Friday, March 30, 2007

Letter to the Evening Standard

As a result of my review of 300 I had the following letter in the Evening Standard today:

"Derek Malcolm calls Zack Synder's screen version of Frank Miller's graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae, 300, extremely Right-wing and urges
readers not to think too hard about it in case it does them "permanent

But this film is not about hating homosexuals (the term "boy lovers" is reserved for the Spartans' temporary allies, the Athenians, not the Persians). It is also not about modern Iranians, as the Iranian government and other commentators have alleged, as the film clearly differentiates its Persians from them.

What it does do is celebrate sacrifice in the name of the West. While our challenges are less desperate than in previous eras we do need to stand up in defence of freedom and rationality. Sometimes compromise with our enemies is wrong: an obvious example of which was the cowardly response to threats to freedom of expression over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. The film's huge box office figures suggest that the public is receptive to this kind of unapologetic and heroic story.

Matthew Sinclair,"

I think it has survived editing in pretty reasonable shape.


Vino S said...

I don't see ancient Sparta as representing the 'West' in the way some do. After all, it was a slave society and a rather militaristic state.

Additionally, i am not sure the anicent Greeks would have seen themslves as part of a Western world. They would have been part of a Medeterrean world. The sea being easier to travel across than land, i think there was more social/cultural interchange between the northern and southern shores of the Medeterrean than there was between Northern and Southern Europe in this period in history.

Matthew Sinclair said...

The connection of the classical era West to that of today is largely self-defined but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter. Also, there is a direct institutional link through the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church.

I wouldn't overemphasise the institutions though. More than anything we're Western because we've steadily chosen to be.

Gracchi said...

I'm with Vino on this Matt- its also interesting that we pick up on the Spartans in 300. I don't really feel anything in common with them- its the Athenians which I think we all have more of an identification with- and of course the thing about Athenians was that it wasn't this cult of self sacrafice but almost a cult of libertinism that kept them going. I don't feel that the Spartans are a good example for us- then again I agree with Vino that no society in that era is really similar at all with our society today and political points about the defence of the West from Thermopylae strike me as a bit silly. What were the Spartans defending afterall?

Anonymous said...

The only thing that the "hug box office showing" proves in this instance is the utter moral and intellectual bankruptcy of our modern culture, including such self appointed "pundits" as Mr Sinclair here.

Since when did "standing up for freedom and rationality" involve invading a sovereign country and provoking a war with Iran?

The nasty anti-muslim undercurrent in this daft little review of a sick and twisted movie are typical of the state of mind in this pathetic little country, obsessing over utterly pointless "carbon offsetting" in the middle of the greatest international economic and political crisis in world history.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Anon: There are a lot of poorly substantiated slurs there. Congratulations.

Gracchi: I'm going to be cheap and quote you back at yourself :)

"Art and literature though can present me with a vision of something that I can adhere to- a kind of mythical idea of Englishness- in this way you could argue that mythical characters like Robin Hood and King Arthur are much better characters to base a nationalism around than are Cromwell and Cnut. Robin and Arthur can be twisted to our priorities- they can speak our language- to fit Cromwell or Cnut into our Englishness we either have to deform what we aspire to or to deform the truth of who they were."

I think that being a part of the West is something we choose. It is also an institutional inheritance. However, I'm really not saying we have anything in common with the Spartans more than we have in common with King Arthur or Robin Hood. They're based upon real figures but are important as mythical heroes.

Gracchi said...

I don't think Matthew was saying we ought to invade Iran in this post- nor do I think evidence of Islamophobia exists.

Matt I take your point about Arthur and Robin Hood but the point there is that both characters don't exist- the Spartans did exist, there is no institutional continuity between us and them. Just like in the second world war searching for heroes I would rather talk about the US and UK than Stalinist Russia becuase I share Churchill's values and not Beria's (whilst acknowledging Russian courage at Stalingrad etc) so in the Peloponesian war I would rather talk about Salamis and Marathon because however corageous the Spartans were, they were odious. And moving away from my comparison given the choice it might be preferable to live under Persia than under Sparta.

All rather unjustifiable points but I hope you see where I am coming from.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Robin Hood and King Arthur did exist! They're exactly what you're describing as a problem!