The Starz re-imagining of the tale of Spartacus has finally come to an end, leaving behind a road paved with violence, nudity, blood and gore, sex, sexual assault, torture, heavy language, and even drug usage. You name it. The Spartacus series stands among the titans when it comes to "extremeness" density.
It also may be the most 'Murican show to date, and by "'Murican," I do not mean "American" per se. I am primarily talking about the extreme masculine stereotype of the things that Americans enjoy. I understand that there may be plenty of doubts, but hear me out. It isn't just the fact that the show satisfies some of our darkest indulgent fantasies. Spartacus also features a movement that just about any American would ultimately believe in.
Perhaps the most immediately obvious theme throughout the series is the pervasiveness of nudity and sex. For porn-obsessed 'Muricans, this is a godsend. There are one or two (or three) sex scenes in every episode. Essentially all of the main protagonists and even some of the antagonists are good-looking and/or muscle-bound. For each season the actors would be sent through an intense training regimen, which not only shaped their bodies but also prepared them for the choreographic fight scenes.
The action is full of deeply diaphragmatic screaming, spewing blood, and slow-motion evisceration. Think 300 on steroids. In the first season, the series struggled with quality in this area, producing fairly unrealistic computer animations. But eventually, Spartacus evolved its own unique style. War of the Damned proved to be very impressive, displaying epic battle scenes on scales both large and small.
Although the sex and violence might be appealing to our less-sophisticated 'Murican sensibilities, the story remains more memorable and more deeply appealing on an intellectual ground.
The series paints a stark contrast between good and evil for the most part. Most of the Romans are manipulative, twisted liars playing at politics, often at the expense of their slaves. The cruelty with which the slaves are treated is heavily emphasized, and even when it is not, the show is able to elicit a sickening feeling at the thought of one human being having such influence over another.
The depiction of Roman society in all its perversion makes it easy to root for Spartacus and his vow to "kill them all." It hearkens back to our 'Murican desire to see evil smote. Such themes of vengeance are reflected in movies like Gladiator, Man on Fire, or my personal favorite, Taken.
The deepest reason for the 'Murican appeal, however, is that the story embodies some of the core values of American society. Spartacus and his movement mature from rebellion into revolution, as we see the protagonists willing to risk life an limb for liberty and equality. In the pump-up speech before the final battle, Spartacus proclaims: "Let us teach them that all who draw breath are of equal worth and that those who seek to place heel upon the throat of liberty will fall to the cry of freedom! ['MURICA, F*** YEAH!]"
In one corner, we are presented with a multicultural force of revolutionary, good-looking, muscular former slaves (including some shout-outs to the LGBT community) fighting for freedom against overwhelming odds. In the other, we have the establishment-based, conniving, elitist politicians fighting for slavery and oppression (who also happen to be overwhelmingly white and mostly rich, easily representative of historical Aryan racial supremacy).
Spartacus has taken our 'Murican sentiments of violence, sex, vengeance, liberty, and equality, and wrapped it into a neat little package that has something for every 'Murican. The only thing missing is the heroic waving of the American flag. (Did I mention that there are crucifixions reminiscent of Judeo-Christian persecution?)