Friday, March 16, 2007

Oy vay... The debate over 300...

::rolls eyes and sighs:: ... Evidently, the protesters haven't read my blog.

The following is reproduced in its entirety for the convenience of readers:

Iranian anger at Hollywood 'assault'
By Majid Joneidi
BBC News, Washington

The Iranian community in the US and Canada is very keen on e-petitions as a form of protest.

The latest issue to grip Iranian expatriates is the Hollywood blockbuster 300. According to the protesters, it projects an "irresponsible" and "distorted" image of ancient Persia.

The film, which has broken US box office records, is a special effects-laden depiction of a battle in which a small Spartan army resisted a Persian invasion.

It is based on Frank Miller's epic graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.

The film shows the Spartan king and his army of 300 - white, muscular soldiers - strongly resisting Xerxes and his savage Persian army of hundreds of thousands.

Loud opposition

The film has stirred controversy among Iranians across the world, but it is the expatriate community in North America that have been the loudest voice opposing an "assault on its culture and tradition".

Iranian bloggers started their campaign against the film a week ahead of its opening.

Bloggers have taken offence at the way in which the Persians have been depicted in the film and the way the battle of Thermopylae has been narrated.

Award winning Iranian blogger and journalist Omid Memarian has been among these voices. He is worried about what he sees as historical discrepancies in the film.

"Not only does it give the wrong outcomes to battles, it grossly misrepresents the Persians and their civilization.

"It is unfortunate that very few curriculums in the US cover world history and it is very easy to misdirect the general public on historical facts."

Mr Memarian is also concerned about the film's balance.

"Let's not forget that Cyrus the Great, Xerxes's grandfather, drafted the first declaration of human rights in 539 BC, freeing hundreds of thousands of Jews from Babylonian slavery."

Iranian officials have joined the angry protests and some are seeing it as part of a wider campaign against Iran.

Javad Shamaqdari, a cultural advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it was "plundering Iran's historic past and insulting this civilization".

He branded the film "psychological warfare" against Tehran and its people.

A daily Iranian newspaper, Ayandeh-No, recently carried the headline "Hollywood declares war on Iranians".

Image problems

Omid Memarian is not surprised at the reaction to the film due to what he calls "skewed media coverage on Iran and anti-Iranian rhetoric which has escalated in the US".

Warner Brothers, the film's producers, has been quick to explain that "the film [is] a work of fiction, loosely based on an historical event".

A statement by the company said: "The studio developed this film purely as a fictional work with the sole purpose of entertaining audiences; it is not meant to disparage an ethnicity or culture or make any sort of political statement."
Some bloggers and commentators have opposed the petition against 300 on the grounds that there are bigger battles to fight - such as opposing what is seen as the increasing threat of military action against Iran.

Salman Jariri, a Farsi blogger, published an open letter addressed to the protestors.

"The actions of leaders of third world countries has a more destructive effect on the westerners' perception of these countries than Hollywood productions," he said.


One Iranian blogger in Canada has an alternative to the petition.

Pendar Yousefi, who blogs from Toronto, is "Google-bombing" the film.

His "bomb" aims to divert internet traffic searching for 300 to a web site that introduces the various aspects of Iranian culture through art.

Mr Yousefi, who is upset with the way ancient Persians have been depicted in 300, has called on Iranian cartoonists and artists to send him work that will help educate people about the Persian empire.

A number of artists have obliged and some 600 Iranian blogs and websites have established permanent links to Mr Yousefi's site.

Story from BBC NEWS.

Published: 2007/03/16 11:08:55 GMT



I appreciate the view of Salman Jariri because he is exactly right. I can think of very few people (because there would unfortunately be a few) who would be likely to see "300" and take it as historical fact. The grotesque, faceless mass of Persians in 300 bothered me a bit too, but I realized that how the Persians were being depicted was not really the point of the film. They were shown that way, if in any conscious way, to highlight the overwhelming odds against the Greeks, and to highlight the cultural differences between the two, which, I don't think anyone would argue, were profound.

A few other points:

- Of course the image of the Persians presented in 300 is distorted. The movie is a stylized history... *everything* is distorted! ... Including the abs of the actors... which brings me to my second point...

