The movie 300 is very well remembered in American culture. We applaud it for its incredible visual power and it’s overarching messages. In fact, the basic plot of the movie is so cliché that it is almost sickening- the few (who are of course the good guys) stand up to the many (the bad guys), not because it is the smart move, but because it is the only choice. But when you look deeper there are several messages that may cause you to scratch your head a bit. In this post I will examine the main message of the movie, as well as some of the more troublesome messages that are present in the movie.
Like I said before, the main message of the movie is very cliché and is incredibly simplistic. The bad people are very powerful and they want to conquer the good guys, who will more than likely be destroyed if they try to defy the will of the aggressors, but they fight anyway to defend their way of life. It is a message of bravery about common sense; of doing something that is more than likely futile but it is the only option so you do it anyway. We clearly see these words in action in the scene where the king decides that he is going to go into battle without his entire army; he knows that the chances of men emerging victorious are slim, but he leads them on anyway because it is his duty to the people that he is sworn to protect. This message is what audiences applauded with the movie. The movie critic for movie-reviews.com (who for some reason wasn’t named) perhaps put it best when he said “300 is not only a visual masterpiece, but also has a deeper message about how we as humans should live our lives and face adversity”.
But sadly, this triumphant message of human greatness is often overshadowed by the many questionable messages of the movie. To start with, the entire movie is based off of an old perception that us Westerners have held on to for centuries- the East is a place of tyranny and lawlessness that will always try to overcome the peace and thoughtfulness of the West. We are taught to fear the people of the East, the Muslims and Arabs and the like, from a young age, and this movie does little to quell that feeling. The Persians are portrayed as evil beings who will kill men, women, and children without hesitation to achieve their aims. In all I find it a very troubling stereotype, but perhaps the most troubling part about the whole thing is that hardly anyone even recognized it; we are so engrained to assume that people from Eastern cultures are the “bad” guys.
The other glaring problem messages that I see are more or less all tied to one scene: when the disabled man tries to join the Spartan cause but he is turned down because he is not of the proper physical form. To me this sends a message that only the best, most physically fit men are the ones who are fit to help society while the rest should just sit around and watch or, in the eyes of the movie, be killed shortly after birth. While that is very troubling to me, I was almost more disturbed with what happened next- the man turned his back on the Spartans and told the Persians some information that ultimately lead to the Spartan’s demise. What does that teach us? That when someone turns us away we are supposed to go and spread their most well kept secrets to the people who hate them the most? That is ridiculous. If real people lived like that there would be nothing but hate and discord in our world.
I am still not entirely sure what I think of the movie 300. On the one hand we are given this incredible message of strength and bravery, while on the other we are given a message of stereotypes and intense betrayal. And for that reason I am only going to give it two stars. I just can’t condone some of the messages that are very predominant in this film.