A recent article in “AV Club,” a left-leaning journal of entertainment news and cultural criticism, posits the theory that the film “300” led directly to the rise of the alt-right and the election of Donald Trump. The idea that a fantasy cartoon version of the Battle Of Thermopylae could do that is a bit odd, to say the least. However, it bears some examination.

‘300’ did violence to ancient Greek history

To say that “300” did violence to ancient Greek history is to put the matter mildly. Let’s leave aside the spectacle of the Greeks fighting bare chested without armor.

The idea of Sparta as the champion of Greek freedom is laughable. Sparta was essentially an army with a state attached to it, with every male citizen doing only one thing, using sword and spear to smite the enemies of the city. Helots, enslaved people, performed all of the economic functions of Sparta. Athens, on the other hand, invented Democracy. The battle that Athens participated in, the navy action as Salamis, was a complete victory over the Persians.

To be sure, King Xerxes of Persia was not the tattooed, pierced monstrosity that was depicted in the movie. That depiction was as stylized as the half-naked Greek warriors. And the Persians did not use a war rhino, in all likelihood.

Was the movie racist?

One supposes that the idea that “300” was racist is in the eye of the beholder. Any story that depicts a group of white guys as the heroes and a large number of Asians as the heavies could, one supposes, be considered racist in the view of the social justice warrior crowd. On the other hand, that is one aspect of the story that the movie got right.

Read Herodotus, the very first historian, to get the real account.

Did the movie lead to Trump and the alt-right?

The problem with the theory that ‘300’ resulted in the rise of Trump and the alt-right is that it came out in 2007. The very next year, the American people elected its first black president on the promise of hope and change.

Four years later, they reelected him because the guy who ran against him abused dogs and gave a woman Bain cancer, or something like that. Only in 2016, nine years after ‘300’ came out and was all but forgotten, did Americans elect Trump and a group of severely disturbed young, white men started acting out in public. Oddly enough, the alt-right does not identify with the Spartans, but rather history's villains and losers, the Nazis and the Confederates.

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