Lackluster �300�: Artistic adventurism or cultural terrorism?
By Shirzad Azad
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Mar 29, 2007, 01:09

The West has had a long history of designating other nations as backward and itself as a great civilization and the model of progress. As the leader and the top representative of the Western civilization, the United States has enthusiastically followed this tradition through its movie-making mafia, Hollywood, and after bashing many other nations, including Africans, Indians, Chinese, and Japanese, it has recently turned its attention to the Iranians.

It is a bare fact that history is always written by the victors. Unfortunately, due to a turbulent past not only other nations but also a large number of the Iranians themselves do not have an accurate and undistorted knowledge about the ancient history of Iran, called Persia.

Since the invasion of Persia by the Muslim Arabs in 651 C.E., many of the states and the systems which dominated and ruled the Iranians portrayed their ancient background much in the same way director Zach Snyder did in the movie 300, and lots of their works on history treated the pre-Islamic Iranian civilization much the way that Frank Miller�s novel did.

Iranian civilization has long been struggling to defend its ancient heritage simultaneously on two different fronts, one before its classical rival, Western civilization, and another versus an Arab-Islamic culture or pro-Islam domestic forces. With a long-standing and proud civilization, the Iranian legacy has so far succeeded in overcoming so many hostile waves, and its significant contribution in many aspects to world civilization is indispensable.

Iran is not simply a polity of a single nation; it is truly a small continent of many different ethnic groups that are the backbone of a multicultural country and a community of various people and traditions. After all, 300 does not just vilify the Iranians, it is an obvious assault to the all societies of West Asia, Central Asia, North Africa and Eastern Europe, which were once parts of Iranian wide empires in ancient times. The movie also degrades a large community of Indian, Chinese, European and American people who come from Iranian origins and Persian ancestors.

With a great desire to sell and sensationalize, 300 is a pure fantasy in which the Persian army is depicted as demons devoid of culture, feeling or humanity, and in contrast to the noble Greeks, the Iranians are portrayed as the bloodthirsty people who think of nothing except attacking and killing other peoples. As an irresponsible and distorted image of ancient Persia, 300 depicts the Persian king, Xerxes and his savage soldiers as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in nature.

As the Japanese archaeologist, Takashi Okazaki, once pointed out, archaeological finds from Iran and its former territories indicate an advanced culture in the pre-Islam Iranian empires left behind. Regrettably, today many of Iran�s highly valuable relics and historical objects are found in Western museums, not in Iran. Some of those ancient antiquities have been directly smuggled to the West upon their discovery.

The people, who are familiar with art and often visit museums, will not be easily fooled by 300 or Hollywood�s similar baloney, such as the 2004 film Alexander. That is why when the exhibition of �The Glory of Persia: 7,000 years of culture� was inaugurated in Tokyo�s Metropolitan Museum last August it was welcomed by an unexpected turnout of the Japanese and foreign residents. In this exhibition, 210 unique relics belonging to the 5th millennium B.C.E. to the end of Sassanid empire era in 651 C.E. had been selected from four Iranian museums. The record number of visitors encouraged South Korea and China to request hosting the exhibition of �The Glory of Persia� after the two Japanese cities of Tokyo and Nagoya.

As usual, a worldwide protest by the Iranians against Hollywood�s assault has so far backfired, and the Western-based media giants have professionally manipulated and misused their anger in favor of 300 to increase its sale. But the Iranians could not tolerate being indifferent about such incontestable insults, and it is up to the conscience of the international community to give its judgment. Iranians cannot afford more, because they are condemned in a world in which the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.

Shirzad Azad is an East-West Asian Relations researcher at the Graduate School of International Politics, Economics and Communication, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan.

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