Friday, July 6, 2012

"Is this a kissing book?"

Ah, The Princess Bride.  Such a great movie.  Everything in it is so cheesy and ridiculous, it makes it awesome (and incredibly quotable). 

I assume that if you have seen this movie, you know the love story is totally cheesy and not based in reality.  However, I still feel I need to point out what's wrong with it, so that you don't just subconsciously accept the assumptions/statements about what love is.

Image source.

Here we go!

Buttercup: [when she hears that Westley has been murdered by pirates] "I will never love again."

And 5 years later, she still believes she will never love again.  So, she's just planning to be sad for the rest of her life because her high school sweetheart died?  Dude.  You can't live that way.  Stuff happens and people break up (or die) and it's not the end of the world.  But anyway, she is engaged to Prince Humperdinck (though she doesn't want to be), and when Westley comes back into her life, he's upset about it?  Because she's being unfaithful to him?  He was freaking dead, what do you want her to do?

Westley: "I told you I would always come for you.  Why didn't you wait for me?"
Buttercup: "Well... you were dead."
Westley: "Death cannot stop true love.  All it can do is delay it for a while."

Okay, that's nice that you love each other, but... I'm sorry, if you're dead, you're dead.

Also, I really feel like Westley's ability to rescue her had less to do with "true love" and more to do with the fact that he was incredibly strong and talented (and in the right place at the right time).

Image source.

Prince Humperdinck: "You truly love each other and so you might have been truly happy.  Not one couple in a century has that chance, no matter what the story books say.  And so I think no man in a century will suffer as greatly as you will."  [turns on torture machine]

Apparently Westley and Buttercup had some really unique connection called "true love", and that's what it takes to make a relationship work.  What is "true love", as defined by this movie?  Does it mean their personalities are just really really compatible, or their emotions are really strong, or what?  Seems to be saying that in order for a relationship to work, you need the perfect combination of initial conditions.  No.  In reality, a relationship needs two people who are willing to help each other and serve each other and be selfless- it's about how you care about each other every day, it's not about the initial conditions.

(Am I right here?  This is coming from someone who's 23 and hasn't dated that much.  Can someone back me up on this?)

Dread Pirate Roberts [aka Westley]: "He simply said 'Please, I need to live.'  I asked him what was so important.  He said 'true love.'"

So someone who's in a relationship deserves to live more than someone who is not?  Westley and Buttercup are more important than the other characters in this movie, because they have "true love"?

Image source.

Grandpa: "Since the invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses rated the most passionate, the most pure.  This one left them all behind.  The end."

This line is completely nonsensical and ridiculous.  I don't get how you can judge other people's kisses.  A kiss is really only meaningful for the people involved, right?  And what does "pure" mean?

Fezzik: "I fight gangs for local charities and stuff."

Haha, I just included that quote because it's funny.  Move along.

And back to this "true love" thing, since the movie is so keen on it.  Is it the idea that there is exactly 1 person in the entire world who is perfect for you?  Because that totally makes no sense.  (I'll probably write a blog post later about how much that makes no sense.  I feel pretty strongly about it.)

In summary: This movie is hilarious and here is a link to a page where I got a lot of these quotes.  But please make sure you don't take anything it says about romance seriously.


  1. I didn't know you had a blog! And I liked your points. As someone who has been in love a few times, I've noticed that the final time that it worked (aka, my husband) had a lot more to do with the charateristics you pointed out that a relationship needed - namily two people who were commited to make it work by serving each other - than it did with "but it was really amazing and awesome in the beginning and we have so much in common and stuff".

    I also love the Princess Bride - it is so quotable! :)

    1. Thanks! ^_^ And I'm glad you can tell me from experience about the "committed to make it work by serving each other"- because that's what I figured, but in all the movies it's all about the beginning of the relationship and how they have all these emotions, etc.

  2. I see your point, but isn't this kind of like pointing out that Santa is a bad role model because he sneaks into people's houses at night? I'm sad to think that anyone takes the Princess Bride's hyperbole about true love as if it were anything other than a fantasy-- but the fantasy is a beautiful one. Is dissecting and examining it in the harsh light of reality really necessary?

    1. Maybe it's not necessary. "The Princess Bride" is meant to be over-the-top and ridiculous, so perhaps everyone realized the unrealistic-ness without needing to analyze it. But I think in media/movies there are a lot of really bad/dumb/harmful messages about what "love" is, and healthy relationships are very rarely shown. And that needs to be addressed. I know "The Princess Bride" isn't the best example of that (because it's SUPPOSED to be cheesy) but I wanted to write about it because I really like it. I plan to write about other movies too.

      Also let me ask you something: When you say that the "fantasy" presented in "The Princess Bride" is "a beautiful one", and it shouldn't be subjected to "the harsh light of reality"- I think "the harsh light of reality" would only be a problem if people ACTUALLY BELIEVED the "fantasy" was real life, right? It's fine to enjoy fantasy stories, and if we recognize them as just fantasy, then I don't see how it would ruin the fun to point out that the fantasy is totally not real.

      And also, let me reiterate that I really love this movie and it's hilarious. I'm not like "oh this movie is so evil because it's teaching us bad things about love." So yeah.

