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SPARTACUS: BLOOD & SAND


Josh Carter English 101 Review by: Josh Carter Spartacus is an American television series produced in New Zealand that premiered on “Starz” on January 22, 2010.This show is a graphic look at Roman warfare that emulates Zack Snyder's 300 but is more closely assimilated to the Xena and Hercules shows produced by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. It stars Australian actor and model, Andy Whitfield as the immortalized main character, who claws his way from the depths of forced slavery to the cheers of the crowd. He plays a Thracian soldier who is captured by the Romans and forced into slavery as a gladiator; but promised to be reunited with his wife Sora (played by Erin Cummings.) Given the sexual content coupled with the gritty violence portrayed by the fight scenes in the arena give this show was intended to have a particular allure to male audiences. In nearly every other scene there’s either a shot of a naked woman, a sex scene, or a bloody portrayal of bone smashing violence that gets the viewer’s blood pumping. Many would think that these “masculine” points in the plot would make such a target easy to hit. However, in similar fashion to Snyder’s 300, the show received a much greater than expected level of female approval. Spartacus’ master, Quintas Batteatus (Played by John Hannah) plays on the emotions of the main character, making promises of reunion with his wife. This twist in the plot makes a conflicting, and very interesting image out of Spartacus. A Thracian soldier, a hardened man of war, now a slave and a gladiator; but found on bended knee in tears before a Roman man willing to die if it only meant his wife was freed from bondage. Is this right? The main character, the hero, cries? At this point the violent, sexy action-thriller becomes closely assimilated to a daytime soap opera. This of course can’t be tolerated, yet the show still remains a hit going into its fourth season.

How can a show scattered with such a variety of emotions and plot twists


receive such a high approval rating, by both men and women? The presence of a strong female role portrayed by the wife of Batteatus played by Lucy Lawless from Xena: Warrior Princess. While in some instances taking on the typical busy-body housewife portrayed by sitcoms such as Desperate Housewives, She also shows herself to be very clever, and very strategic in her dealings with other characters throughout the show. Again very much similar to the character of the queen in 300, Batteatus’ wife stops at nothing to uphold her husband and push him toward his goals of political influence in Rome. She would even go so far as to sleep with one of his gladiators because the couple were baren of children.

Also take into

account the roller-coaster of emotions seen in Spartacus. The main character goes from a fierce warrior, screaming at the top of his voice as he slays an opponent, to a crumpled heap weeping in the fetal position. When he wins, when he loses, when he’s promised to be reunited with his wife, when he is deceived and his wife is murdered, when he is forced to murder his friend; all examples of instances where the character changed roles from resilient champion, to a broken man in tears. One scene even depicts him crying right before a fight. When facing the trials (the final test to become a gladiator) Spartacus pauses and cries as he pauses to think of his wife. His opponent, Crixus, Champion of Capua (Paul Kynman) mocks him saying, “Tears? The rabbit is fixed to piss himself!” Spartacus then proceeds to humiliate the Champion, knocking him on his backside and nearly killing him. This would spark an ongoing rivalry that would be further fueled when Spartacus strips Crixus of his title while simultaneously saving his life in the arena.


In an article entitled “Bros before Hos: The guy code” By Michael Kimmel many of the traits portrayed my Spartacus are said to be seen as the unofficial definition of masculinity. The man is strong, never backs down from a fight, demands respect, is not afraid of anything and brutally destroys anyone or anything standing between him and his goal. Many traits envied and sought after by so many men today. At the same time the article goes on to make points such as, “Boys don’t cry” or “Take it like a man” and “It’s better to be mad than sad.” How then are the characters depicted in this show seen as idols among men? In April, 2010 Muscle & Fitness Printed an entire section on the training regiments of the actors, even putting Paul Kynman (Crixus) on the cover. This magazine sells millions of copies every month. All over the world, millions of men were hitting the gym, pushing their limits and trying to emulate these actors. Not because of who they are; but because of what they portray in character. The producers of Spartacus may have missed their target audience by definition; but the clever integration of sex-appeal, violence, drama, deception and romance made this series a hit, worldwide. The strong female role coupled with the brilliantly produced action scenes and the constantly twisting plot makes looking away from the screen nearly impossible, and waiting all week for the next episode even harder. While majority of reviews of this show were positive, not all viewers found it enjoyable. Many find the language and strong sexual content offensive. Many others simply do not enjoy such portrayals of violence. With growing accusations in the media recently that violence in television sparks violence in children, Spartacus took a bad rap from many family and Christian


groups. I will admit, despite how much I enjoy the series, the constant use of profanity and vulgarity makes the show uncomfortable to watch, and I’m not easily offended. In conclusion this is a great TV series. The narrative is very deep, the plot is strong and captivating and the characters are very well portrayed and very compelling. The elements of sex-appeal and gritty violence flow freely throughout the series from pilot to finale. The action is well produced and the use of CGI blood splatter makes each victory or defeat so much more intense. With the bending plot and constant action Spartacus: Blood and Sand is arguably one of the most watchable shows on television today, if you can handle it

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