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The Rippling Abs Of House Republicans
This past Wednesday, more than two dozen House Republicans led by Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, their muscles rippling underneath starched white dress shirts, heroically kicked down the door of a secret impeachment trial of President Donald Trump run by Democrats.
There are, of course, two versions of this news story and I want you to know, upfront, that this news story was not in any way the most important news story of the week.
Here’s the second, more honest, version: This past Wednesday Democrats and Republicans of the House Intelligence Committee heard a Pentagon official’s testimony as part of the ongoing House impeachment probe.
Gaetz and his band of excitable brothers ignored security protocols, disrupted the proceedings, and demanded the investigation be public. The premise of their stunt was ridiculous: the Democrats are following rules written a few years ago by Republicans.
Afterward, celebrity gossip website TMZ asked a victorious Gaetz what he thought of his obnoxious flashmob prank:
“We were like, you know, the 300 standing in the breach to try to stop the radical left from storming over our democracy.”
He was glowing as he said it.
The ‘300’ he mentions is a reference to the 2006 movie 300 adapted from Frank Miller’s graphic novel about a small group of mighty Spartans who fought to the death defending the Ancient Greek city-states against a Persian invasion during the famed Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.
The movie 300 is clearly important to Rep. Gaetz. It’s the story of swole maniacs facing impossible odds together. Never let it be said that Republican frat boys are not romantics.
300 is a heavy metal historical epic directed by Zach Snyder and starring Scottish actor Gerard Butler as Spartan King Leonidas, a hairless Hercules with taut water balloon biceps and trembling sausage-link abdominal muscles. Three years prior Butler had starred in the big-budget movie musical ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ as The Phantom. I only bring that up because Butler’s range as an actor is not fully appreciated.
The movie was also a real breakthrough for the director. Zach Snyder is beloved by conservative men. His movies are slick and kinetic. His heroes are emotionally gloomy ticking time bombs. Snyder’s action scenes are bone-crunching ballets, graceful and brutal.
In a way, 300 is Zach Snyder’s best movie. It’s an action-packed CGI-enhanced melee of pent-up macho energy. But Snyder is probably best known for directing an adaptation of the beloved graphic novel Watchmen. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s masterpiece about masked vigilantes was once considered unfilmable but Snyder, to his credit, proved that wisdom wrong. His Watchmen is one of the most perfect visual translations of a comic book to the big screen with one exception. In the graphic novel, the violence is ugly. In the movie, it’s breathtaking.
Alan Moore’s characters, no matter their motives, are savages. He is saying, on every page of the graphic novel, that the love of superheroes is the belief that “might makes right.” And that is a fascist fantasy. Conservative men love Snyder because his movies ask the question “maybe might does make right?”
I enjoyed 300 when it came out. It’s a camp classic. I mean, there are so many fluttering crimson capes! The movie is nothing but beautiful men smoking crystallized testosterone from pipes and then shouting until veins pop out in their necks. The action is elegant; blood spurts fly through the air like ribbons. It should also be mentioned that 300 is the closest thing Hollywood produced to a 100% pure War on Terrorism-era propaganda movie. The movie wasn’t about ancient history. It was about America at war in the Middle East at the turn of the 21st Century.
That’s because 300 is a movie about white men fighting hordes of brown people. In 300, the Persian king Xerxes is a giant effeminate person of color with facial piercings. The cinematic Battle of Thermopylae is like the Alamo of Antiquity, another battle where noble white dudes died fighting an army of dark-skinned soldiers.
The Spartans, after all, were raised from birth to fight. In a way, they were like the Texans of the Mediterranean.
Modern conservatives love to proclaim themselves the protectors of Western Civilization, but always ignore West Civilization’s rich tradition of progressivism. Instead, when they mention ‘Western Civilization,’ what they’re really referencing is a deeply-felt ahistorical belief that white men, and white men alone, are responsible for humanity’s greatness. And, therefore, they must defend civilization from the uncivilized. 300 dramatizes this delusion, in the silliest and most self-serious ways possible.
Nothing tugs at manly hearts quite like bros against foes. Perhaps Rep. Gaetz believes his name will live forever. That future Republicans will sit around a fire in the ruins of the U.S. Capitol and tell the story of how Matt Gaetz tried to save democracy from a lawful process enshrined in the Constitution. I hope these post-apocalyptic conservatives mention how bravely he charged, screaming ‘This is for Trump!” as his colleagues from both parties rolled their eyes.