my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (Jessica Harper)
As you may recall from my review of 300, I found it to be unequivocally and unapologetically racist and homophobic. Now, I don't contend that anyone intended to make such a statement explicitly (except, perhaps, for Frank Miller--but that's another fish).

This morning I've been listening to back programs on BBC Radio 4, including this interview with director Zack Snyder. When asked about the issues I cited above, this is what he said:

It's not my intention to make a film that's upsetting to anyone.

Well, fine. It's an apology that's not an apology ("some of my best friends are Persians"), but not surprising. But here's more:

Francine Stock: Is there any historical basis for suggesting that Xerxes was dressed like some kind of bondage queen?

Snyder: No, there's none at all. As a matter of fact, I would say that part of the reason that we did that was, I mean, it's the way that Frank drew him, exactly, but it's also, for me, a way to stay away from the reality of the moment. And I would say that it's the same with the Spartans; it's not like the Spartans looked like that either. It was an attempt to kind of separate the movie from reality so as not to make a comment on those culturally sensitive issues. [emphasis mine]

This is an amazing example of doublespeak. "I'm using stereotypes to stress the fact that I don't believe them. Anyone who sees something offensive in that must be a racist homophobe themselves." Which is somewhat permissible in satire; Dave Chappelle, for example, deals in stereotypes of, say, racist bigots in order to make a statement about bigotry. Even if it's primarily humorous, and potentially offensive, there's a kernel there of social motivation.

But it's illogical to allow anyone trafficking in any stereotype leeway by saying they were using the stereotype because it's wrong. That's like putting a show on tv that has a blonde actress being stupid and getting in lots of trouble every week and then saying, "Oh, it's funny because it's not true" instead of "Oh, it's funny because she's blonde."

300 repeatedly portrays the enemy (as well as the less-useful ally) as effeminate, gay, or monstrous, without ever indicating that there is any possible subtext which would lead to Snyder's above remarks. It's not enough to tell us (or rather the limited audience who listens to him talk about his film) that your decisions mean the opposite of what we see on screen. We are not stupid, and subtext, satire, and wit are all appreciated and discernible when they're there. When you present something and your intent is the exact opposite of that thing's face value, there's something wrong with your reasoning. Irony, after all, requires the difference between explicit text and implicit meaning to be, well, understood by the audience. Nobody assumes the shark in Jaws is intended to be understood as the victim, after all.



my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (Default)
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