Author Topic: All of Tehran was outraged  (Read 1009 times)

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The_Professor

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All of Tehran was outraged
« on: March 15, 2007, 10:42:45 PM »
All of Tehran was outraged. Everywhere I went yesterday, the talk vibrated with indignation over the film 300 — a movie no one in Iran has seen but everyone seems to know about since it became a major box office surprise in the U.S. As I stood in line for a full hour to buy ajeel, a mixture of dried fruits and nuts traditional to the start of Persian new year festivities, I felt the entire queue, composed of housewives with pet dogs, teenagers, and clerks from a nearby ministry, shake with fury. I hadn't even heard of the film until that morning when a screed about it came on the radio, so I was able to nod darkly with the rest of the shoppers, savoring a moment of public accord so rare in Tehran. Everywhere else I went, from the dentist to the flower shop, Iranians buzzed with resentment at the film's depictions of Persians, adamant that the movie was secretly funded by the U.S. government to prepare Americans for going to war against Iran. "Otherwise why now, if not to turn their people against us?" demanded an elderly lady buying tuberoses. "Yes, truly it is a grave offense," I said, shaking my own bunch of irises.

I returned home to discover my family in a similar state of pique. My sister-in-law sat behind her laptop, sending off an e-mail petition against the film to half of Tehran, while my husband leafed through a book on the Achaemenid Empire, noting that Herodotus had estimated the Persian army at 120,000 men, not one million as the film claimed. The morning newspaper lay on the table with the headline "300 AGAINST 70 MILLION!" (the population of the country). It was echoed by the evening news: "Hollywood has opened a new front in the war against Iran."

The timing of the computer-generated film, which depicts the ancient confrontation of Sparta and the Persian empire at the Battle of Thermopylae, is certainly inauspicious. It falls on the eve of Norouz, Persian new year, a time when Iranians typically gather in proud celebration, observing rites that date back over 3,000 years, way before Islam, to the age of Zoroastrianism, when their ancient land produced the world's first monotheistic religion. It is not a particularly welcome season to be portrayed as pillaging, deranged savages. Since the entire country will be on two weeks of official holiday, there will be no shortage of time to sit about discussing the slight and what it portends for Iran's current confrontation with the United States. For a people prone to conspiracy logic, the box office success of 300, compared with the relative flop of Alexander (another spurious period epic dealing with Persians) is cause for considerable alarm, signaling ominous U.S. intentions.

While the hullabaloo over 300 may dampen Iranians' holiday spirits, it offers common cause between people and their estranged government. Top officials and parliament have scorned the film as though it were a matter of state, and for the first time in a long while, taxi drivers are shaking their fists in agreement when the state news comes on. Agreeing that 300 is egregious drivel is fairly easy. I'm relatively mellow as Iranian nationalists go, and even I found myself applauding when the government spokesman described the film as fabrication and insult. Iranians view the Achaemenid empire as a particularly noble page in their history and cannot understand why it has been singled out for such shoddy cinematic treatment, as the populace here perceives it, with the Persians in rags and its Great King practically naked. The Achaemenid kings, who built their majestic capital at Persepolis, were exceptionally munificent for their time. They wrote the world's earliest recorded human rights declaration, and were opposed to slavery. Cuneiform plates show that Persepolis was built by paid staff rather than slaves And any Iranian child who has visited Persepolis can tell you that its preserved reliefs depict court dress of velvet robes, and that if anyone was wearing rags around 500 B.C., it wasn't the Persians.

It is going to take an act of foolhardy courage to distribute that film in Iran. It will truly be 70 million against 300.


BT

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2007, 10:50:27 PM »
For pete's sake, it is a movie.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2007, 02:44:33 PM by BT »

Michael Tee

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2007, 10:52:21 PM »
I saw the ads for that flick, and it looked to me like it would attract an audience composed exclusively of white male suburban kids, none over the age of 14.  It's unbelievable that anyone would take that drivel seriously.

