock created by the detonation was measurable even on its third passage around the earth.

The average power produced during the entire fission-fusion process, lasting around 39 nanoseconds, was ... equivalent to approximately 1% of the power output of the Sun.

-- Wikipedia article on the Tsar Bomba 50-megaton nuclear test, the largest manmade explosion in history


Got sidetracked from a Google search on instestinal bleeding (sigh ... yes, still dealing with some symptoms; not sure what I'll do if it starts getting worse again) by running into a fascinating page on how real and science-fiction astronauts have to deal with radiation. A fascinating read, from radiation effects to shielding mechanics to ship design.

Also did a little surfing around from there to discover that, billions of years ago, conditions were right for at least one of Earth's underground uranium deposits to turn into a natural fission reactor. (Don't worry; it can't happen today because natural decay has reduced uranium deposits' potency.)

Plus the aforementioned article on Tsar Bomba. That one bomb, alone, was equivalent to about 3,000 Hiroshimas. And each of those Hiroshimas is itself equivalent to 10,000 of the truck bombs used in the Oklahoma City bombing.

That we survived the dawn of the nuclear age is a testament to ... something. Given the known incidents that almost sparked off an Earth-sterilizing missile exchange, probably just pure dumb luck.
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