Defending 300

This was originally posted on Skeptigirl:

I’m going to talk about the movie 300 (don’t read if you don’t want spoilers – you’ve been warned). I hear a lot of criticisms of this movie along the lines of:

* it’s unrealistic
* it’s “socially irresponsible”
* it’s like a commercial for steroids

Many people take issue with details like the hugeness of Xerxes, the amount of Persian troops, the toughness and ab-ness of the Spartans, and the bloody barbarianism that’s depicted throughout the story.

I have the following response that solves all of these problems. Ok get ready everyone. I want all the critics who say these things to pay attention to this one little, but very important detail:

The movie is from the perspective of a Spartan telling a war story. Gasp!

Leonitis, and this is sort of the crux of the whole movie, sends one of his men (Dilios) back to Sparta to tell the tale of their battle. We don’t find out until the end, but he has been narrating the whole movie and that is why. Because he’s telling the epic tale of their battle.

So yes, of course the movie is totally unrealistic, but if you were telling tales of a great battle for posterity (and to convince your government to go to war) wouldn’t you want the enemy to look as ridiculously grandiose as possible? It’s a much better story for 300 people to have beaten thousands of the best fighters Persia has to offer than to be like: “Yeah, they sent in like 500 guys because they didn’t take us seriously and then we beat them, but then they brought out the archers and everyone died”. It makes the Persians ultimately look weak if only 300 guys can beat the best Persia has and the Persians have to ultimately “cheat” (with help from the “monster”) and waste a lot of resources (arrows) to defeat them.

Think of an old guy telling a fishing story and describing the size of the fish – similar principle. Make the story sound as awesome as possible so the protagonists come off as the biggest heroes possible. And in the case of convincing the government to do something, make the enemy sound as formidable but as ultimately defeatable as possible. Ooh ooh! Better example – Iraq. The terrorists are horrible, blew up WTC, but we’ll get them if we just become scary evangelicals? Familiar? There you go.

Also, hello, there are frigging mythical creatures in the movie. Obviously there is some artistic license going on from the storyteller (Dilios) to make the story more interesting.

So fault the movie’s dialogue, fault the effects, fault it for being sepia-toned, I dunno, but don’t fault it for plot points that are explained by the context of the story.

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