    2. Yes, good points. But I think that there is more to fantasy than "just fantasy." I think even in its over-the-top forms, it reflects something about the human condition which should not be lightly dismissed. Sure, the love in PB is not real life-- but I think the depiction of love in PB is a depiction of what love feels like-- and that those feelings represent something true about love.

      As the end music says, "My love is like a storybook story, but it's as real as the feelings I feel." The fantasy isn't real, but the love is-- and being in love feels like death can't stop it, and that you will always be able to come to the other person no matter what, and all those things. And those feelings are also real-- just as real as diapers and dishes and automobile break-downs.

      GK Chesterton once said, "No one who is in love believes anyone has ever been in love before. No mother who has just borne a child feels that there have ever before been such things as children." (rough paraphrase) I think he's saying something that's not "real life," but that doesn't mean it isn't real, or true. And that's what I think the Princess Bride is all about.

      The danger is when we think that there aren't going to be any diapers or dishes or automobile break-downs, and that those hyperbolic feelings are all that love is supposed to encompass. But I think it's also a mistake to focus solely on the diapers, dishes and break-downs, as if those were all love was about and the fierce, soaring, ever-after feelings were somehow illegitimate.

      See what I mean?

    3. Oh, okay I see what you mean. So you're saying that the crazy emotions- thinking your significant other is the greatest person in the world- people really do feel those feelings, and we shouldn't just pretend emotions don't exist. The emotions are an important part of the relationship. Obviously you can't base a relationship on emotions alone, but still, they are important.

      Thanks for mentioning this- I think sometimes I tend to think emotions count for nothing- I want everything to be logical and explainable. I guess it's easy for me to go too far to that extreme.

    4. Yes, that's what I'm saying-- and I also think that the very fact that these feelings feel so eternal and transcendent points to the fact that we are more than just animal beings-- that there is something of the divine in us, and therefore something of the divine even in our natural, human love.

      I can appreciate your feelings about emotions. I tend to be an idealist myself and have to be careful to maintain my practical side. :)

    5. Wow I never considered that God gave us those crazy feelings for a reason and we're totally SUPPOSED to feel that way sometimes. That makes a lot of sense. I'll have to think about it more. ;D

  3. Movies are TERRIBLE about showing us the glorious first moments of blissful relationship-dom and nothing past that. We assume as long as you love each other "deeply" enough all will be well and you'll have your happily ever after.

    They don't show the dirty dishes and laundry and the day after day commitment that real love involves. I've been married four years, and although some days I still feel like I'm in the "honeymoon" stage, I realize more and more how my love for my husband has to be a choice. Those butterflies and happy feelings may not be there everyday, so I have to make a choice to consciously love him. Some days simply cleaning the bathroom is the best way I can show that love.

    1. I read an article once that said romantic comedies are always about problems that come up at the beginning of a relationship, and if the couple can just get past that, then at the end of the movie they're living happily-ever-after. But in real life the beginning is the easy part because the emotions and attraction are strong, and then problems come after that starts to wear off.

      But if they showed it realistically, it wouldn't be "good entertainment."

  4. Heya, I found your blog via Libby Anne over at lovejoyfeminism. You seem like an interesting person! This post has jumping-off points for about six different essays, so I'll try to keep the comment length manageable. I think for many (most?) people, love* is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a successful relationship. The things that make my current partnership worth having include love (yes, the dizzying, wake-up-in-the-morning-and-gaze-schmoopily-at-still-sleeping-mate kind, after years), matching emotional luggage (everybody has emotional baggage!), shared sense of humor, shared passions, ability to talk for hours about all the things, sexual** compatibility, a sense that we're in this together even if the "this" is taxes and cat vomit, shared goals... The "one true love" myth is exactly that, most people have the ability to fall in love with lots of potential other people, but that doesn't make any particular relationship less awesome; nobody thinks you can only love one child, after all. It's just that love, while a very good thing! is not enough all by itself.

    * People have successful marriages without love. My instinctive reaction to that is BUT WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT. There do exist aromantic people, though; perhaps you could be one of them? AVENwiki has more, it is a perfectly acceptable, albeit not common, way to be.

    ** There are also asexuals, and people with sufficiently low libido that sexual compatibility is not particularly important to them. If this is not you, then yes, sexual compatibility is a real thing in the world and it can be highly important in a relationship. It is possible to be in love with someone who turns out not to be sexually compatible with you, either through significant differences in level of desire, or through having a completely different list of Fun Things In Bed (or elsewhere) than you. For this reason I have a pretty severe case of stink-eye at the No Sex Until Marriage meme; finding out that you're incompatible after committing to someone sounds terrible. Perhaps there is a solution involving two people who have an active fantasy life being able to talk about their desires realistically beforehand, although my circles don't include people who've tackled the issue that way.

    1. Wow, it's really interesting/surprising to see the different reactions I've been getting to this post.

      You're right- a healthy relationship requires a bunch of different things. Movies say that it just requires the feeling of love. I'm trying to figure out how it's, you know, supposed to work in real life. I feel like I have a lot of messed-up ideas about dating, and I'm working on addressing those. I plan to write a lot more blog posts about stuff like that.