The movie 300 has finally arrived in Morris, and I saw it last evening. I’d heard a lot about this film, in particular that it was loaded with relationships to current events—the war in Iraq, in particular, with arguments for it being pro-war, anti-war, a jingoistic propaganda film, etc. The arguments are all wrong. I could tell exactly what this movie’s hidden meaning was: it’s a retelling of the creation-evolution struggle! “But of course!” you’re all saying to yourselves, “It’s so obvious, now that you mention it!”
Look at the beginning. It’s all about how the Spartans are the products of intense selection; the weak are culled from birth through adulthood, resulting in a collection of perfect physical specimens … exactly like all evolutionists. Unlike the real world, where our modesty compels us to conceal our awesome physiques beneath our lab coats, in the movie the Spartan products of evolution proudly expose their muscular pectorals, washboard abs, and snugly cupped packages. The Spartan women are also fierce and beautiful, like all evolutionist women. If everyone only accepted evolution, they too could look so ruggedly handsome (←note clever ‘framing’, in which I appeal to layperson’s machismo and vanity).
Speaking of pectorals, there were also many shots of bulging chests and masculine nipples; clearly a nod to developmental constraints in evolution and the discipline of evo-devo. I appreciated Frank Miller’s acknowledgment of the field.
The manly beards of the heros also reflected the historical significance of the bearded scientist. Leonidas’s beard reminded me of that of Thomas Hunt Morgan, the great geneticist, who (little known fact) was also a burly brawler with a loud Scottish bellow, yet simultaneously well known for his gentleness with mutants. TH Morgan would also have allowed Ephialtes to live, and would have encouraged him to breed, exactly as Leonidas did.
The Spartan’s opponents were a slavish, poorly disciplined mob trying to defend themselves with shields of straw, and who followed a mad god. Need I say what side of the creation/evolution wars they represent? Their army also contained monsters and grotesques which were symbolic of the unrealistic, impossible logic of creationism … and the monsters were easily dispatched with the sharp blades of the Spartans. Charging imaginary creationist war rhinos are stopped dead with a single precise jab from the warriors of Reason. Xerxes himself reminded me of the flashy degenerates of the evangelical movement, portraying themselves as godlike while indulging themselves in perversions in their tents. The fondness for whips clearly marks him as a model of James Dobson.
Even the schisms within the evolution side were accurately portrayed. At the beginning, the heroic Leonidas has an audience with the inbred, grossly deformed Greek ephors who tend to the oracle. Leonidas says that reason demands that they mobilize the Spartan army; the ephors say they must wait for the sacred holidays to end, and that the gods must be obeyed. Oh, yeah: it’s the outnumbered atheist, frustrated by the theistic evolutionists. And of course they march to oppose a god, setting an example for the appeasers who stayed out of the battle.
The battle scenes were exactly how I imagine my arguments with creationists going: limbs are lopped, vitals pierced, foreskins snipped, blood fountains over the landscape, and the horde keeps coming, keeps being shattered and riven, and keeps falling. Admit it, people—when you were watching the gore fly, weren’t you thinking, “Hmmm…that reminds me of a Pharyngula comment thread…”?
I confess, though, that I’m a little disturbed by the ending. (Spoiler alert: everyone dies! That can’t be right. I’m sure that in the real world, the godless evolutionists are going to walk all over the ravening creationist horde. Right? Right? The movie would have been vastly improved if Leonidas and his band had marched out and conquered the whole world, preferably before breakfast.
Still, even when the 300 uncompromising, militant warriors fall, they inspire 10,000 more to rise up and crush the god-followers at Plataea, so maybe I’ll accept it as a happy ending.
(I hear the local theater may be getting Grindhouse soon. I’ll be sure to explain the atheistical/evolutionary significance of that to you when I see it, too. I would have explained the godless ferocity of other recent movies I’ve seen at the Morris theater, like Finding Nemo and March of the Penguins and The Departed, if they hadn’t been so bloody obvious. 300 is a subtle movie that requires delicate analysis to expose the full meaning.)