You might think this film is pro-Western in the radical sense: it’s about Ancient Greece, it’s about muscle-men making a last-ditch stand against Asiatic hordes—it even features the “lambda” symbol on the Spartan shields, a symbol adopted by Generation Identity (who are very definitely a Bewegung—a movement, just like…).
Anyway, the film itself is tedious; it’s similar to Zulu as an historical picture—it’s about a “thin red line”, a last stand situation, and the filmmaker faces the problem of how to maintain interest and suspense when the audience knows what happens in the end. Zulu achieves that aim—300 doesn’t. It just features a lot of slashing and groaning and shouting—which appeals to boy-men aged 12-26 (the film’s core audience) and so appealed to me when I first saw it but it delivers no suspense or drama; and you never forget that they all die in the end.
The film’s main achievement is to transfer the particular comic book aesthetic the story derives from to the screen, it’s highly stylised and quite effective—it’s as if you look at the lush glossy pages of the original comic, published around 1998, and watch them come alive (apparently, like Sin City, made about the same time, it’s a scene-for-scene recreation). However, that is not enough to sustain interest—the film is flat like an open bottle of coke, it’s a one-time thrill for boy-men who like comic books.
As regards the film’s metacontext—what we’re really here for—the film is anti-Western, as you’d expect from a Hollywood product. It’s not enough to have muscle-men in cloaks with shields and “Asiatic” foes—if you think like that you will end up with the Azov Battalion in the Ukraine, attempting to re-fight WWII for an American empire that represents the inverse of your purported values. Yes, in 300 someone actually speaks about “invading Europa”, a phrase that you would only hear today from a “Black Sun” Twitter user; but just to say “Europa”, “Asiatic horde”, and so on does not mean you’re a “good European”—the signifiers can be empty (or, as in this case, re-purposed to serve other ends).
I’ll assume you understand what the Battle of Thermopylae was and how Spartan warrior culture worked—if you don’t, you know where Google is. The basic reason 300 was made was to build public support for a war on Iran—when it was made, Iraq had just been quickly nobbled and the neocons were in high dudgeon and wanted to skip on to Iran (almost 20 years later they’ve almost convinced the Americans to do it).
At the time, however, an attack seemed imminent, since Iraq was not yet a “complete clusterfuck”. 300 was designed to prep public sentiment, “manufacture consent” as Chomsky might say—it was a hubristic film, ironically enough, since “hubris” is mentioned within it as regards the Persians (got to name-check those primal European concepts).
So the idea is that the Persians are the Muslims (Iranians, in particular)—their dress in the film is vaguely 1001 Nights, vaguely Saracen-ish, probably not historical. They are portrayed as an Asiatic horde (studded with a few black Africans) who are very sexually louche but also very gay—very decadent. They constitute a huge population but they’re not an elite, they’re not free men—everything is very seraglio about them, sunk in luxury and silk drapes (with luxuriant aromas the emanate from a censer—an ancient Yankee Candle, very girly). So that’s the Muslim world, supposedly—about 1 billion strong; and, of course, Persia is Iran so it sets up the whole conceit in a way that is perfect.
The Spartans are the Americans. They represent a form of American masculinity that is disprivileged now, but they’re basically “jocks”. They “ain’t no queers or shit”—or something like that—and they have big muscles and they’re an elite fighting unit, a mannerbund. It’s like a SEAL team versus the Taliban—the West’s technological superiority vis-à-vis the Muslim world is turned into muscle and discipline.
So the whole film plays the typical reversal—seen in Zulu too—where the aggressors are portrayed as the plucky underdog. In reality, it’s America aggressing against Iraq and Iran—yes, there are fewer people in the American empire, but the American empire has crushing technological superiority (what counts in modern war); it’s just as in Zulu, the British invaders with better technology become the embattled plucky underdog who fight for their lives. After all, the Iranians did not and do not today have any intention of invading Europe—yet 300 makes us think they do.
As such, the Spartans are modern Americans. The Spartan king, Leonidas, opens the film by being an asshole. The Persians send an emissary (who is a fine Nubian specimen—we will return to this point) to negotiate. Leonidas kicks him down a large pit the Spartans keep handy in their central civic square to kick people down. The messenger hasn’t really done anything, except been a bit rude, so it’s bad storytelling. Leonidas is the hero, but he’s introduced to us as basically an evil person who literally “shoots the messenger”.
