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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…

princess-bride-gender-swap

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?

About the author

Heather Jackson

Heather is a cartoon screenwriter, YA novelist, small town fugitive, and late-blooming gymnast. For more, visit her website at heatherjacksonwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/the-princess-bride-gender-swapped/

18 comments

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  1. Anonymous

    Watch Kill Bill for sword-fighting women!
    Thanks for writing some great posts, Heather. I’ve been reading several of them to help get started on a novel. Even as a female writer, I have to remind myself to balance my cast of characters rather than focusing on male characters. The notion that men are the folks who do things seems to be ingrained in me from the constant exposure to them in literature and the media.

    1. Heather Jackson

      Yes, Kill Bill has some fantastic sword fighting! And you’re not the only one who’s been influenced by the media’s lopsided portrayal of men doing all the things. I was talking about the Princess Bride with a friend who is a big fan, and when I pointed out how all the main characters are men, she admitted she’d never even thought about that because it’s just so normal for a cast to be predominantly male. But slowly things are changing. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading the blog!

  2. James Pailly

    I’ve heard of this kind of thing as a writing exercise. Take your current WIP and gender swap every named character. What stays the same, what changes, and can any of that be incorporated into your story?

    1. Heather Jackson

      That is a neat exercise! It’d be very interesting in an academic setting too. Now if only I was a professor I would start a Gender-Swap English Lit class…

  3. noelleg44

    i really hadn’t thought about the dudeness of this movie, I guess because it reminded me of the old swashbuckling movies of the 40s and 50s – which were all about the dudes!

    1. Heather Jackson

      Very true! As a society, we’re conditioned to accept male-dominated movies as the norm. But the tide is turning in Hollywood. A lot of discussion in the last few years about getting more women on screen, since we are half the population after all. 😉

  4. Ellie Firestone

    What an interesting post! I definitely got the feeling that the movie was quite dude-oriented. The book is more focused on Buttercup, but there are still not many female characters.

    Though I’m still half-convinced that the Albino is female, just with a gravelly voice 😛

    1. Heather Jackson

      Ha! When I first saw the Albino, I thought the same thing! Now I can’t stop looking at all characters and imagining they’re women. 😉 Thanks for the comment, Ellie, and participating in The Princess Bride Party!

  5. Evelyn Dotson

    yes Heather,

    my apologies for leaving out the title of the movie. “Parent Trap”
    While I was still awake I thought of a new book with a female lead ( future movie I hope)
    titled “Blood on the Tracks” by debut author Barbara Nickless.
    On a humorous aside, producers could hire Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner to play both sides in the Princess Bride

    1. Heather Jackson

      That’s okay. That’s what Google is for – finding titles to that movie/book/song you can’t remember.

  6. imaginativeworks

    This idea of re-making a movie (book) with a gender swap is interesting to me. I hadn’t heard of it before and I friend recently mentioned the idea in reference to Harry Potter, an intense discussion followed. Anyway, I think the idea is fascinating because there are so many places that it could take the story. I also see a bit of humour, not because women can’t sword fight, save people, avenge or be heroes because of course we can and with a zest and flair, but simply because I already see a bit of humour in these characters regardless of gender. I was thinking of the scene in the movie Ever After where Drew Barrymore picks up the prince, over her shoulder, and carries him away much to the surprise and amusement of her audience! Anyway, love the idea.

    1. Heather Jackson

      It’s true, gender-swapping characters opens up new story possibilities! And humour. Always that. 🙂 Thanks so much for the comment, Shari, and participating in The Princess Bride Party!

  7. Evelyn Dotson

    Quoted from the Internet: ” Identical twins, separated at birth and each raised by one of their biological parents, discover each other for the first time at summer camp and make a plan to bring their wayward parents back together.” End Quote

    Staring 11 yr. old Lindsay Lohan in both roles ( she was herself & her twin sister)
    Hallie Parker / Annie James

    Also staring Dennis Quaid as Nick Parker (vineyard owner) & Natasha Richardson( French wedding dress designer) as Elizabeth James

    While at summer camp before they discover each other they are paired up for sword fighting.

    Spoiler Alert: This is a movie where young females can not only sword fight, but still save the day. The most important day ahead or as we call it the happily ever after (the HEA)

    1. Heather Jackson

      You mean The Parent Trap? There was sword fighting in that movie?!

  8. Laurie Germaine

    The movie series Pirates of the Caribbean has many scenes where women sword fight, and let’s not forget LOTR and The Hobbit where we have a couple of extremely capable women doing some great fighting, as well. Prince of Persia is another amazing movie with a kickbutt female character, as well as the movie John Carter, and who can forget the Black Widow in the Avenger series? (Okay, the BW doesn’t sword fight, but for a woman without magical powers, she does an incredible job taking out her enemies.) 🙂

    I’m sorry your Sunday school teacher didn’t answer your question to your satisfaction all those years ago. I hope you understand now, but just in case, allow me to say that back in that time, in that culture, women did NOT teach men–period. So for Jesus to ensure His message would continue to spread long after His ascension, His inner circle had to be made up of men. That doesn’t mean Jesus thought less of women, for Mary and Martha, while not part of the Twelve, did learn at His feet and would have then gone on to spread His teachings among the other women in their social circle. Also, Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26), which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the Jews of that day HATED Samaritans, and no Jewish man in his right mind would speak to a Samaritan man, let alone a Samaritan woman, so the fact that Jesus did just that reveals a TON about His love for people and the worth He gave to women.

    As for the Princess Bride, the movie was based off of a book written in 1973, so I think that alone explains a lot about the number of male characters you find in the cast. And while it’s always good to remember that women are capable of doing many of the same things as men, it’s in man’s nature to protect the woman, to be the hero, to save–at least help save–the day. By all means, we should encourage girls to reach their highest potential, but that doesn’t mean we have to grind men under our high heels along the way, which is a trend I’m noticing in society these days.

    I personally love the Princess Bride and wouldn’t switch anything, but based on your post, it sounds like this might be a great retelling for you to write in the future. In today’s culture, there would definitely be an audience for it. 🙂

    1. Heather Jackson

      Thanks for the great examples of kick-butt female characters! And yes, now that I’m older, I understand how human history spread and amplified male voices and not female voices. Part of me wonders if there were more influential women during that time period, but their tales were simply not included by the men who curated what went into the written Bible centuries later. And then I wonder about what future societies will wonder about our generation’s stories. Oh, history! Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment!

  9. Robert Doucette

    I’ve thought about this for a long time and I think the leads in the Jurassic World could be gender swapped with no problem. The Chris Pratt character (Owen) would be the empathic, dinosaur whisperer Ellen, respected by her peers by not the corporate types. Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire would be Carl, the workaholic corporate honcho, oblivious to his sister’s pending divorce or the needs of her young nephews. He knows the corporate numbers but is ignorant of actual product being sold. Bonus: Better running shoes. Doc Martins for Ellen and custom made wingtips for Carl.

    Seriously, though, the idea of gender swapping brings a new insight to characters and helps me to be more creative in writing.

    1. Heather Jackson

      Great example! I especially like the bonus: “Better running shoes.” 🙂 And I agree that gender swapping is a helpful exercise for really digging deep into characters. Thanks for the comment!

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