Amianthus

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2007, 11:15:04 PM »
For pete's sake, it is  movie.

Hey, it's a remake of a movie from 1962. Guess Bush has been laying the groundwork for his invasion for over 40 years. Pretty good planning for an idiot, huh?
Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight. (Benjamin Franklin)

Amianthus

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2007, 11:27:12 PM »
I saw the ads for that flick, and it looked to me like it would attract an audience composed exclusively of white male suburban kids, none over the age of 14.  It's unbelievable that anyone would take that drivel seriously.

Actually, it based on a true event during the Greco-Persian Wars, the Battle of Thermopylae.

However, I know very few 14 year olds that are interested in this movie. My wife wants to go see it (having watched the original movie not long ago of which it's a remake) and another female friend wants to see it as well. When I asked the female friend why she wanted to see it, she said something along the lines of "300 sets of washboard abs? Why wouldn't I want to see it?"

I find it interesting that people in Tehran are upset about real history. Perhaps they don't know that they attacked Greece in history?
Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight. (Benjamin Franklin)

_JS

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2007, 01:01:10 PM »
Quote
I find it interesting that people in Tehran are upset about real history. Perhaps they don't know that they attacked Greece in history?

Yes, but the movie is hardly an accurate portrayal with the actual battle of Themopylae.

For whatever reason the Spartans have been made, throughout western history, into some sort of grand heroes, whereas the Persians have been made into horrible monsters of history.

I watched a program on the History Channel that recounted the historical battle. It was really good until the very end. At the very end the historians, all acclaimed in the field and some department heads at universities, made some very problematic statements.

According to them the 300 Spartans (and 700 Thespians whom everyone forgets) "saved western civilization as we know it." How? Well, allegedly they bought enough time to save the denizens of Athens, where democracy was invented. In essence these Spartans saved Athens and there spirit "unified Greece" and therefore saved Democracy and therefore The Battle of Thermopylae saved western democratic liberalism as we know it today!

Of course that is a load of horse fecal matter. First of all Greece was united by the Macedonians under Phillip and then Alexander, and Macedonians weren't Greek (ask one and they'll tell you). The fact that they fought with each other at Thermopylae wasn't that strange, they'd done so before and while some of the city-states were fighting with Athens, others were aiding the Persians. The Greeks would return to city-state form later when Rome began to rise and conquer. Interestingly, one of the places Athens tried to hold off Phillip of Macedon was at Thermopylae ;)

If anything it was the Persians who more closely resembled modern liberal views than the Greeks. The Persian Empire was remarkably liberal for the time period. They allowed conquered people's to keep their religion and even government structures with minimal interference so long as they made payments and did not interfere with Persian rule. It was Athens help of Greek rebels in the Ionian Revolt that brought about the Greco-Persian War.

The problem for Persia at Thermopylae was primarily one of terrain. The Persian military was designed for fighting battles in the open flatter terrain of the Middle East where they could use their light armour and quick weaponry. They were fast and known for their cavalry (and the immortals). Xerxes was outright idiotic in fighting the battle at Thermopylae and allowing the mixed Greek army to choose the site. The outcome would have likely been far different if Xerxes had been a better commander. His army took great casualties because of the close quarter combat and the Greeks simply made the fact of being outnumbered meaningless by forcing the Persians into a narrow path.

But, by no means were the Persians evil monsters and the Spartan/Thespians grand heroes that preserved modern western civilization.
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Amianthus

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2007, 01:20:10 PM »
Yes, but the movie is hardly an accurate portrayal with the actual battle of Themopylae.

Not having watched either movie, I can't tell you if there are inaccuracies or not.

That said, there is no human culture in history that is all good or all bad. All human cultures have some good and some bad periods / events / people.
Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight. (Benjamin Franklin)

The_Professor

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2007, 01:20:36 PM »
"...For whatever reason the Spartans have been made, throughout western history, into some sort of grand heroes, whereas the Persians have been made into horrible monsters of history."

