Friday, September 5, 2014

Princess Buttercup: The Paragon, Even if She's Kind of Stupid

Photo Credit:
Okay, let’s get two things clear, right off of the bat.

One, The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies, you will never convince me otherwise, and I don’t care if you hate it. There is an intense love there you cannot break.

Two, Buttercup is stupid. I don’t mean this as, “I don’t like her.” Buttercup is simple. Daft. Not quite all there. Whatever euphemism you choose to use, Buttercup is lacking in her cognitive ability—and I love her anyway.

5 Reasons Buttercup is an Awesome Princess (even if she’s a few French fries short of a Happy Meal)

1. her love :: You do not have to be a genius to love people. Buttercup is described as the most beautiful woman in the world, but she loves a farmboy-turned-pirate even when she could have a prince. She may be slower, but her love is not shallow. It’s real. *

2. her faith :: I’m paraphrasing this idea from Serenity, courtesy of Shepherd Book—it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something you are willing to die for. Buttercup believes in the love she shares with Westley, and it defines her as a character—“I will never doubt again.”

3. her courage :: She stood back when the R.O.U.S. attacked Westley, she screamed a lot, she let strange men drag her halfway to Guilder and back, and she had no part in the fighting. Fine. You don’t have to fight to be brave. You only have to be willing to die for things you believe in, whether that means standing up to your pig fiancé or traveling through a fire swamp for your love or taking your own life as a responsibility to your cause. Because you don’t have to fight to be brave.

4. her wisdom :: I am also of the opinion that you don’t have to be smart to be wise. When she is hauled back onto the boat after the episode with shrieking eels (sharks, in the book), Vizzini mockingly supposes she thinks she’s brave. Buttercup looks up at him and says, “Only compared to some.”

5. her value :: Buttercup is the glue that holds the story together. She is the key to starting a war with Guilder, the connection between the Dread Pirate Roberts and Fezzik and Inigo, the love interest that carries the story. She matters. Because she matters, the story matters.

And here’s a bonus: Buttercup mocks every other princess in fantasy.

That’s one of the best parts—The Princess Bride is a critique of fairy tales and fantasy women. I don’t care if we’re talking about Arya from Eragon, Anna from Frozen, Princess Leia from Star Wars, or Belle from Beauty and the Beast… We hate to think that every princess is like Buttercup, but when it comes down to it, couldn’t you attribute “love, faith, courage, wisdom, and value” to an astonishing number of princesses out there?

I can, anyway. That would be a really boring month if I wrote every post about a princess who fits this pattern, so I won’t, but just remember: you’re never going to escape the Buttercups.

Don’t be too depressed, though. There are a few kinds of characters we will always love, because the differences will always be enough to satisfy us. That’s how archetypes work!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go speak to a six-fingered man about my father… Ta-ta!

What do you think of Buttercup? What about her archetype, as a princess and a damsel in distress? Share in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Stuart Rankin

*A Note on Love: It is really easy to make the argument that Buttercup’s love was superficial and only really weak characters would kill themselves for love. There are more fish in the sea, all that stuff. To that I say, “This is true love—do you think this happens every day?” Buttercup and Westley’s essential trait was their love for one another, and even if “fairy tale love” seems stupid or nonsensical, it is also integral to the story and in their hearts worth dying for. Which true love should be, in my opinion.

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