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Never Surrender: A Political Analysis of the film "Pompeii"

Updated on February 10, 2015
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I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I've been a Goth since age fourteen, and a Pagan since age fifteen.

"The personal is political."



There are a variety of political issues in the film Pompeii. The most prominent relationships are those between powerful leaders and the society those leaders govern. Gender is a significant factor of these relationships. There are men against women and men against men. Some of the power is a matter of authority, some is a matter of experience, and some are even a matter of intelligence.

Cassia: [witnessing arena massacre] Is this what you call sport?

Corvus: No, Lady Cassia, this is not sport. This is politics.

Class: Slave vs. Master

Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) is only as strong as his authority. He has Proculus (Sasha Roiz) do all of the work. Meanwhile, Milo (Kit Herington) is physically and psychologically strong because he has always taken care of himself. His training as a gladiator provides him with additional strength. Likewise, Cassia (Emily Browning) is a rebel; she goes off on her own, and uses common sense over ego when using her political authority.

Milo and Atticus challenge Corvus by refusing to accept themselves as property. They use the very skills they are taught to amuse their audience in order to defeat Corvus. Pompeii wants entertainment, and rebellion by the gladiators accomplishes that, but they go a step further by disrespecting Corvus; therefore, he could lose the respect of his people.

Before his last battle, Atticus is looking forward to leaving his gladiator days behind, and being in charge of his own destiny. Later, when he is almost defeated by Proculus, he is physically unable to run from the volcano. While most victims of Vesuvius try to block themselves from the lava, he faces his death with an arm raised in pride. His last line echos the way he perceived his life: "I die a free man."

Identity: Rome vs. Pompeii

Milo assumes Cassia is Roman, but she is Pompeian. Through experience, she learned to dislike Romans because of how they treat her. Although Roman Senator Corvus has power over Cassia's father Severus (Jared Harris) because of his wealth and status, she refuses to raise her own status by calling herself a Roman. Today, some famous icons have opted out of using their status to gain absurd extra power, if they know that category creates inequality.

Anne Rice announced that she refuses to be called a Christian because of the destruction the organization has done in the name of Jesus. While she continues to follow Jesus, she refuses to use the term even though it would make it easier for her to explain her beliefs or to be accepted for those beliefs. [If interested, please refer to my article on Anne Rice]

Cassia: Senator, you have mistaken me for the kind of woman who drapes herself across your lap in Rome.

Gender: Women vs. Men

Throughout the film, Senator Corvus uses the threat of death to manipulate Cassia into doing as he wants. The first time, he saves Milo from being killed because he thinks it would keep him in a positive light; however, he has Milo whipped as punishment. The next time, he threatens to kill Cassia's family if she refuses to marry him; therefore, she agrees, to save them. Corvus is used to treating others as slaves. In fact, at one point, he chains Cassia to his chariot to take her away from Milo.

Meanwhile, Cassia has moments in which she uses her lack of status, as a woman, to manipulate Corvus. At the arena, when Corvus wants Milo killed, she convinces the audience to vote for him to live. Furthermore, she convinces Corvus that Milo would make him more money as a champion than as a fallen gladiator. Lastly, after being thrown from the chariot, while Corvus is not thinking, Cassia chains him to it so she and Milo can escape.

Milo: Look at me, just me.

Environment: Politics vs. Nature

Corvus attempts to will the earthquakes from the volcano's eruption to stop, but fails. His ability to manipulate anyone because of his political power has gone to his head. His only concern is for control over his people and environment. Rather than accept the reality of immediate danger, he thinks he is invincible.

Today, some politicians refuse to acknowledge climate change, but this will never prevent it from eventually destroying the planet; especially, if no one takes the initiative to reverse it. In an article by Joshua Zaffos entitled Red States Are Getting a New Shade of Redder, Zaffos uses statistics and findings to show how those influenced by Republican politicians are more likely to reject that climate change exists, and then experience its effects.

Cassia and Milo escape the corrupt leaders, but cannot escape the environmental situation; however, rather than succumb to fear, they focus on themselves and face their inevitable deaths. Their strength comes from love for each other instead of pride for themselves; therefore, ultimately, they are thinking clearly.

Many prefer to believe ancient events are something of the past which have no relation to today, but no matter which century or decade we are brought into, we will continue to experience similar problems with society. There will always be corrupt leaders who will never realize their own vulnerability and underdogs who show us they can achieve far more than society depicts them to be capable of.

© 2015 social thoughts


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