As it happens, this was a real historical event—but what the film doesn’t note, because it’s made by moral lepers, is that the Spartans were deeply ashamed at this action and profusely apologised to the Persians. To kill a messenger was held to be a profane act that angered the gods—as if you shot up an ambulance or a Red Cross tent today.
The way it appears in 300 is in line with “comic book sensibility”—modern comics often include gratuitous violence just to look “hard ass” and “mature” with no thought as to the actual significance of the actions depicted. The idea is to make the audience of 12-26-year-olds go “yeah, badass—King Leonidas is a badass.” But even men aged 12-26 have more discernment than that—and here Leonidas just looks evil, because he’s just done an evil thing (by both Ancient Greek standards and our own standards—historical relativists btfo).
A more sophisticated film would have Leonidas be contrite later on—or use the event to make Leonidas a morally ambiguous character (perhaps the Persians aren’t all bad?); but the film isn’t that sophisticated, Leonidas is just meant to be “good”—yet now, in the opening frames, he’s done something gratuitously evil. We feel confused—do we really want this asshole to win?
The reason why Leonidas is a modern American man is that before he kicks the messenger down the pit he gives a look over his shoulder so his wife can give him the nod (she does so). That’s because King Leonidas, original badass about to lead 300 men to fight to the death, always checks with the Mrs. before he does anything—because he’s a good American feminist (not like those gay Persians, who, if they have sex with women, have threesomes and perverse things like that—and never check with their wives first, even; probably don’t even get consent—a theme developed later).
So the frame is established. Leonidas is a feminist—and, of course, we fight Iran so women can throw off the veil and show us their tits on OnlyFans (remember, we’re fighting for the Western values of free markets and individual responsibility—and it’s all fine, so long as you checked with the Mrs).
Next, Leonidas has to find approval to fight the Persians from the Ephors—here portrayed as grotesque hooded mystic men who live on top of a mountain amid a columned temple, “the finest girls of Sparta” are delivered to the Ephors so the gods can speak through them. The Ephors like to lick their chained up oracle maidens (semi-nude) as they mumble the words of the gods to them (it made me feel all funny inside).
Anyway, I’m yet to see, on my Hermetic path, gorgeous chained up tarts who experience divine glossolalia and let me lick their necks (I live in hope). The point here is anti-religious: you might have thought Ancient Greek men feared and respected the gods—perhaps their fear and respect for the gods gave them, as 300 men, the brass nuts to face down this vast Asiatic horde. Yet no—because Leonidas is a modern American; so the priests are deformed and corrupt, in the pay of the Persians, and pretend “the gods” (it’s implied they don’t exist) told Leonidas he can’t fight.
So this film is atheist. The message is Marx crossed with Nietzsche: religion is just something made up by ugly people to get money and chicks—religious people will betray healthy muscle-men to their enemies. However, Leonidas, being a strong red-blooded American (sorry, Spartan) man, has no need of “religious superstitions” (remember, this was made at the height of the “new atheism” craze—itself linked to attacks on “Islamofascism”).
Later, we’ll see the Persians deploy magic—and this is described as vaguely woo-woo and weird and amounts to throwing smoke bombs around (it’s the old Enlightenment idea, religion is just illusions to delude the rubes). I have to say that the Nietzsche-Marx cross we see here is not uncommon, and it’s why I don’t ultimately see Nietzsche as a right-wing figure—the idea “religion is made up by ugly people to get chicks and money” just isn’t true. You can’t be an atheist and be on the right. The Godhead exists, the gods exist—Nietzsche is dead.
This anti-religious theme is returned to at the film’s end, since the last shot shows the Greek armies united by the example of the fallen 300 to face the Persian invasion—and this is meant to show the entire West, united behind America (Sparta), about to fight the Persian (Muslim) hordes. America, like Sparta, constitutes the vanguard that the wider West follows (by example, for propaganda purposes; by coercion, in reality).
The battle cry that goes up at the end is “against mysticism”, and this is practically the last line in the film—so there you go, it turns out the chief motivation for the Spartans was the Enlightenment goal to spread “scientific progress” and defeat “religious obscurantism”; and, indeed, earlier in the film Sparta is described as having grown strong since it cast off “superstition”—it’s just the standard Enlightenment narrative about science and progress projected back into the past.
