She didn’t like it.

If 300, the new battle epic based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynne Varley, had been made in Germany in the mid-1930s, it would be studied today alongside The Eternal Jew as a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war…

Here are just a few of the categories that are not-so-vaguely conflated with the “bad” (i.e., Persian) side in the movie: black people. Brown people. Disfigured people. Gay men (not gay in the buff, homoerotic Spartan fashion, but in the effeminate Persian style). Lesbians. Disfigured lesbians. Ten-foot-tall giants with filed teeth and lobster claws. Elephants and rhinos (filthy creatures both). The Persian commander, the god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) is a towering, bald club fag with facial piercings, kohl-rimmed eyes, and a disturbing predilection for making people kneel before him…

“This will not be over quickly,” the villain warns as he pins [Leonidas’s wife] against a temple pillar. “You will not enjoy this.” It might have been [director] Zack Snyder himself whispering in my ear, and he would have been right.

In a classic example of the epic understatement known as litotes, Variety’s reviewer observes that the picture’s vision of the West as a heroic contingent of sculpted badasses and the East as a cauldron perversion and iniquity “might be greeted with muted enthusiasm in the Middle East.” Replace the words “muted enthusiasm” with “a roadside bomb,” and you’ve got yourself a tagline for the Baghdad premiere.

The blockquote would have been longer except that fair use only allows me so much. I had to leave out the stuff about eugenics and fascist aesthetics, the griping about how the movie doesn’t so much as feint in the direction of anti-war sentiment (in a story about Sparta?), and her heart-ache over the absence of any overt political message given how “depressingly familiar” it is that the Spartan king feels himself entitled to kill people at will.

Which I guess is her way of saying that if you see this and enjoy it, you might be a redneck.

I wasn’t going to go, but now that she’s turned it into a blue state/red state thing, I sort of feel obliged. Good work, Dana.

Update: The studio’s expecting big, big money tomorrow.

Update: Was Slate right? NRO’s Andrew Stuttaford:

Leonidas had, wrote Herodotus, “proved himself a very good man.” No more needed to be said. The Spartan’s deeds spoke for themselves. Compared with this, the bombast and bluster of the Miller version is simply tacky, a transformation of history not into myth, but kitsch…

No less damaging, despite the occasional striking image, “300” is as aesthetically clumsy as it is technologically sophisticated. For the most part its visual style is an unhappy mix of Leni Riefenstahl and Iron Maiden, a ridiculous combination better imagined than seen…

Perhaps even more revealing is the way that, like the graphic novel, the movie fails to address the central paradox of Thermopylae: the fact that freedom’s most effective defenders cared so little for individual liberty themselves.

Tags: Middle East