300: A Rousing Hymn to Fascism

I can’t count how many times words like “freedom” and “liberty” and “reason” are used in the film 300. It sounds like a neoconservative pep rally at times, and presents the conflict between Sparta and Persia as one between free men and slaves, between reason and superstition, and so on.

These things are of course absurd. One reason the Spartans were such famous warriors and soldiers was because they had to be – in order to subjugate the 90% of their population who were slaves. They committed infanticide with a coldness that is beyond anything we can probably comprehend. They bred and trained themselves to be killing machines.

Rather, an empire of slave-masters went to war against a city-state of slave-masters…who turned out to be a hell of a lot tougher.

The rhetoric of the film would be absurd, but it is rather disturbing, because it is so familliar. Our own leaders talk about “freedom” as they erode ours. They talk about liberty but think that cluster bombs are the way to liberate. They talk about justice while they flee from it themselves, admitting no mistakes, acknowledging none of their crimes. They talk about peace while they wage war based on lies and misrepresentation. They talk about the need to fight evildoers while they do evil.

Words like freedom, liberty, justice, are empty right now in our public discourse. Put your dictionaries away – the are useless in the current climate. They are perhaps marginally less empty than they are in the film 300, but I couldn’t get the comparison out of my head as I watched the movie. I feel like misusing these words has become frighteningly commonplace, and I can’t help but wonder what will happen next.

6 thoughts on “300: A Rousing Hymn to Fascism

  1. I don’t know why I’m always suggesting books on your site…but, here I go again…. Have you read Whose Freedom? by George Lakoff? I think it was the most influential book I read last year.


  2. Doug,Watching the film, I felt the same way. Well, actually, watching the film, I felt pulse-pounding adrenaline and admiration for the visual artistry of the film-makers, but immediately AFTER I was done watching the film, I felt as though I had just taken a bath in a sewer.


  3. A few excerots rom a review by Marc Bernardin.“Those who camt to director Zack Snyder’s brutal adaptation of Frank Millers graphic novel (read comic book) expecting a rigorously historical look at the battle of Thermopylea were expecting the wrong thing.” “While the story of Leonidis and his brave 300 is rooted in fact, this retelling is pure myth, the very inkwell of legend poured onto the screen.”“it is a tale told from one Spartan to another, designed to inspire awe and stoke the warrior spirit. As such, everything about it is hightened.” Lets not take this too seruiously. This movie is at best escapist entertainment or “action-porn” at worst it is propoganda. Either way I think you are giving it too much credit.Interesting movie for a bunch of pacifists to be watching.


  4. One reason that I wrote about this movie, actually, is because its language is so similar to our own as we march ourselves all over the world murdering poor people in the name of freedom. And the story we’re telling ourselves to justify the things we’re doing are just as absurd as this story, compared to what is actually the case. The problem is, we think our story is so clearly true that we will spend our sons and daughters to kill other sons and daughters.


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