Indeed, Xerxes is portrayed as a “god-king” or “god-emperor” and describes himself as “a god”. When the 300 are finally surrounded by the Persian hordes the last act Leonidas undertakes is to throw a spear at Xerxes—he misses, but he manages to cut the king’s cheek open (it’s a substantial gash). The whole point here is “mortal after all”—Xerxes is no god (because there are no gods); and, in fact, it echoes back to Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King where a cheeky-chappy who masquerades as a second god-king Alexander in Afghanistan is revealed as a fraud when his bride bites his cheek and it bleeds—he’s then executed (is Xerxes executed?).
It recapitulates an earlier theme where the Persian elite troops are called “the Immortals” and the Spartans kill them with alacrity. “Mortal after all,” they quip. As it happens, the Immortals wear masks akin to those in the Greek theatre (you know, the ones with the real big gurns). “Christ” literally means “mask”: the Spartans kill the masked men who claim to be “immortal”—the Spartans, the Americans, kill Christ (because there is no God, that’s just superstition—listen to your wives, sensible and wise!).
So the story that’s set up is basically reason vs. superstition—there are fewer Spartans in the world than Persians, but the Spartans have become mighty because they cast off religion and respect women; and that’s why their civilisation has grown strong, that’s why “they hate our freedoms”. Indeed, at one point a Spartan says that freedom is paid for in blood—effectively he almost says “freedom isn’t free” (cue sentimental guitar strumming, black stetsons etc).
The enemies Leonidas faces on the home front are threefold: the priests (Ephors), a politician (Theron) in the Spartan assembly that the Persians bribe, and a deformed cretin who tries to join the 300 and is rejected. We’ve dealt with the Ephors, now let’s consider the politician. Theron is a greasy vaguely Italian character (still has muscles) who tries to dissuade Leonidas from the first; he stays home with Leonidas’s wife (his queen—played by a British actress to convey royal authority and gravitas, possibly to make the young men horny with a novel accent).
Theron eventually rapes the queen and then claims she seduced him when she makes a speech to the assembly to call for aid to be sent to Leonidas—it makes no sense plot-wise and is a mess; he just says “she seduced me, she’s a whore—don’t listen to her” but there’s no evidence, there’s no reason why he had to rape her, it’s just more gratuitous comic book “mature” content that doesn’t mean anything and makes no sense as regards plot or how humans actually behave.
He also promises, in a line that is unintentionally comic, that the rape will be “prolonged”—there are many aspects to why this is unintentionally funny, not least the basic way male biology works, but in particular because women enjoy this idea (being held down and so on). But, remember, this film is feminist so to rape a woman is *unbearable torture*.
Anyway, you can tell Theron is bad (aside from the rape—no consent, you see) because he gives a speech in which he mocks the idea that all men are created equal (so he’s literally Hitler, or something). He describes himself as “a realist”, so really, within the 2000s historical context, he’s meant to be a figure like these old school State Department and Foreign Office people like George Kennan who say things like, “I’m not sure it’s wise to invade Iraq and attempt to restructure it to run like Ohio in about a year; it is, in fact, a tribal society with deeply ingrained…” Boo! Hiss! We’re here to liberate Iraqi girls! I asked my wife and she told me to do it! Islamofascism bad! This is our Thermopylae! Freedom isn’t free!
Naturally, this errant rogue—a rapist and a Machiavellian—is stabbed to death by Leonidas’s wife (girl power!) and as he dies a hoard of Persian coins fall from his tunic. The old duffers in the assembly, apparently complete nincompoops, realise he was a Persian spy and cry for war. There’s a vaguely, dare I say, Straussian element here—there’s an idea that the assembly doesn’t know what’s good for it and is misled and it’s only when it’s guided in some subtle way (by a warrior qween) that it can be any good and be induced to support the virile vanguard at the Hot Gates.
Strauss was hot property then—and everything was Straussian. Apparently, America was run by a brilliant Straussian elite who would use “esotericism” to restore Western values in a democracy—the theme fits with the way the priests are just shams to be bribed with money and sex to say what the powers that be want.
That’s also Straussian, in a way—basically, the film does express scepticism towards democracy and religion but only because these stand in the way of egalitarian values (defended by virile and virtuous men); so it’s not “true Straussianism”, which would manipulate a democracy from behind the scenes via “hidden philosophers” to preserve virtue and philosophy. Straussianism is just an insight into how the Jewish mind works—religion and politics aren’t real, people should be manipulated “for their own good” by a hidden “philosopher elite”.
Anyway, I don’t think the Bush Administration was run by a secret elite of Straussian “philosopher-kings” who manipulated the democracy to save virtue and philosophy—it didn’t look like that when it was in office, and 20 years later there’s no evidence such a policy existed (to judge by contemporary America).
