Dr. Flamingo Jones And The Wholly Inaccurate Film
I’m exceptionally pleased to present today’s Guest Slap. The author, Dr. Flamingo Jones, is a world-renowned archaeologist and researcher at the University of Oxbridgeshire. While I know little about his reclusive past and current whereabouts, he has kindly agreed to share with us, occasionally, his knowledge, discoveries, and insights.
Good day to you, ladies, gentlemen, and those who do not wish to confine yourselves to such limiting terminology. Normally I, Dr. Flamingo Jones, intrepid explorer and researcher extraordinaire, use this space to answer one of the numerous intriguing questions that I have come across in my work as the Department Head of Queer Archaeology at the University of Oxbridgeshire. This time, however, I am going to doll out one of these “metaphorical slaps” for which this electronic compendium is so highly acclaimed for. In particular, a Slap shall be delivered to Mr. Frank Miller, Zack Snyder, Gerard Butler and everyone else who worked with the script of the film 300.
300 recounts the Battle of Thermopylae, where a small army of 300 Spartans and 4000 other Greek allies attempted to defend their homeland against the Persian army (estimated between 200,000 and 2.5 million soldiers) during the 480BC invasion of the independent Greek city-states.
Most anyone who has seen the film generally agrees on one point: It is extraordinarily gay. 300’s somewhat pronounced homo-eroticism, depicting muscular, manly warriors wearing the classical era’s male equivalent of bikinis, made it an enjoyable viewing experience for me and every other gay man (closeted or otherwise). However, there was one remark made in the movie that just boiled my blood, and probably that of every other gay historian. Specifically, King Leonidas of the Spartans announces that it would be cowardly to surrender because the Athenians have decided to fight, and they are a nation of “philosophers and boy-lovers.”
Now, perhaps we could ignore that many of western civilization’s roots come from Athenian “philosophers and boy-lovers” such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. Perhaps we could also ignore that these “philosophers and boy-lovers” succeeded where the Spartans failed by proving their military superiority in that same war, as their navy of approximately 300 ships defeated the massive Persian fleet of 800 ships during the Battle of Salamis. We may even ignore Hollywood’s recurring anti-gay themes. There is, however, an unignorable inaccuracy with King Leonidas’ comment. Bluntly, the Spartans were some of the biggest queers in history.
The Spartans were gay—and fabulously so—to the extent that they were one of the few ancient societies that actually had institutions of mandatory homosexuality embedded within their culture. All Spartan males were taken from their families as children, to be trained as warriors though endless tests of self-reliance and endurance that Plato himself described as harsh and violent. Then at the age of 20, they joined military organizations called syssitia (those sissies), in which they lived their entire lives surrounded by men in which all were equal regardless of birth, wealth, or age. Homosexuality would have been the only option for the men, as they were not allowed to have wives, or even to leave their syssitia on their own.
An interesting aspect of Spartan homosexuality involved the traditions surrounding their weddings: They were finally allowed to take wives once they turned 30. The ceremony were like a reverse drag show, with the bride starting off the ceremony wearing a man’s clothing, changing into a woman’s clothing, signifying the husband’s transition from having sex with men to sex with his wife.
Makes you think of the Spartans in a whole new light doesn’t it? Perhaps they should name a condom line after them too.
Update: Slap reader Murray writes in with Frank Miller’s official stance on this issue:
The issue […] was discussed in the letters page of the original 300 comic mini-series. Frank Miller’s position was that the Spartans only had sex with men who were their equals in age and status—in the Spartan army, it was believed that full intimacy with the man standing next to you in the phalanx would increase your will to fight and protect him. Therefore he had Leonidas deride the Athenians for being ‘boy-lovers’ rather than men-who-have-sex-with-men.
Thanks, Murray. I think Dr. Jones will be relieved to hear this, though I can’t imagine why this wasn’t mentioned in the series itself…