Here is a segment of a very good review and reaction to the movie 300 from Charlie Pardue.
The overtones of what Walter Wink calls “redemptive violence” are nowhere more pronounced than in 300. The Spartan culture while shown as a somewhat barbaric solider society is nonetheless glorified in perhaps every barbaric trait other than their systematic killing of “less than ideal” babies. While this is shown in a horrific light, the rest of their violent ways are glorified as essential parts of a “rational” and “democratic” society.
Not even having seen the movie, just from its promo and the buzz I heard, this is exactly what I anticipated. Along with all the “Wild at Heart” cultism going on, this just feeds into that and revs it up. And it is true, and sad that it is true, that “rational” is used to identify some “agreement’ on “the way things are”, which feeds into “it’s the only language they understand” (which only seems to feed into the cycle as it simultaneously lives off of it). If we (this country) sees all this as “the only solution”, then we too are to be seen as a people who only understand the language of violence. But God’s people are not so. And this is where Charlie holds this film “at arms length” as it provides a stark contrast to the Kingdom and its reality, which is only experienced in a community that is called to embody it as an alternative and “true solution”.
The overtones connecting American culture and military (especially American Marines) to the Spartan warriors are obvious. King Leonidas’ wife, Gorgo lectures the politicians about the necessity for violence using today’s popular phrase “freedom isn’t free.” All these themes kept me from truly entering the movie. Instead I held it at arms length, thinking to myself, this is exactly what Jesus subverts in the Roman empire. This society built on violence, the culture that disciples its people in warfare no matter the personal cost to children and wives. The Roman empire Jesus lived under and was crucified by was heavily influenced by the Spartan legends and ethos. This is the same warrior-culture that the Gospel has a harsh judgment for, and while we have tended to privatize our war-making, we Americans buy into many of the same illusions that the Spartans did.
We do indeed, Charlie. Thanks for this post.