When I started thinking about a movie to write on dealing with gender roles, the movie 300 certainly was not one of the first movies I thought of. This is because it’s not on the list of movies that come to my mind when I try to think of my favorite movies. I think the sensationalistic filming style is irritating to watch and the whole movie comes across as rather fake, as opposed to a movie such as Gladiator, which has incredible visual features that draw you into the reality of the story. 300 has unrealistic fight scenes, glorified violence at times (complete with blood spurting everywhere), inappropriate scenes, vulgar and disgusting creatures, and I find it overall very visually unpleasant to watch, and I cannot with a clear conscience honestly recommend for anyone to watch the movie expecting a good, clean, period film. All that being said however, there is one reason I really appreciate the movie 300 – well, two reasons I suppose – King Leonidas and Queen Gorgo.
These two figures, if they were, in actual history, the way they are portrayed by this movie, I would say are my favorite (non-Christian) husband and wife in history. It is very interesting to see how they interact both with each other, and with others while in each other’s presence, or when speaking of each other to others. In Sparta, women were given very high status in society, in politics, and in the home. 300 does a very good job of showing this, but what is interesting to see is that Gorgo is still very clearly the woman; Leonidas is still clearly the man. Leonidas was a king, and was thus responsible for the order and protection of Sparta; he was the leader. Leonidas and Gorgo show immense respect for each other, and the movie actually does a very good job of showing the love they have for each other. Gorgo is a strong, loyal woman who takes initiative when she must. In the movie, we see her give Leonidas wise advice, encouragement, and inspiration. It is Leonidas who goes to fight the Persians; the woman going isn’t even considered. However, Gorgo defends her husband’s honor and his cause to the senate. She pleads with Greece to send more warriors to aid her husband and the few soldiers who have gone to defend Sparta. She even oversteps her boundaries as a woman and speaks in the counsel’s meeting in order to fight for her husband. She takes initiative both with her husband and with the counsel on her husband’s behalf, yet still maintains and embraces her womanhood. I love the character of Queen Gorgo because she never sacrifices honor and status in order to be a woman, yet she flourishes as a woman because she understands that to be a woman did not mean she was in any way inferior to men, which was the common mindset in that time and culture.
However, this self-confidence and self-worth that the queen had, I believe, was in large part due to how her king treated her. Leonidas showed honor to Gorgo as someone to be respected and heeded. He asked her advice about the war before he went to fight. He defended her honor against a Persian who spoke out against her. He told her how much he loved her in many different ways. And he went to fight to defend her and their son. The queen knew she had worth and value, because Leonidas truly loved her and was able to show her the value he placed in her. Leonidas never diminished Gorgo’s role in his life. He always heeded her words, even if he did not agree, and was respectful even when he told her she was wrong and told her what she needed to do.
The mutual respect King Leonidas and Queen Gorgo had for each other is incredible to watch, and is seen in the way Gorgo viewed her husband as her hero, and a true man of honor, and stated that women of Sparta were the only women who “give birth to true men.” Leonidas showed his respect and love for his queen in many ways, including his stated desire for her happiness when he was leaving for battle. Gorgo asked the king what she was supposed to do if he did not return (again showing her respect for his wishes), and he said that she should marry a good man, bear him children, and live a happy life. My favorite example of the love Leonidas had for his wife is as he is dying, his last words are, “My queen! My wife… My love.” His last thoughts were of Gorgo, her safety, their close relationship, and his longing for her to be at his side. Leonidas and Gorgo can be examples of the incredible relationship a man and woman can have when they seek to empower each other to truly flourish as the man and woman God designed them to be.