Monday, April 09, 2007

Holy smoke, he's a Toon!

This last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing two films both of which attracted quite a bit of controversy in the realm of politics this last year - "The 300" and "Happy Feet."

"The 300" was the center of quite a bit of attention from the Right-Wing in it's depiction of the epic battle of Western civilization against the godless hordes of Eastern savages. As much as I happy that conservatives are warming to the idea of trying to understand subtext I think they're wildly overextending by identifying with the Spartans depicted in this movie. Although the depiction a horde of half-naked, oiled and muscled men did give off a Jeff Gannon vibe that I'm sure hit a note with that weird element of the conservative subconscious in which they are similarly suppressing their wildest desires at the same time they're violently against those same desires when they see them openly expressed in others.

"Freedom isn't free."

"The 300" was made for one reason only - to depict the violence inherent in ancient warfare as realistically as possible using today's state of the are computer graphics. If you're looking for deeper meaning in this movie than I feel sorry for you. Sure, there are tons of throwaway lines like the above that sound like they might be something that could fall out of George W. Bush's mouth during any of his speeches but really the expositional portions of the movie are filler to get to another crackerjack actions scene.

Clash of civilizations? The Persian empire displayed in this movie was a cartoonish, looking glass view that fell somewhere between the hordes of maniacal bikers populating the desert in Mad Max and Peter Jackson's orcish armies which seemed to heavily influence many parts of the film. One would have to be a simpleton of the highest order to take this depiction of Persian culture at face value.


In contrast the children's movie "Happy Feet" was the target of quite a bit of conservative bile a few months back. They hated the film's categorizing of religious zealots among the penguin leadership as the crazy ones. They despised the film's environmental message. They loathed the dancing penguins. Especially the dancing penguins.


The criticism of this movie that I've read was still fresh in mind as I watched which left me to ask myself "what the hell kind of people have a problem with a movie this good?" Yes- it had a blatant ally pro-environmental message but it was never that heavy-handed and wasn't central to the story. Yes - the devoutly religious penguins in the film are a actually antagonists but a couple of points might be important to point out here: they're cartoon penguins and they're god is great penguin in the sky. C'mon.

How many films have we seen in out lifetimes where those that resist change are the bad guys? It's hardly something new that conservatives would be the villains in a film. Film, all drama, is about a protagonist doing something and changing. The forces that line up against that protagonist and resist that change are what create the drama. Don't like that? Stop going to movies.

So to sum up, conservatives -

  • Like half-naked, well-muscled men.

  • Like empty slogans.

  • Hate dancing penguins.

  • Don't much like to have the penguin-god mocked.

  • Prefer much less pro-environmental stuff in their pro-environmental movie.

  • Still seemed confused between cartoons and real life. (see George W. Bush)


ladybug said...

I think you summed it up pretty well. Of course "The 300" was largly based on a graphic novel (hence the over-the-top bad guys).

Sometimes, I think moves are just entertainment, and if there's a sub-text, that's ok. The problem is the lack of perspective - One could say the same criticisms from car crash "Tokoyo Drift"-glamorizes crazy risking taking behaviour for teens! "Grindstone"-another us vs them blow'em up titty worship movie!

-Hey it's just a movie Guys-

Overdroid said...

I just realized that the 300 was a retelling not of a historical event, but of the movie Stargate.

Swinebread said...

The 300" was made for one reason only - to depict the violence inherent in ancient warfare as realistically as possible using today's state of the are computer graphics

Ooo I don't know about that. 300 doesn’t’ have much to do with reality in the combat or anything else. Frank Miller was inspired by the movie 300 Spartans not any actual historical events or facts. But the fact that film is even more fantastical proves your point even more. I really don’t think they were thinking too deeply when they made the film.

Dean Wormer said...


Thanks. I really do think that some film makers set out just to make an entertaining film. Of course there's a message in every film, you couldn't have drama without it. But often that message is simply a byproduct of the film maker's attempt to entertain.




Let me flesh out what I was saying and see if we can agree.

For the entire history of film movies centered around battles involving ancient forms of warfare (i.e. swords and axes) have been constrained to an extent in how realistic they could be because you really don't want to cut-off the head of a stunt man just to get a good shot.

I've watched the improvements in computer animation and special effects and have wondered in an admittedly sick way when they were going to use that in a pirate movie or a sword and sandal flick and depict warfare just a little bit more how it might have been. Arms, legs and heads flying.

After seeing 300 I don't think I was the only one wondering...

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen either movie I'm afraid. From what I've heard about "300" it's basically just an action picture. Any similarites between the story it tells and the actual Battle of Thermopylae are fairly tenuous. It's about as historically accurate as Ben Hur. Or Planet of the Apes. For conservative commentators to draw political lessons from this comic book (sorry, graphic novel) adaptation is pathetic, to say the least.

As for the "controversy" surrounding Happy Feet, conservatives have been scouring animated children's movies for some time now, searching for left wing indoctrination. I remember attacks on Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame as being pro-homosexual propoganda because one of the talking gargoyles was allegedly gay. These people are crazy. If they're really worried about there kids being brainwashed by commie corporations like Disney there's a simple solution; DON'T TAKE YOUR KIDS TO SEE THESE MOVIES. Keep them at home in the hermetically sealed bubbles you obviously think they belong.

Dean Wormer said...


Out of the two I'd vastly reccomend Happy Feet. I'd do that over most other adult movies I've seen lately. It's just that damn good.

What are you saying about Planet of the Apes not being accurate? Even the part with the statue of liberty? Are you sure?

As for kid's movies- remember that Bert and Ernie are living together. Obviously they prefer track-lighting and showtunes.

There is another solution for conservatives though besides skipping the films - they can make knock-off, crappy "Christian" versions to brainwash their little munchkins with. They've already started with Veggie Tales...