TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - The hit American movie "300" has angered Iranians who say the Greeks-vs-Persians action flick insults their ancient culture and provokes animosity against Iran.
"Hollywood declares war on Iranians," blared a headline in Tuesday's edition of the independent Ayende-No newspaper.
The movie, which raked in $70 million in its opening weekend, is based on a comic-book fantasy version of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which a force of 300 Spartans held off a massive Persian army at a mountain pass in Greece for three days.
Even some American reviewers noted the political overtones of the West-against-Iran story line - and the way Persians are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks.
In Iran, the movie hasn't opened and probably never will, given the government's restrictions on Western films, though one paper said bootleg DVDs were already available.
Still, it touched a sensitive nerve. Javad Shamghadri, cultural adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said the United States tries to "humiliate" Iran in order to reverse historical reality and "compensate for its wrongdoings in order to provoke American soldiers and warmongers" against Iran.
The movie comes at a time of increased tensions between the United States and Iran over the Persian nation's nuclear program and the Iraq war.
But aside from politics, the film was seen as an attack on Persian history, a source of pride for Iranians across the political spectrum, including critics of the current Islamic regime.
State-run television has run several commentaries the past two days calling the film insulting and has brought on Iranian film directors to point out its historical inaccuracies.
"The film depicts Iranians as demons, without culture, feeling or humanity, who think of nothing except attacking other nations and killing people," Ayende-No said in its article Tuesday.
"It is a new effort to slander the Iranian people and civilization before world public opinion at a time of increasing American threats against Iran," it said.
Iran's biggest circulation newspaper, Hamshahri, said "300" is "serving the policy of the U.S. leadership" and predicted it will "prompt a wave of protest in the world. ... Iranians living in the U.S. and Europe will not be indifferent about this obvious insult."