Straight talk from the sisters about blood, sweat and ink
The Princess Bride Gender-Swapped!
Confession: I saw The Princess Bride for the first time last weekend. I know, I know, my childhood was lacking. There was only one movie theatre with one tiny screen in my town, and my parents said we were too poor to see movies in a theatre. So yeah. Fast forward 29 years later, and I have Netflix which has The Princess Bride. Now all is right with the world.
So what’d I think?
First, I need to establish something else about my childhood that may seem totally unrelated but isn’t… Picture me at about age 7, smaller-than-average with brown pigtails and an overbite, dressed in a frilly dress and white patent Mary Jane shoes. I’m sitting in a church basement with a dozen other kids. We’re in Sunday School. The teacher is telling us about Jesus and the 12 disciples. I raise my hand. When the teacher nods my way, I ask, “Why were all the disciples men?” My teacher answers, “Just because they were.” I’m not satisfied with this answer, yet sadly I’m used to it. This is not the first time I’d asked why men got to do all the things and make all the decisions and women didn’t. I did not yet know the words “sexism” or “patriarchy”, I just knew that men ran the world, and young me thought that this was not fair.
Old me still thinks it’s not fair.
So while watching The Princess Bride, even though I was enjoying the funny banter and swashbuckling fight scenes, I couldn’t help but think, “Why are all the characters dudes?!” Except for Buttercup and two women who have single scene bit parts (Miracle Max’s wife Valerie, and the Ancient Booer – a part so minor she doesn’t even have a name), the other FIFTEEN speaking roles in this film belong to men. And it could so easily NOT have been that way! So easy I’m going to do it right now…
From the very first time the character appeared on screen, I wanted Inigo Montoya to be a girl. So much so that in my mind, I renamed him Indigo! And that’s the only change needed. Indigo is exactly the same as Inigo, except a girl. And I’ll tell you why…
#1 – Equality in Revenge! Why is it that revenge plots starring men usually revolve around a family member who was killed and the hero plots to kill the murderer to avenge that death, yet revenge plots starring women are usually about avenging a sexual assault? Don’t get me wrong, that’s one helluva reason to seek revenge! But it’s been used so much it’s cliche. Why can’t women pick up a sword and avenge wrongs against their family? It’s not inconceivable!
#2 – Sword-fighting. I just want to see more women sword-fight on screen. I’ve read books with women who sword fight, but can’t think of a movie. Chime in in the comments if you know of one!
#3 – Drunkenness. Yep, this is a vice that is generally reserved for the boys – male characters drown their sorrows in drink, while women eat ice cream. And when female characters do drink, they’re portrayed as being pathetic and having a very serious problem; whereas male characters often just shake off their blues, get sober and kick ass. Time for Indigo to demonstrate how women can shake it off too!
Next gender-swap: Westley! In fact, I’m pretty sure Westley is supposed to be a girl disguised as a boy. How else do you explain that moustache? Also…
#1 – Girl pirates rock! ‘Nuff said.
#2 – Girls can do the saving. There have been a couple movies where girls save other people, but nothing compared to all the movies where men save everybody. Now, if one was to write this movie with Westley as a girl, people would probably call her a Mary Sue. Wikipedia defines a Mary Sue as: “an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through unrealistic abilities” and “a poorly developed character, too perfect and lacking in realism to be interesting.” Yet when a male character fits this bill, the reaction from audiences is usually, “Yeah, sure, I buy that.” After all, it’s fun to watch Westley be amazing, right? Well, to me, Westley being amazing as a girl is even better!
#3 – The world needs more LGBT romances without making it an issue. There doesn’t need to be an explanation for why two women love each other, just like there’s not really a reason why Westley and Buttercup love each other. They just do.
Even with those two male characters changed into female characters, the cast of The Princess Bride doesn’t come close to being equally gender split, but it’s a start. Though interestingly, just by changing two heroes into heroines, most people would probably think it was an equal split! For more about our society’s warped perception of male-to-female character ratios, read this enlightening article from Writer Unboxed: The Problem With Female Protagonists.
What do you think of the overall dudeness of The Princess Bride? Would you like to see a remake with women playing any of the traditionally male roles? What characters would you like to gender-swap and why?
Heather is a freelance screenwriter, game writer, and novelist based in Toronto. For more, visit her website at heatherjacksonwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW
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