- "The film shows the Spartan king and his army of 300 - white, muscular soldiers - strongly resisting Xerxes and his savage Persian army of hundreds of thousands." ... What do they have against white, muscular soldiers... They were pretty hot... But perhaps I've answered my own question. ::is being cheeky::

- How are the results of battles being distorted? The Spartans all died at Thermopylae, did they not? Archaeologists have even confirmed that final rain of arrows that was recorded by Herodotus, or so they say... And while the Greeks were not immediately successful in defeating the Persians, they did force Xerxes I to withdraw his army from the Peloponnese within a few months. And ultimately, the Greeks did succeed in throwing off the yoke of Persian oppression (because, let's be honest, the Persians were trying to absorb them into their great empire, which would be reasonably construed by the Greeks as an attempt at oppression by the Persians)... Of course, this was not only due to Greek valour, but also to internal problems in the Persian empire (corruption, over-taxing of resources, etc), which eventually led to its decay and relatively easy complete overthrow by Alexander +/- 150 years later. And a large part of the Greek resistance to the Persians was their perception that Persians were all treated as slaves by their kings, and that therefore, the Greeks, as citizens of what they considered a free and democratic society, even when they had kings, were superior to the Persians. This was why the Greeks so loathed the very idea of giving earth and water to Persian emissaries. They figured, why should they, as free men, submit to a king who treated his subject with so little respect? This was the ancient Greek perception, was it not? I thought that was reflected rather well in 300. Whether that was true or not from the Persian perspective is certainly up for debate. I'm not a scholar who focuses on the Persian side of things, except for their roll in the history and development of the Jewish religion and identity, and where Alexander is involved. I don't think anyone would deny the grandeur of the Persian state, but I would venture a guess that the security, freedom, rights, and standard of living for the *average* Greek citizen (that's *citizen* by their own definition - free-born male Greeks) was probably higher than that of the *average* citizen of the Persian empire (of course, I don't know this for sure, for the very reasons described just above, and I don't know if the Persians had a different standard of what constituted citizenship). I mean, just because Versailles was pretty is no reason to assume that French peasants weren't starving, if you take my meaning.

- Xerxes I was not his grandfather. Xerxes I was known for being a just as much of a nut, especially toward the Greeks, as his predecessor Cyrus the Great was know for his compassion and benevolence. To quote some evidence from wikipedia (I know, I know, not a reliable source, but still...): "When the body of Leonidas was recovered by the Persians, Xerxes I, in a rage at the loss of so many of his soldiers, ordered that the head be cut off and the body crucified. This was very uncommon for the Persians; they had the habit of treating enemies that fought bravely against them with great honor... However, Xerxes I was known for his rage, as when he had the Hellespont whipped because it would not obey him.[42]" See... Xerxes I was a nut! He also did murder his generals when they brought him news or gave him advise of which he didn't approve... This was actually a generally bad habit of several of the later Persian emperors, right on down to Darius III, from what I understand. Such tyrannical behavior was a weakness of the empire, and something that modern leaders should keep in mind (when I say this, I'm actually thinking of Bush, first and foremost, for firing people in his inner circle who disagree with him - tsk, tsk, tsk. But, of course, it can also be applied to several other national leaders of other countries...).

- As to these accusations: "Javad Shamaqdari, a cultural advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it was 'plundering Iran's historic past and insulting this civilization.'/He branded the film 'psychological warfare' against Tehran and its people./A daily Iranian newspaper, Ayandeh-No, recently carried the headline 'Hollywood declares war on Iranians.'" Not only do the Iranian people who are offended by this need to lighten the fuck up (to use the vernacular), but they need to answer for insults to other civilizations and people's before they start this argument... Who engineers intentional distortion on a daily basis of the history of Europe and the United States for their own political gains, twisting the minds of modern Iranian people to suit their needs through propaganda? ... That would be the Iranian *government*, thank you... And do we, the American people complain about this with even a fraction of the vehemence being shown in these protests? No... Why? Because we're strong enough to take the criticism from people so far away who really don't matter all that much to us at this point (at least, they don't mean all that much to me, I tell you). Plus, the propaganda is mostly lies, so it really doesn't matter all that much in and of itself either... At least, I think this is what the attitude is... We might get huffy, but for the most part, we ignore them. And I'm not even going to get started on the lies the Iranian government perpetuates among its own people about the Jews.... And I might add, Hollywood is not run by the American government (thank God!) (and while we're at it, it's not run by Zionist Jews either, Iran. If it were, I'd have my dream job running a studio, directing my minions to do my bidding as far as historical films go... not to mention, I'd have a hell of a lot more money...) and as has been stated, they did not intend for 300 to be taken as historical fact or modern or historical social commentary. It's a movie... It's fiction and it admits that without reservation... Take a chill pill, relax, and calm down, k?

Oh, and... What Jon said:

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