Perhaps it is the American support of the underdog? I have a friend who is a professor at a small college. He uses the underdog role in the film industry (aka "Rocky" for example) to discuss characteristics of American culture. The underdog view is not universally shared worldwide; he swears it is culturally-based.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2007, 02:07:30 PM by The_Professor »

_JS

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2007, 02:05:15 PM »
Quote
That said, there is no human culture in history that is all good or all bad. All human cultures have some good and some bad periods / events / people.

Very true.

Quote
PEraps it is the American support of the underdog? I have  friend who is a professor at a small college. He uses the underdog role in the film industry (aka "Rocky" for example) to discuss characteristics of American culture. Thue underdog view is not universally shared worldwide; he swears it is culturally-based.

I'm not sure if it is mostly American or not.

I think you're right though and that it does appeal to Americans. Hell, it appeals to me. What baseball fan doesn't love the thought of Bill Mazeroski beating the might Yankees in the 9th inning of the 7th game of the series? And wasn't that the beauty of the Miracle on Ice? That's probably why a lot of people don't care if the "Dream Team" lose anymore. They don't have that magic of being underdogs. When you are expected to win all the time then you just become an annoying Yankees or Red Wings fan ;)

The Battle of Thermopylae is often used as an example of "never quit, never surrender" and facing down your enemies even at overwhelming odds. It is also considered an example of an exemplary trained and battle ready professional force taking on a poorly trained, poorly equipped force.

The Spartans were taught for military duty beginning at age 7 (or 6, I forgot which). Your life was devoted to the state and the military machine. Females were there to produce tough males. Males were there to become soldiers, or die in the attempt. Children born with any noticable defects were left alone to die. Women had a great deal of freedom and respect in Spartan society, which was a rarity for the times. Sexual practices in Sparta were...well, we'll just say different! It was certainly an interesting culture. I don't think it is of much use as a military recruitment tool today.


I smell something burning, hope it's just my brains.
They're only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
   So stuff my nose with garlic
   Coat my eyes with butter
   Fill my ears with silver
   Stick my legs in plaster
   Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Michael Tee

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2007, 02:34:00 PM »
<<Actually, it based on a true event during the Greco-Persian Wars, the Battle of Thermopylae>>

It's a cartoonish take-off on history.  The ads did not appear to be directed at history students.  Lady beefcake fans might migrate over from their WWF  base, but I still see this primarily as the 14-and-under suburban male crowd wowed by the vicarious thrill of fantasies of violence and machismo.

As  you pointed out, this has been done before.  I'm not sure if your 1962 reference was to the film "Go Tell the Spartans" or similar title, but if not, there's another one for the record.  Thermopylae in Viet Nam.

Amianthus

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2007, 02:47:47 PM »
It's a cartoonish take-off on history.  The ads did not appear to be directed at history students.  Lady beefcake fans might migrate over from their WWF  base, but I still see this primarily as the 14-and-under suburban male crowd wowed by the vicarious thrill of fantasies of violence and machismo.

Not having seen it, I have no idea how accurate it is. Trailers can be very deceptive; the trailers for "Bridge to Terabithia" which I saw last weekend were very deceptive, for example.

As  you pointed out, this has been done before.  I'm not sure if your 1962 reference was to the film "Go Tell the Spartans" or similar title, but if not, there's another one for the record.  Thermopylae in Viet Nam.

The 300 Spartans (1962)

Go Tell the Spartans was from 1978, and was not about the historical Battle of Thermopylae from the Greco-Persian Wars..
« Last Edit: March 16, 2007, 02:51:29 PM by Amianthus »
Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight. (Benjamin Franklin)

Plane

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2007, 05:25:08 PM »
The example of Athens is important to our ideas of good governmet , the example of Sparta is iportant to our Militay ,Syracuse is important to our scientific community, this is an old set of ideas and has nothing to do with modern Teran.

Persian contributions to our developent are important but are less known to us. We haven't studyed them .


_JS

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2007, 04:44:12 PM »
Quote
The example of Athens is important to our ideas of good governmet

How?

