Screening Love and Sex in the Ancient World pp 227-241
Subverting Sex and Love in Alejandro Amenábar’s Agora (2009)
The Hollywood film epic has typically, and usually unapologetically, been a male genre. Particularly in the 1950s, cinematic narratives of Greece and Rome concerned themselves above all with the heroic exploits of soldiers, gladiators, and slaves, with female costars generally consigned to supporting, stereotypical roles as winsome Christian maidens or dangerous femmes fatales. With its twenty-first-century rebirth, it might have seemed that the ancient world epic had finally caught up with the feminist movement: 300 (2007), for example, attempted to depict Gorgo, Queen of Sparta, as a “political and sexual equal” to her husband, Leonidas.1 But in most recent films (and arguably in 300, too, with its glorification of the warrior), the presentation of gender remains unbalanced. Centurion (2010) may include women among its band of Picts, but, as barbarians, they remain dangerous “others,” suspected of witchcraft (Arianne) or even denied the right of speech (the mute Etain). The Eagle (2011) does not include even one female character in its principal cast. Of course, the ancient world, in very general terms, was hardly renowned for “equal opportunities,” but it would be misleading to argue that these films simply offer a picture of antiquity “as it really was” and must therefore be acquitted of charges of gender bias.
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