300: Sex, Violence & Hungry Souls?

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When a movie’s opening weekend takes in a record breaking ($)70 million dollars and over ($)100 million after two weeks, and when the audience is largely composed of 18-25 year-old men, you’ve got to ask yourself why. (It is not just men who are enjoying this film-maureen read my comments and said, “The audience for this movie is not just 18-25 young men. I am a 39 year old woman and I left the theater inspired and very moved.”)

The movie I’m talking about is 300 and I think the reasons for its success are complex and nuanced.

For those who don’t know–300 is a ferocious quasi-fictionalized retelling of the historic ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fight to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army.

It is based on the epic graphic novel by Frank Miller.

It would be easy to dismiss 300 and to explain it’s popularity among young men by pointing out its gratuitous nudity and mind-numbing, over the top violence.

Reviewers I respect have taken this position–Jeffery Overstreet decided not to see the movie commenting, “300 is rated R because it is an elaborate display of graphic bloodshed and sex¢â‚¬¦ the film exists primarily to show off dazzling digital effects and to thrill audiences with a spectacle of gratuitous violence.”

I think there may be other explanations for the popularity of 300.

My friend Walt Mueller suggests that when our kids like something, we should sit down with them and ask them why they like it.

I just read that Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor’s soon-to-be-released album will paint a dark picture of the future¢â‚¬¦ A promotional t-shirt shows random letters which when unscrambled, spell out the words: “I am trying to believe.”

I think many young men and women are connecting to 300 because they want to believe.

First, they want to believe that there is something worth living and dying for.
That is the message of Sparta where young men were taught–
We Spartans have descended from Hercules himself.
We never retreat, never surrender.
We believe death on the battlefield is the greatest glory we can achieve in this life.
We listen with our head–then our heart—then we fight,
If we die, we want ” a beautiful death” a worthy death¢â‚¬¦
What is it we fight for? Honor. Freedom. Valor.

Second, 300 shows that there is more to life than winning.

Frank Miller tells how he first encountered the Spartans when he saw the film “The 300 Spartans” as a kid. He remembers, “I was quite shaken and inspired by it because it taught me that heroes aren’t the people who necessarily get a medal at the end of the story, heroes are people who do what is right because it is right, even making the ultimate sacrifice to do it.”

Is it possible that 300 is connecting with a generation who wonder: “Is there something worth living and dying for, and if so, what is it?”

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in March 20, 2007 by | No Comments »

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