In defense of Frank Miller
Ok so I saw 300 and even though they did take advantage of the whole Black hoard thing I absolutely loved it. Yes I loved it. It was the beautifully realized tale of masculinity. Now I admit that I am somewhat biased because my first literary reference to masculinity was provided by Frank Miller.
I must have been in sixth grade when I first read a Frank Miller comic. It was the beginning of his second run on Daredevil and he had taken the tact that Alan Moore had perfected on Swamp thing around the same time to re-invent the character: You strip the character of all the pomp and circumstance, all the history and jovial posturing. Given that it was 80’s, what was left of the character was its hardest edged most essential nature. The stripping started wit that first issue.
Karen Page, Daredevil’s ex-girlfriend, sold his identity to his worst enemy, the Kingpin, for a hit of heroin. Like I said, you’ve got to strip the character to its barebones. In typical sadistic fashion, the Kingpin beats the shit out of Matt Murdock economically of course. He takes away Daredevil’s secret identity, his money, his house, his law practice, even his best friends. He makes Matt Murdock suffer for the sins of Daredevil.
What does this have to do with 300 and masculinity? Shut up, I’m getting there.
Ok, so Matt Murdock is blind, costumeless, broke, and a little crazy. And all he has to hold on to are the words of his father, the part time boxer part time mob enforcer who died because he refused to take any more dives: “Never give up.” The old man said. The man who had more reason than any to give up told his blind son Never to give up. Murdock holds to his ideal and faces the kingpin at less than full strength. The kingpin is waiting for him, and in five of the most vicious panels my sixth grade self had ever seen, the Kingpin beat the living shit out of Daredevil. And what was on Matt Murdock’s mind the whole time? “Never give up.”
I’d been beat up for my comics at that time. I’d been bullied and sometimes I cried. But at that moment, I understood the difference between being beaten and giving up. I thank Frank Miller for that lesson every time I get my ass beat.
Ok, so 300. Same damn thing only writ large over Western history. The story of the 300 Spartans is nothing knew for anyone who studied Western history. Those who’ve studied realize that there were more than 300 people holding the gates at Thermopylae, but it was only the Spartans that refused to surrender. Only the Spartans declared freedom or death. Now believe me, I understand how weird it is to see that image, in this day and age, enacted by white bodies against the alien Black Horde, but that doesn’t mean that the message is any less important.
As for the political implications of the film, I can only say that they are no worse than any other Hollywood film today. I’m watching Stealth as I type this and once again I see how the sacrifice of the black body is necessary for true white heterosexual love to take place. The same holds true for Black Snake Moan. The difference is 300 is prettier. Granted I was jealous of those six packs for a bit, then I realized they were all airbrushed and I was able to calm down. There was a bit of the "Stomp the Yard” feeling about the flick, but it was in that sort of leather daddy White power way. I predict a near future when white power Bill and the rest of his prison cronies will start calling themselves Spartans. In the meantime I have another reason to appreciate Frank Miller.