So I went and saw 300 Rise of an Empire this weekend. For those of you not in the know, that’s the new movie with extremely ripped half naked men wearing blue capes set in ancient times. I have to say, I loved it. I adored this movie; I will actually go out and spend what little spare cash I have to own a hard copy of this movie. “Why!?” I’ve had nearly every feminist female peer shriek at me, the horror clearly contorting their faces. “It’s so sexist!” And I completely agree that it is.
The men are unrealistically muscled, every bicep perfectly defined, every ab exquisitely sculpted. They’re waxed, primped, shaved, and oiled to a spectacular example of the ideal Greek male form (a physique still considered desirable today). And then there’s the costumes, or really lack thereof. Leather briefs, that honestly have had to be painted on, cupping what can only be a crotch aided by plenty of padding and a nice roll of quarters. Oh and there’s a blue cape, let’s not forget the very lovely blue cape. This movie is so sexist in its portrayal of the masculine form, that it could be used for a case study.
Oh, but wait. I don’t think that’s the sexism my friends are raging about…
No, it’s the two women that garner their anger and fury. “They’re weak, they’re easily manipulated, they’re portrayed as control freaks, and they’re shown as whores!” Really? Were we watching the same movie? Let us exam the two female leads.
First there is Queen Gorgo; the grieving, but exceptionally strong and willful queen of the Spartans. She has lost her husband, king, and love of her life to what she knew would be a suicide mission. And yes, we see a small (seriously it has to be less than five seconds) scene of her grieving her husband. Frankly I think the woman has earned her few tears at that point.
When the leader of the Athenians, Themistocles, comes to her nearly demanding use of her army and navy she whips him right back into his place. It is only when she decides through her own view points and time that the Spartans should seek revenge against the Persians that they become involved again. Also to add to this already strong woman, Gorgo leads her men into battle handily slaughtering the Persians in close quarter combat with as much skill as any soldier under her rule.
Now we move on to perhaps my favorite female character of any movie or story I have ever seen. Artemisia, I could go on for hours about how marvelous she is, but I’ll keep it short. Her family is brutally raped and murdered by an army of a rival Greek citystate, and at the tender age of eight she is taken as a sex slave aboard a Greek ship only to be left for dead in a Persian port five years later. A man who has no ties to her takes her in as his own, raises her, trains her to fight and she rises to become the leader of the Persian navy. Wow, what a powerful image. A rape victim who survives and overcomes what she was forced into, who not only endures but rises above being a victim to thrive in her field. Not only this, but she refuses to take excuses from the men under her command, she is just as brutal and commanding as any of the men we see in her position. Oh and by the way, the only man she is remotely interested in is a man that can challenge her intellect, the Athenian tactician and fighter Themistocles.
Yes, Artemisia and Themistocles have sex. Do I see an issue with this? No.
She has been lusting after this man for years, in her eyes he is the only man worthy of being in her bed. Artemisia then goes after him with the same tenacity as any man perusing a sexual conquest. Once more, what an image of female empowerment! She doesn’t sit around waiting for the man to decide they’re going to have sex, she sees what she wants and she goes for it.
Both of these women break the Hollywood mold of a delicate, pure, prize to be won or (and my least favorite by far) the power hungry bitch who is tamed by a man. Queen Gorgo takes up the duties of running her citystate when her husband dies (if you’ve seen the previous movie you know she fought for that right), proving herself to be neither delicate, pure, or a prize. Artemisia refuses to be tamed, even with a sword at her throat and the man she very much wants offering her to surrender and live; she reaches for her sword and is stabbed for her actions. Even then though, she will not die on anyone’s terms but her own, she rams herself through on Themistocles blade while watching the battle rage around her. Artemisia lived on her terms, and she died on her terms.
Truthfully, I just can’t understand the complaints so many feminists raise against this movie. In my viewpoint these woman break every mold thereby creating realistic, dynamic, strong lead characters. 300 Rise of an Empire (and the original 300) have become known as the movie of hot nearly naked men, which while true is a shame. These movies instead of being booed for their supposed sexism (yes, the men are unrealistically fit, but for some reason that’s not the complaint of most of the feminists in my life) should be cheered for their excellent female characters. So as I said before, I love the 300 series and if there’s a third I can’t wait to see what awesome woman they come up with next!