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Classics in the Modern WorldA Democratic Turn?$
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Lorna Hardwick and Stephen Harrison

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199673926

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673926.001.0001

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Truth, Justice, and the Spartan Way

Truth, Justice, and the Spartan Way

Freedom and Democracy in Frank Miller’s 300

Chapter:
(p.380) (p.381) 26 Truth, Justice, and the Spartan Way
Source:
Classics in the Modern World
Author(s):

George A. Kovacs

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673926.003.0026

This chapter explores an ideologically-charged nexus between the traditions of the battle of Thermopylae and the American superhero comic. The comics medium is inherently inclusive and democratic. Yet, these depictions are problematic: Superman and Captain America articulate their democratic values through violence, not by debate. The superhero, an elite enforcer rather than a petitioner for social change, has often been depicted as antithetical to democracy: agent of chaos, anarchy, and even fascism. Miller’s graphic novel 300, published two years before 9/11, is replete with such contradictions. It positions Leonidas and his Spartans at Thermopylae as superhero defenders of a proto-democratic Greece, and yet fascist in their pursuit of ‘freedom’. Miller imbues his Spartans with a hyper-masculinity, fighting foes who are effeminate, foreign-looking, and sexually deviant, further limiting the scope of inclusivity.

Keywords:   Key words: comics, graphic novel, Thermopylae, Leonidas, Superman

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