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The 300 Left? No thanks, Mr. Zizek.

Regarding “The True Hollywood Left” by Slavoj Zizek in which he defends the film 300 against critics who decried its fascist ideas.

What most frustrates me about the Zizek piece is what frustrates me in general about the rationale of militarism: it suggests that warfare is as right a path to freedom (or better) as any other means. It refuses to look at the consequences of militarism: a circumscribed freedom (of constant suspicion of treachery, of the suppression of dissent and democratic processes, of borders and related identities), structures that continue to place us on the path to “needing” militarism and violence to “defend” our rights (enslavement to weaponry and armies, for example), and the ready dismissal of discourse and negotiation as first or even penultimate choices for defending freedom.

This argument refuses to acknowledge that because militarism MUST be “us versus them” to achieve its goals it is the rationale of the mob. As such, however well-organized under charismatic leadership, it is fundamentally contrary to humanity’s real potential for freedom.

Sparta liberty
This is not Sparta.

Zizek also refuses to see in THIS depiction of militarism the very nature of race and male supremacy. Come on, 300 makes no bones about this: it is rippling-abs male and gleaming white. Is this the idea of freedom that should be “thoroughly defended”? Not only did 300 ridicule any femininity outside of male control — including homosexuality/homoeroticism — it framed it within the other classic Western symbols of “weakness” and “evil” (dark skin, turbans, disability).

And although Zizek sees the U.S. in 300’s Persia, there is nothing to support it within the current or past political reality of U.S. politics. What “multiculturalist different-lifestyles paradise” is he talking about? It is certainly not the one that *I* know nor that of the Bush White House.

No, no, the critics of 300 are right on target: the film is saying that if we don’t defend our (male-dominated, white) freedom, THIS (brown, female, same-gender loving) is what we can fear to become.

The Left need not reclaim these values to win the war for humanity. It is this militarist model of living that has brought us to this place of increasing commodification, continuing disenfranchisement, and environmental destruction. There is plenty of pain, discipline and sacrifice that comes with imagining a different kind of world without smug claims that the Left simply needs to get behind what is at its most basic “might equals right.”

— Tammi

P.S. Don’t remind me that the film LOOKED GOOD, Niels. 😛

P.P.S. to Jill and Andreas: we were right.


Bonus link: video interview of artist, activist and restaurant entrepreneur Andy Shallal on his murals depicting nonviolent social justice struggles. I have seen his work myself at Busboys & Poets. Many thanks to Angelyn for the link.

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