Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Op-Ed: 300: Iranian Insult

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros

By Najva Soleimani

After 300*came out, I got an e-mail from my mother titled “300 is not just a movie: it is Persia Bashing” with links to a few articles. Although the trailer for 300 hadn’t appealed to me, apparently the rest of the U.S. went to see it and it grossed $70-million at the box office. 300 had the third biggest R-rated opening ever. Oh, and Iranians, my mother included, were pissed.

An adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic book, 300 is loosely inspired by the Battle of Thermopylae. Very loosely inspired. The Iranians, as well as various journalists, identify many historical inconsistencies: the Spartans are portrayed as blue-eyed Aryans while the Persians are African, Xerxes is practically a drag queen, and the Persians are dressed like barbarians. Not to mention numerical inconsistency: it was actually 300 Spartans plus 700 Thespians and 6,000 other Greek volunteers against about 150,000 Persians—not 300 against one million.

Given the politically tense atmosphere in contemporary Iran, it’s easy to see why such an unflattering depiction of their Persian heritage would have the entire country in a frenzy. Constant threat of war and recent negative press about Iran has made the country paranoid. 300 abets this paranoia perfectly.

But 300 is just a Hollywood movie. Hopefully, no one would take it seriously. The same way no one took The Passion of The Christ seriously, right? Aside from all those people who wrote hate letters to the Jewish community, of course. The major concern is that a large portion of America actually believes what they see on the screen. That’s assuming those ignorant enough to do so can even make the connection between Iran and the Persians.

My real worry isn’t a bunch of under-30 men watching homoerotic, buff warriors rip each other up. It’s that people are shocked that Iranians would be offended and boycott a film that is slandering their culture. I, like almost all of the outraged, won’t spend my money seeing 300. But my gay friend Matt loves it.

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