300 – Iranian outrage and the ‘Mania for Iconoclasm’

Predictably Iranians are reportedly ‘outraged’ by the new action film “300“.

From The Guardian:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – The hit American movie “300” h as 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.

The movie, which raked in $70 million in its opening weekend, is based on a comic-book fantasy version of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which a force of 300 Spartans held off a massive Persian army at a mountain pass in Greece for three days.

Even some American reviewers noted the political overtones of the West-against-Iran story line – and the way Persians are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks.

…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.

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.

State-run television has run several commentaries the past two days calling the film insulting and has brought on Iranian film directors to point out its historical inaccuracies.

“The film depicts Iranians as demons, without culture, feeling or humanity, who think of nothing except attacking other nations and killing people,” Ayende-No said in its article Tuesday.

“It is a new effort to slander the Iranian people and civilization before world public opinion at a time of increasing American threats against Iran,” it said.

The Iranians have gone so far as to prepare a UNESCO declaration against the film.

Apparently “the declaration emphasizes that UNESCO is responsible to protect civilizations and cultural heritage of nations, and it should not be silent toward degrading nations through art and cinema.”

I find it fairly hilarious that the Iranian Academy of Arts wants to denounce an action movie that depicts ancient Iranian in a negtive light whilst their current president heaps negativity onto the image of 21st century Iran with his calls for new genocides agaisnt Israel and his firebrand radical hatred of the West.

Prior to the Iranians grabbing the news, US left-wing critics had attacked the film as chuavanistic pap and a loosely disguised contemporary parable of the US versus Iran conflict.

This was to be expected.

Films depeciting chivalry, heroism, nobility and valour are savaged by a coallition of feminsists and traditional film critics (mainstream media) who seem to have a reflexive dislike of “heroic” films, particularly pro-Western films like “300”.

The public, on the other hand, reveal a strong craving for just these sorts of films and stories. Hal G. P. Colebatch has written a book on the subject called “Return of the Heroes : The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Social Confl ict“. Here is an exerpt from Chapter 1, “Mania for Iconoclasm?”:

At the dawn of the third millennium it often seems that every traditional Western value, system of ethics and art form is collapsing. Notions of chivalry, heroism, nobility and valour – even to a large extent notions of dignity and modesty – which previously infused Western culture seem to have vanished.

But against a picture of apparently endless collapse and upheaval there have emerged enormously popular works of film and literature that reveal underlying attachments to traditional Western values. The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars – and more recently and in a different key the Harry Potter stories – are among the most notable. The deep responsive chords they have struck tell much about the true state of culture.

This study looks at the cultural implications of the popularity of these works and some others in the same broad tradition and at the critical reaction to them.

It is not conventional literary or film criticism except incidentally, but rather an examination of cultural conflict. I believe that since the end of the Cold War cultural conflict has become more important than political conflict, great political “projects” to transform human nature and society having been to a large extent superseded by cultural “projects” which, while by nature less definable, have much the same ultimate end.

It is not necessary to subscribe to conspiracy theories to see how pervasive these things have become. There has developed a common hostility to traditional values in virtually every area of life including art, literature, ethics, religion and personal relationships. The end of the process has frequently seemed to be sheer nihilism. This has had its own self-feedback effect.

…Soviet revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky once wrote of the delights of turning old men‚Äôs skulls into ash-trays and of invading bourgeois homes in order to strangle the occupants and in particular their canaries, symbols of stability and respectability. Mayakovsky later committed suicide but his malady lingered on. A ‚Äúmania for iconoclasm‚Äù seems abroad which the collapse of Communism and the discrediting of revolutionary ideologies has done little to abate. New opportunities for political freedom and rebuilding frequently do not seem accompanied by much sense of cultural renewal on either side of the former Iron Curtain.

Denied its political goals, the nihilist wing of Leftism has seemed more culturally powerful than ever. The great struggle for freedom just concluded seems uninteresting. The lack of rejoicing at the virtually bloodless triumph of doctrines of freedom over Totalitarian Communism can be seen as an omen of exhaustion, loss of nerve, and nihilism.

A prominent feature of this attack is that heroes and achievers in the old sense have been marginalised, or pigeon-holed as “nostalgia.” If they are mentioned, there is a notable tendency to describe them, even with affection, respect and regret, as “the last …” Th e colourful old war hero and emphatic individualist Colonel Alfred Wintle was described in a BBC feature on his life as “The Last Englishman” and in the Spectator as “Last of a Kind.” A biography of Winston Churchill was “The Last Lion.” American test pilot Charles Yeager was similarly described as “America’s last folk hero.” Life magazine headlined its cover-story of October, 1998, on Astronaut John Glenn, “The last Hero.”

There have been many such “lasts.” The Life story spoke of looking back at a departed “Age of Innocence” and of World War II as “the last clean war.” Yeager and the surviving Mercury astronauts still received a huge mail because, it said, “they represent the last shining moment when the villain was somebody other than ourselves.” A National Geographic television program on people who re-enact knightly medieval combats, broadcast on 26 December 1998, claimed of one participant that:
“For a few days he has travelled back to a time when ideas of chivalry, courtesy and honour were more than just words” – the implication being that they are “just words” now. Heroism or the lack of it is not the whole story: it might be said that the notion of heroism has come to be seen as a cul tural icon which includes a complex of Western traditions and values.

An oppressive feature of society at the turn of the century, for example, is the apparent omnipresence of a worthless and moronised celebrity culture, a coming-together of the pincer-movements of nihilism and proletarianisation to attack a centre of civilised values. It is part of the miasma of what Devine described as a decadent population. Charles Yeager said in 1998: “I was in Florida and a newspaper editor said he hadn’t read much about me lately. I told him it’s because I don’t do drugs and I don’t rape women between fl ights. Th at’s what the media feeds on today.”

Of course all this happened before 11 September, 2001. While its e? ect has been in one sense temporary, and it does not mark any watershed change in Western consciousness, 11 September both revealed that there are certain things which the “modernist” value-free mind-set can hardly cope with, and gave rise to a sudden, indeed instantaneous, re-awakening of understanding of the values of courage and nobility and the worth of those who risk and even consciously sacrifice their lives for others.

So it is, I shall argue, that the enormous success of The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and other such works in the same broad tradition, in which heroism and traditional values are celebrated, symbolise and signify strong popular dissent from the perceived cultural orthodoxy and apparently strong pressure towards moral relativism that bedevils modern western society.

So depsite the best efforts of the cultural elite to suppress Western values in art, literature and cinema there is a stready stream of artworks, films and books that express these values and celebrate the triumphs of Western culture and history.

It is a pity the Iranians are upset. I sympathise with them. We in the West have been subjected to thousands of insulting inaccurate and guilt mongering historical films of the years.

Not having seen 300, I cannot really comment on its accuracy or the quality of the film but it sounds like a simple action movie which probably stretches the truth for dramatic purposes. Most films do.

Kingdom of Heaven, Braveheart, The Patriot, Michael Ryan, Saving Private Ryan, Elizabeth, Titanic – these are but a few major historical films riddled with historical innacuracies, errors and downright lies.

Contemporary films are almost without fail good only for  entertainment not edification.

If you want accurate history, get it from The Teaching Company, not Hollywood, Bollywood, Channel 4 Films, Canal+ etc.


For more on the Amalgam Protagonist or Composite Hero see Hamlet = Star Wars by Frank Clarke .

There isa  good overview of  The Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter and Star Wars in AD2000

Culturewatch reviews  Return of the Heroes .

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