Monday, 19 March 2007

Fighting over a (fictional) war movie

Iran, among others, are quite peeved of the historical representation of the Persians in the Frank Miller graphic novel-turned-movie, 300 (which won at the box office again this past weekend).

The hit American movie “300” has angered Iranians who say the Greeks-vs-Persians action flick insults their ancient culture and provokes animosity against Iran.

“Hollywood declares war on Iranians,” blared a headline in Tuesday’s edition of the independent Ayende-No newspaper.
Still, it touched a sensitive nerve. Javad Shamghadri, cultural adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said the United States tries to “humiliate” Iran in order to reverse historical reality and “compensate for its wrongdoings in order to provoke American soldiers and warmongers” against Iran.

The movie comes at a time of increased tensions between the United States and Iran over the Persian nation’s nuclear program and the Iraq war.

But aside from politics, the film was seen as an attack on Persian history, a source of pride for Iranians across the political spectrum, including critics of the current Islamic regime.

It's just a movie! Fiction, for heaven's sake. Is there any free speech left; or are we to let our entertainment outlets be bullied by fundamentalists or people who can only think in one mindset?

Terrorism is the fear of violence. Many extremists fighting against the Muhammad cartoons or 300 are using violence to try to scare the newspapers or movie studios into not publishing or releasing what they have the right to release. It is their judgment that decides what is put out — not that of the government, the radicals, or any other people. I think they should exercise good judgment for the greater good (and thus their own), as should anyone, and should not be pressured into not releasing contented some deem offensive.

It's just like when Catholics, among others, protested against the Da Vinci Code. Amazing waste of time and energy on both sides — the side protesting and the side (if there is one) trying to subdue and be submissive of the protesters.

Religion, not least Christianity, is built on faith, not facts. If people thought the facts surronding Jesus Christ were contorted in a work of fiction, which the Da Vinci Code was, then they were overstepping the bounds from faith to fact. A classic rebuttal by Christians to sceptisizm from non-believers is that it takes faith to believe in Jesus Christ; faith and fact are entirely different concepts. Therefore, the protests against the Da Vinci Code — even if it was presented as fact (which it wasn’t) — lack merit. Just the fact that the movie, like 300, is fiction is enough to argue people are fighting against a demon that should pose no real threat to them other than contort the pop culture of them, which is tarnished more by their protesting, whether it be hunger strikes or shooting a newspaper editor.

No doubt the choice of representation of the Persians in 300 was a poor choice by the film's makers indeed. There is obviously a political angle to framing the Persians as evil in every way and the Greeks as noble, like how the Bush administration views its own foreign policy ventures.

As Slate's Dana Stevens puts it:
If 300...had been made in Germany in the mid-1930s, it would be studied today alongside The Eternal Jew as a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war. Since it's a product of the post-ideological, post-Xbox 21st century, 300 will instead be talked about as a technical achievement, the next blip on the increasingly blurry line between movies and video games.
The comic fanboys who make up 300's primary audience demographic aren't likely to get hung up on the movie's historical content, much less any parallels with present-day politics.

See also "Bong hits 4 Jesus" student free speech case.

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