Alpine Summit

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"300" and Homo Erotica

Victor Hanson FINALLY posted his thoughts on "300." Being a professor of ancient Greek history, I knew it was only a matter of time. This seems to coincide with a gay man's review of "Blades of Glory" who makes some, what I think, simplistic conclusions about "300" in the process.

Dave White concentrates on how homoerotic themes have leaked into popular culture and have ceased to be a 'big thing' among people. He cites people's acceptance of staring at half-naked men for 2 hours in "300" as evidence of this. As it turns out, the director might have just done his homework and showcased the male form for a reason. Says Hanson:

The warriors of "300" look like comic-book heroes because they are based on Frank Miller's drawings that emphasized bare torsos, futuristic swords and staged fight scenes. In other words, director Zack Snyder tells the story not in a realistic fashion — like the mostly failed attempts to recapture the ancient world in recent films such as "Troy" or "Alexander" — but in the surreal manner of a comic book or video game.

The Greeks themselves often embraced such impressionistic adaptation. Ancient vase painters sometimes did not portray soldiers accurately in their bulky armor. Instead, they used "heroic nudity" to show the contours of the human body.

I wouldn't dare give the average movie goer credit to appreciate the artistic value of a 21st century director mimicking the artistic style of ancient Greeks. But perhaps his approach was such that the appreciation for the fleshy showcase invoked in people (particularly men) a sense of awe in the same way the statue of David does. It isn't so much about having homosexual feelings or inclinations, as it is admiration for the masculine form. Whether people admit this or even realize it for themselves is irrelevant. It's enough to just say that seeing a Persian slam into Leonidas like slamming into a brick wall is "cool."

Continuing on, both Hanson and White comment on the king who's a queen rendition of Xerxes.


Here are some answers. But first two qualifiers. I wrote an introduction to a book about the making of "300" after being shown a rough cut of the movie in October. And, second, remember that "300" does not claim to follow exactly ancient accounts of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Instead, it is an impressionistic take on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, intended to entertain and shock first, and instruct second.

Indeed, at the real battle, there weren't rhinoceroses or elephants in the Persian army. Their king, Xerxes, was bearded and sat on a throne high above the battle; he wasn't, as in the movie, bald and sexually ambiguous, and he didn't prance around the killing field. And neither the traitor Ephialtes nor the Spartan overseers, the Ephors, were grotesquely deformed.


“And what was up with that Persian king with all the eye-shadow? How (F-wordy) was he?”

My response: “About as (F-wordy) as you are right now, you ‘300’-loving Scissor Sisters fan.”

As Hanson says, this is a rendition to entertain. Showing some pudgy bearded fellow sitting in a chair isn't as visually appealing as a 10 foot tall man riding around on a giant pyramidal throne.

What I think is great about "300" isn't just the plot which certainly has a bit too much of a "yay us" theme, but is also a visually engrossing film making you want to see the next scene not just for the story but also for the cinematography. In my opinion, that makes the film wholly well done.

White goes on to say how homosexuals would have discussed "300" in terms of homo erotica and homosexuality.

It has been my experience that people tend to perceive events in relation to key issues. For example, a church pastor may measure events in the world in relation to the book of revelation because they want the end of this world and the beginning of the next. Sometimes this method of perception causes a person to miss the larger point trying to be made. I believe this is what happened with White and his analysis of "300."

I cringe comparing White and Hanson as Hanson is obviously the stronger mind-- especially on this issue, but I think the two perspectives are interesting especially when homosexuals start trying to own "300" in an attempt to call the "homophobes" "hypocrites" for enjoying "300."

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