One of the strongest themes in Agora is rampant tribalism and the chauvinism that inevitably accompanies it. The tribalism is visually shorthanded using one of my favorite filmic tropes, Dress Coded For Your Convenience. See if you can suss out who’s who in this clip:
With few exceptions, devout Christians are dressed in black robes with ornamentation corresponding to rank. More recent converts from paganism (representatives of the Roman Empire in this scene) are coded in shades off-white, tan, and crimson. The former are taking a stand for Biblical patriarchy and against philosophical inquiry, while the latter are mostly capitulating and implicitly acknowledging the subjugation of the State by the Church.
One of the things I find particularly striking is how often I don’t find this trope particularly striking, or even consciously noticeable. I hardly even noticed it the first time around, except during the riot scenes where it is hard to miss. Of course human beings will group themselves according to ideology, and of course we project our affiliation by mode of dress. It’s just what we do. To this day, whether we want to visually identify with the horde of Christians, Pagans, or Freethinkers (just to pick out a few groups from the film) there are ample ways to project this to the English-speaking world.
Sometimes I wonder whether this is really a good thing. At the very end of my conversation with Richard Carrier, we off-topically discussed whether a particular atheist t-shirt had provoked any discussion on his end. On his view, a more diverse and tolerant community is less likely to ask questions which might lead to discussions about one’s faith, because that might easily lead to uncomfortable discussions, whereas a less tolerant and more homogeneous society will be somewhat less cautious.
I’m genuinely uncertain whether visually projecting one’s faith, sect, or team affiliation is likely to lead to positive interactions or not. Your thoughts?