The whole “Straussian meme” is the type of thing that fervid intellectual quasi-journalists at The New York Review of Books use to describe, in symbolic terms, some political development that they cannot describe with accuracy because they are unrealistic and pretentious people—perhaps it even described the ascendancy of one faction of Jews over another, it has nothing to do with the content of Strauss.
300 is aimed, as said, at young men. So it knows its target market—it was designed to get young American men horny for war with Iran (with all the towelheads). As such, the director knows his audience—so the Persians are depicted as very gay.
Xerxes has this very peculiar and creepy scene where he tries to seduce Leonidas—the Spartan turns his back on him (unrealistic—you’d never turn your back on an enemy king in a diplomatic audience, it would be an insult and also make you look weak). Xerxes then takes Leonidas by both shoulders and basically threatens to bugger him (gently)—but butters him up with a smooth voice and Eastern promises first. It’s enough to induce a shiver in any red-blooded male (especially the teenage varietal).
Xerxes himself is portrayed as a bald-headed giant (very white) filled with piercings. He’s gay, basically—his empire is gay, Muslim men hold hands and are all notorious sand buggers or boy-buggerers in Afghanistan (and don’t forget the goats—Americans are very particular about the fact Muslims bugger goats). I doubt you could get away with this portrayal today because we’re not in a war situation (as yet) and progressive beliefs have moved that much further, become that much more anti-masculine (the piercings Xerxes has just look like the norm for a 17 y.o. girl in SF today). Yet even at the time 300 was read as “very right-wing”—and yet, as described, its core is solidly progressive: it’s anti-religion and pro-women.
However, just to get those American young bloods hard for machine-gunning the Iranians, 300 indulges in anti-homosexual semiotics. As any man-boy from 12-26 is liable to say, “This is gay.” The people who made 300 understood their audience—yet the core American belief system is there, and it’s ultimately pro-homosexual because it lionises women (homosexuals are equivalent to women—just like blacks and Jews—in our system). But just for now, until we fry Tehran, we’ll portray the bad guys as catamites and bum boys.
Another aspect to the Xerxes portrayal, on the esoteric front, is the he’s a Nephilim—he’s a bald giant with mystical powers (his voice is some weird “voice of command”). Iran is Indo-Aryan—the giants are the ancient Aryans. Just like Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, the Aryan giants have to be portrayed as “totally evil” (Scott’s “Engineer” alien race). Perhaps they have begun to make more appearances on film because they are coming back…that’s what the UFOs are about.
Indeed, the last scene to feature Leonidas shows him crucified by Persian arrows. This is a very peculiar semiotic choice. Miguel Serrano whispers in my ear: “But of course, this film denigrates the old gods—says the oracles are corrupt and superstitious—but at the end portrays the hero as Christ; because the Jews invented Christ to control the Aryans—even though these characters are obvious atheists.”
The prosaic explanation is that the filmmakers are just bad at making films—as established in the cack-handed opening portrayal of Leonidas. I think they thought, “We need something profound and deep for when Leonidas dies…I know, let’s have him pinioned down like Christ! Yeah! Deep!”.
The problem is that Leonidas has not acted like Christ in the film whatsoever—he’s an ultra-masculine kill-machine, there’s no sub-plot element that maybe he will abase himself and have some religious conversion (he’s a total atheist who scorns the gods) and there’s no hint that “Christ is coming” to replace the pagan world (this is set in the 400s BC—so Christ is too distant for that). Basically, the decision to have Leonidas “crucified” makes no sense as regards plot or character—it’s just there to look “deep” and “profound”. “Yeah, Leonidas is like Jesus, or something—Jesus slaughtered hundreds of Persians….????”.
The people who run America are not stupid. They know that they have to compromise to mobilise key population segments (or they did 20 years ago—they may since have become high on their own supply). It’s the same situation as the USSR: when the USSR was invaded by Germany they had to drop all the “international brotherhood” business and revert to “Mother Russia”, Orthodox religion, and, basically, patriotism. The Internationale was out, an anthem that celebrated Russia was in.
That’s because the USSR, like America, was against reality—yet when the chips are down, when the regime needs to survive, it allows more reality back (masculinity, patriotism) in order to survive. Hence the typical American Hollywood propaganda piece for years was that you’d have a hero who was basically this blond ultra-masculine Aryan (Captain America) but he fights to save women, Jews, and blacks from “commie-nazis” (usually, his side-kick is a black guy).
