[Tehran, Iran] Iranian culture is retrospective for several reasons. Most Iranians are very proud of their three thousand year old history – not only the pre-Islamic part of history, but also the Muslim one. But the Hollywood movie 300 attacks this Iranian mindset.
300 reconstructs the battle between Spartans and Persian-led forces at Thermopylae, in the year 480 BC. The film was released in the United States on March 9 – at a time when the Iranian and US governments were in the middle of their archaic conflict over the nuclear issue, when there was a crisis in Iraq at the four-year anniversary of the invasion, and when Iranian diplomats had been captured in Iraq .
In such a situation, 300 provoked condemnations from both the Iranian president, the foreign minister, the Iranian Academy of Arts and the priests during Friday prayers. Many also condemned an Iranian dubber who voiced parts of 300, which appeared on a critical program on Iranian TV. These counter-reactions do not come only from the intellectuals. Most Iranians, too, are furious at 300, directed by Zack Snyder, and which has become especially popular with teenagers in the United States.
The historical fantasy story is about 300 Spartans fighting the last drop of blood against the Persian King Xerxes (Khashayar Shah) and his army of over one million soldiers. The movie is based on a cartoon by Frank Miller from 1998 and has already gained a worldwide reputation for the derogatory portrayal of Iranian history. But there are also other dimensions that can challenge the level of fixation in a film that is not based on research and scientific historical documents, which is the film's weakest point.
First, the soldiers do not have the Iranian look. Shah has an androgynous appearance. Second, soldiers' clothing is more Arab than Iranian: The turbans belong to Arab culture, even though the incident occurred more than 1000 years before Islam came to Iran. The Iranian soldiers
aggressive reaction and deformed faces arouse feelings of hatred and fear in the audience.
Ephraim Lytle, assistant professor at the Department of Hellenistic History at the University of Toronto, correctly pointed out that 300 idealizes the Spartans' "problematic and disturbing" way of life. In addition to portraying the Persians as monsters – and non-Spartan Greeks as weak.
For me as Iranians, 300 is a silly fiction, a stencil movie. But unfortunately it goes into the tradition Hollywoood has had with stereotypical films of all time: Before the civil rights movement, some of the films were racist, the underrated and distorted blacks. During the Cold War, Hollywood productions were communist, while Islamophobia became clearer after 11. September 2001. All these films are made to show a binary contradiction between good and evil, black and white, we and the others, capitalism and communism.
300 draws a thick line between goodness and evil: the Spartans are good, the Persians evil. After watching the movie, I concluded that there is a connection between Hollywood productions and the general American political atmosphere. This film conveys an idea that if Iranians become just as powerful (nuclear energy), as in their heyday, "they" will be mean and brutal to "us" (in the US / Europe).
Once again, we find that cultural productions become the goal bearers of a political agenda, rather than being a bridge builder between cultures. Unfortunately 300 is a typical movie in that way. ?
Najmed Mohammadkhani is studying for an MA in North American Studies at the University of Tehran in Iran. She writes exclusively for Ny Tid.
Translated by Anne Arneberg