Quote
the example of Sparta is iportant to our Militay

How?

I ask because American History is interestingly lacking in almost any teaching of classical history. A lot of Americans believe the old Protestant myth that Rome fell because the Romans all lived such sinful lives of debauchery. In reality, I doubt that the majority of Americans have any understanding of the time period because most history that is taught in schools is taught with the idea that what is important began in 1776, with the exception of the pilgrims (whose contribution to this country is often blown far out of proportion).

I'm not being short with your comments Plane, but for the most part I just simply doubt their veracity.

One of the Spartans greatest fans was Adolf Hitler. Some of the Nazis considered the Spartans the first Fascist state and others pondered it as an idealistic future of a Nazi German nation. The SPartans tend to be lionized for what they did at Thermopylae, but they had their faults as well. They were very slow both to get to battle and in battle. It was perfect for Thermopylae, but awful in an open terrain situation.


By the way a Greek friend of mine saw the movie on Friday and told me that he thought it was a terrible portrayal of the Persians. He said that the Persians came across as almost animals, whereas the Spartans were heroic. All subjective I suppose, but I thought the source was very good.

I smell something burning, hope it's just my brains.
They're only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
   So stuff my nose with garlic
   Coat my eyes with butter
   Fill my ears with silver
   Stick my legs in plaster
   Tell me lies about Vietnam.

The_Professor

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2007, 10:23:57 PM »
JS, what a preposterous generality! I do not know WHERE you were educated, but your view of the U.S. educational system is inaccurate. We are all taught classical history as well as the events after 1776. And there are several views of the decline of the Roman Empire from moral turpitude, the heavy presence of lead, relying upon mercenaries and on and on. No one really knows; it is all conjecture and baring a miraculous discovery, it will always be so. Ever read "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"? It was REQUIRED reading for me in public high school in Texas!

As far as Sparta, it is a good demonstration of holding the military to a higher standard and what military does not need that? Frankly, the purpose of the military is not to govern but to break things. If you are going to do it, DO IT EFFECTIVELY or don't bother. But, the other side of the coin is that your VERY EFFECTIVE military should only be used in last resorts (unlike Iraq) or specific instances where a nation's interest is involved (again, not Iraq).

_JS

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Re: All of Tehran was outraged
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2007, 10:16:40 AM »
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JS, what a preposterous generality!

Oh really? I'd love to see a poll conducted and how many people can even name a Roman leader other than Julius Caesar. You might be right that I'm far too cynical, but I'd wager quite a bit of money that the majority of Americans aged 15+ have no idea what century and in what war the Battle of Thermopylae was fought. Hell, I doubt most Americans know what sides fought in the Punic Wars.

And from reading numerous letters to the editor about how America is turning into Rome in its "moral decline" which led to Rome's fall, plus attending a Protestant church that taught just that, I can safely say that I've witnessed that very teaching on more than one occasion. A generalisation, true and perhaps not fair to place on the widespread populace, but I'm not sure how preposterous it is.

Quote
As far as Sparta, it is a good demonstration of holding the military to a higher standard and what military does not need that? Frankly, the purpose of the military is not to govern but to break things. If you are going to do it, DO IT EFFECTIVELY or don't bother. But, the other side of the coin is that your VERY EFFECTIVE military should only be used in last resorts (unlike Iraq) or specific instances where a nation's interest is involved (again, not Iraq).

That's some rather selective history of the Spartans, is it not? You forget that Spartans were raised in a military environment and only those who lived long enough and achieved a certain rank could hold government office. Should we even get into the "lifestyle" choices of those in the Spartan military? Also, Spartans really believed in the state. You belonged to the state and were loyal beyond the faux patriotism we have today. The state was a religion in Sparta, it was much closer to Fascism than any of today's governments.



I smell something burning, hope it's just my brains.
They're only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
   So stuff my nose with garlic
   Coat my eyes with butter
   Fill my ears with silver
   Stick my legs in plaster
   Tell me lies about Vietnam.