The AV Club, known for its entertainment coverage and cultural criticism from a progressive perspective, blames the movie “300” for the “howling fascism of the alt-right.”
Writing for the website, Tom Breihan claims that “300,” which put action movie director Zack Snyder on the map, may well have been a racist film that fueled the rise of the alt-right. Adapting the infamously violent 1998 graphic novel by Frank Miller, the stylized film featured the near-mythological 300 Spartans who fended off the entire Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae. Like the base material, it takes creative license with the retelling of the tale.
Breihan asks whether the movie was “some sort of sly Starship Troopers-esque comment on totalitarianism or whether it really was as fucked up as it appeared,” stating that it was probably the latter.
Descending into some background history of Frank Miller, whose work includes The Dark Knight Returns, and Sin City, Breihan claims that the darkness of Miller’s comics are not a put-on, but an expression of his true beliefs due to Miller’s unflattering view of Occupy Wall Street. In 2011, author slammed the now-disgraced movement as “nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness.”
Of course, the movie “300” skips over the more unsavory aspects of the Spartan culture, including the enslavement of its neighbors—a fact Breihan doesn’t hesitate to mention before delving into the movie’s fascistic qualities. The blogger notes how, in Spartan society as well as within the movie itself, only the strongest children (who are without disabilities) are permitted to live. He claims that Snyder’s film, like the comic, implies that the Spartans were right to kill disabled children because the Spartan who betrays the protagonist is a hunchback.
Following some complaints about the film’s historical inaccuracies regarding armor and their use of laconic phrases, Breihan compares the Spartan society’s rigid gender roles to that of the Persians. (It’s worth noting that the real Spartans were the originators of laconic phrases, so this aspect of the movie is accurate.)
“The Persian side […] looks a lot more fun; the orgy pit, which we’re apparently supposed to see as some sort of appalling gender-fluid hell, looks like a lot more pleasant place than anywhere in Sparta,” writes Breihan, who points out that Xerxes’ army has monsters in it—not that it should be surprising, given that it is a fantasy film.
Following praise about the movie’s gratuitous and well-crafted action scenes, Dreihan calls the movie “insidious.” The blogger cites an episode of Chapo Trap House, a left-leaning podcast for Bernie Bros, which describes the Snyder film as “the ur-text of the alt-right,” as “Hamilton for neo-fascists.”
“It’s a compelling argument,” writes Dreihan. “This is a movie that makes a grand, mythic spectacle out of the whole defending-the-white-homeland trope.” He suggests looking at YouTube comments to scenes from 300 as proof of his argument.
Dreihan concedes that it would be a “pretty big stretch” to blame “300” for “Donald Trump or whatever,” but argues that the movie “really did lionize the heroic white warriors fighting to repel the endless dark-skinned hordes —to, in the gravelly narrator’s words, ‘rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny.’ (Oh no! Mysticism!)”
Describing “300’s” themes as “all sorts of bullshit” and “influential in all the wrong possible ways,” Dreihan says it helped establish a world where Donald Trump could be elected president.