Reviewer remains resolute
April 10, 2007
I must admit that I was not at all offended when I read the March 30 Letter to the Editor calling my review of the amazing “300” “grossly inaccurate” and a “hateful diatribe masked as a movie review.” If the reader found my statements “inflammatory,” then good. I’ve written something worth reading — something that inflames. That I am in the right is evident by the fact that Kayvan Farchadi’s letter says nothing of substance, but merely blows a lot of hot air, hoping to scorch my face. In other words, I would like to say that it isn’t enough to simply be an angry Iranian American — that that doesn’t entitle you (or anyone, really) to easy offense or special cinematic treatment. Nor does it give you license to ignore or revise history — while claiming the self-righteous status of “informed citizen.” Don’t pick fights where there are none. Loaded language does not carry the day and never will. Now hear why.
p. Farchadi states that his main objection to my review is that it was “published in a student newspaper without a thought to its effect on a section of the student body.” To this, I say toughen up or stop reading The Flat Hat. As one who believes in sexual modesty, I do not balk at the sex column or write petulant letters of complaint about its effect on me. Journalism is nothing if it is not stirring; it most certainly should swat at the hornet’s nest every chance it gets. We are the watchdogs. Expect angry barking.
p. The next, slightly more relevant argument is that I claim the movie contains “an impressive amount of historical integrity,” when it supposedly doesn’t. Farchadi offers a history lesson of his own, for which I offer my most heartfelt congratulations. He knows some history, too. However, he only reiterates what I’ve said in some cases and talks past me in others. He should know that I’m well aware of the existence of Greek slavery and that it actually has nothing to do with the movie. He should also know that the Persian armies consisted of conquered peoples forced into fighting for a tyrannical god-king. Not slavery, you say? Fine. Make a word up. Leonidas’s army was composed of free men who freely assembled to protect their freedom. Xerxes sat on a hill and watched; Leonidas fought and died with his men. Does that make the Persians look bad? Well, yeah. And it makes for a darn good movie.
p. I was also tickled to read Farchadi’s account of the ruthlessness of the Spartans. How they “murdered slaves for sport” and “lived for war.” His treatment of the Greeks more closely resembles “a hateful diatribe” than anything in my review, which is amusing. Why are these facts recounted with such malice when they are exactly what I say in my review? Yes — this is the point of “300” — that the Spartans were extreme bad boys. Sometimes horrific, sometimes cool — they actually lived the seemingly exaggerated, comic book-esque lives portrayed in the film. I invoke their ruthlessness as a means of justifying the film’s accuracy.
p. Farchadi can only invoke them for a different reason — the same reason he finds it necessary to provide me with a list of reasons why the Persians were so great. He has, like the very people I tried to counter with my review, made an entertaining film, centered on glory, about East vs. West. I shall not tread lightly on this topic and will take my chances dodging the lightening bolts of the gods of political correctness. I never claimed that the Greeks are good or the Persians bad. And the less-than-flattering facts I include about the Persians, I offer only as a defense of the movie’s integrity. Art is a mirror. What do you see when you look at this movie? If truthful exhibitions of history drive a “wedge” between the Iranian government and the United States, then what does that say about the Iranian government? And, frankly, it’s nigh impossible to say anything truthful about Ahmadinejad without being insulting. He does it to himself.
p. I have to wonder, though, whether I lit this fire or simply fed one that was already burning. My original review was actually reactionary in nature; it was a response to the many hostile reviewers I had read who ignorantly and irresponsibly blasted “300” as a politically incorrect film about the present. My words were spoken as the self-defense of a person who admired a perfectly innocent and fun flick, and who was disgusted by those who could look at an isolated battle of antiquity and see American chauvinism. “300” is a graphic novel written in 1998. It’s not about the war or anything contemporary. To the masses of apologists, I say make a movie about the Melian Dialogue and get over it. Stop seeing yourselves in random action flicks; you’re not that important.
p. __Beth Sutherland is a sophomore at the College.__