“The 300” blockbuster movie and the recently released “Lysistrata” are not just different – they’re opposites. In watching both films, I’m struck by how similar the mise-en-scene and how opposite the message.
The joy of The 300 is in reveling in the gore, the revenge and the balletic slaughter that is male testosterone. It’s the nihilistic primordial myth that celebrates male violence as the indispensable defender against the bestial Persian horde. The joy of Lysistrata is in imaging a world beyond all this male violence – a world where woman are on top and war is no longer necessary – a world where male hormones are harnessed and female sexuality triumphant.
Lysistrata begins with the woman of Athens and Persia going on a sex strike to end war. In a two-pronged attach, the woman also take control of the war funds stored in the Acropolis. This leads to a male-female struggle for control of the treasury.
When the men fail to break down the gates of the Acropolis with their battering ram – and the path of violence is denied – they must put down their arms and send in the Official to talk.
Instead of a male general – King Leonidas – flexing his six pack and urging the men on to death, we have a female general Lysistrata sending emissaries thither and thither to negotiate a peace. As the main protagonist of the story – Lysistrata – defeats all the men’s arguments for war.
Lysistrata does not work by suppressing male desire. Sexuality is not suppressed but encouraged with provocative dancing and teasing.
And in the world’s first (and perhaps best) tease and deny session, Myrine reminds her husband why he might want to vote for peace in the assembly.
Male eros is soon harnessed for peace instead of war. Instead of men dying gloriously in battle, their minds are opened to see the humanity in their enemy and to negotiate peace. Estrogen triumphs over testosterone. The climax is sex instead of death.
As I look at wars around the world today, the cause has not changed. Now just as in Aristophanes time, it is male testosterone that celebrates violence and war. Who truly thinks there would be war in Syria, Russia, Iraq (any country where woman have no voice) if those countries had female leaders in high office?
It is interesting that audiences still flock to testosterone stories, such as The 300, and reinforce the status quo. Or are things starting to change? The 300 is supposed to be an epic but it comes off comic. We know that the real 300 would have worn bronze chest plates. There’s something funny about all these sexy men flexing their oiled muscles and exposing themselves in this ludicrous way – something Chippendale stipe-club funny. And Lysistrata is supposed to be a Comedy but comes off more serious than Aristophanes could have ever imagined. Does Putin strutting shirtless on his horse seem more ridiculous every day? The increasing interest in Lysistrata suggests “yes”. The film just won gold at Houston Worldfest.
Of the two movies – it is Lysistrata and not The 300 – that was written by a war veteran. Sick from 20 years of fighting – Aristophanes realized the essential truth – that female participation in government is essential to a less violent world.
The message of the 300 is also correct. It is necessary that good warriors die to stop other rigid men who want to kill for a cause. But let us celebrate that audiences are also open to the movie Lysistrata – which reminds us that sex can triumph over war if women lead.
Contributor: James Thomas