So masculine virtues are shown but only to defend progressive ideals, never to defend Western ideals (self-assertion is taboo and coded as “Nazi”)—and so you can mobilise young men to fight; then, when the pressure is off, you can go back to boiling the frog—complaining about white men incessantly.
300 goes further than most films in this regard because it opens the film with a description of how the Spartans would discard unfit and deformed babies. The chief villain in the film is Ephialtes—a deformed Spartan whose parents saved him at birth by fleeing the state. He wants to fight, Leonidas says he cannot—and so he betrays the secret path behind Spartan lines to the Persians. So 300 is openly eugenic—and celebrates male “hard bodies” in a way that is repulsive (yet also panty-wetting) to the left.
A further unusual aspect is that the film features many black characters but all in evil roles—that is abnormal for American films. There’s even a black Persian slavemaster who tries to whip the Spartans but has his whip-hand cut off (power reversal, almost—redolent of Enoch Powell “the black man will have the whip hand over the white”). That is odd—since American films are usually very careful to have a “white hero - black buddy” dynamic. Here the blacks are just “bad”. Together with the eugenic angle it’s what makes 300 read as far-right—except the salient issue in the 2000s was Islam, not blacks (there was a change in 2012 as we entered the BLM era). The black-white semiotic was inert during the “war on Islam”, the war against the towelheads—it’s an indication that the American media ecology can turn racial strife (Western-Islamic strife) on and off at will.
While 300 reads “far-right” within the American semiotic, it is firmly anchored within the progressive belief system—because, in the end, “girls on top”. Leonidas isn’t king, his wife is—she has the final say, Sparta is a rational atheist state. As Ava Max sung a few years ago, “If all of the kings had their queens on the throne, we would pop champagne and share a toast,” and that’s the standard message you’re bombarded with day in and day out in the American empire—it’s how Sparta runs in this film. As with Starship Troopers and Robocop, the film goes as far as you can go as regards the affirmation of masculinity and Western values within a progressive framework.
Hence for a proggy true-believer, especially today, when the belief system has become that much more gender-queer, 300 seems “utterly fascistic”; but it’s still progressive—it’s just designed to mobilised the demographic, white men age 12-26, who are least progressive in their nature if not their stated beliefs (“That’s, like, racist, bro. You can’t say that.”). Yet the self-assertion in the film is still “safe” and “inert” in its metapolitical context (your mom, your Mrs makes the decisions—God does not exist).
There’s some indication the regime has forgotten this fact in recent years—either through senility or hubris. So films like the recent Star Wars series will feature all the bad guys as white males—perhaps because the regime thinks this population segment, that still fights their wars, will die out soon.
US recruitment ads during the Ukraine crisis, however, have lurched away from being aimed at women, gays, and racial minorities and gone back to featuring white men being men—an indication the regime is nervous that if they need to recruit to fight a major land war they may have lost the “key demographic” that does that for them; hence perhaps they are still somewhat perceptive and in touch with reality (worse luck).
A further irony in the way the Persians are portrayed is that their empire is shown to be this “multi-ethnic gay slave state, mired in luxury and decadent—without regards for virile standards and decency”. Of course, it’s America today that is a multi-ethnic gay slave state, mired in luxury and decadence and without regards for virile standards and decency—without virtue.
The Spartans are portrayed as a racially homogenous tribe of virile manly men who are loyal to each other and seek to protect their farms (Jeffersonian) and homes and wives from the vile depredations and peculiar sexual practices of the Persians—that sounds more like the Taliban, or even the Iranians today.
Meanwhile, America, proud to see the Ukraine legalise gay marriage as part of the war effort and to “transition” children, seems much closer to decadent Persia—right down to the proliferation of unusual piercings (and, yes, she got one “there”—where? *her clit*). So it’s projection really, even then America was much closer to Persia than Sparta.
But that’s the tragedy: the film was made to indoctrinate the young men who fight America’s wars (and Western men more generally); and they are the young men who will enter an ethnically homogenous mannerbund (as the British and American armies still are, really) and want to fight to defend their homes and girlfriends and so on—except what they defend is not that, what they defend is “the gay Persian slave state”.
When the Spartans get home, Sparta is still there—when young American or British soldiers get home their home doesn’t exist anymore, there are outlanders on the farms (with their wives), and to be a “white man” is to be evil, per official propaganda (because we’re fighting for the people who made this film—not for “Sparta”).