Zack Snyder's recent film, 300, is indisputably one of the most visually-stunning, historically inaccurate action movies of all time. What does seem to be in dispute is the prevalence of thinly-veiled modern political undertones. While many are eager to dismiss such allegations as hypersensitive liberal wrangling, upon closer examination they do carry a disturbing degree of merit.
The first sign of the film's political bent came to me in the form of a single statement that jarred me from my eye-candy-induced hypnosis. Hoping to garner support in the Senate to deploy more troops to combat the Persian invaders, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) uttered the glaringly political phrase, "Freedom isn't free at all. It comes at the highest cost. The cost of blood." I was stunned. While the line is not incongruous, contextually, the use of such a contemporary, politically-charged maxim speaks volumes about the film's political tint.
Once awake to the conservative pseudo-politics underpinning the film, I finally began to observe the glaring similarities between 300 and the modern sociopolitical climate. Considering the film's release on the heels of President Bush's recent plan to send more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, the similarities become still more blatant. The central narrative of 300, in essence, chronicles the effort by an enlightened few to garner adequate support for committing Sparta fully to the war against the Persians. The Spartan Senate, in its reluctance to commit more resources and soldiers to the cause, is painted as weak and unpatriotic. This is especially notable in the scene in which Queen Gorgo speaks before the Senate. In a rousing stand as the lone voice of reason before the misguided majority, she begs them to "send the army for freedom. Send it for justice."
Considering that the Spartan society relied upon slaves to perform most of its manual labor, and mandated active military service for men until the age of 30 and reserve status until 60, it is doubtful that values such as "freedom" and "liberty" would be bandied about with such zest.
It has already been widely established that 300 isn't historically accurate; it doesn't claim to be. However, when the film's rhetoric so obviously defies reality, it becomes apparent that it is included for ulterior motives. Aside from being ham-fisted, the use of such grand, sweeping (and inherently meaningless) terms again hearkens back the modern Persian conflict, jarring the alert viewer out of the film's narrative and into the realm of pro-war dogmatism. Here, dissenting politics are portrayed as ignominious, a web of red tape, contrasting with the king and queen's patriotic cowboy politics and the will to "git-'r-done," regardless of the cost.
The scene in which King Leonidas sends out with his 300 soldiers summarizes the film's modern pro-war agenda. In the scene, several members of the Senate, including the corrupt Senator Theron (Dominic West), walk out to confront the king. Realizing that he intends to disregard the authority of the Senate, they ask "What should we do?" Theron seconds the query, ironically asking Leonidas, "What can we do?" Leonidas sardonically replies, in a line that evoked laughs at all three of my viewings, "What can you do?"
In the film, such a flippant disregard for the voice of the majority may be funny, even noble. However, in a modern setting, this scene is all too familiar as our own administration continually escalates America's commitment in the war in Iraq, while the majority of American citizens are simply left to wonder, "What can we do?"