Re-reviewing the Reread: The Princess Bride

April 26, 2012 Books 17

So, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but The Princess Bride is, like, my most favorite book ever. I have read it more times than I can count, ever since I was about 13 years old and discovered that my favorite movie was based on a book. As I am now 34, this means I’ve read this book dozens of times over, *gasp,* twenty years. I read my first copy to pieces (that drop in the bathtub did not help), then I treated myself to the shiny new hardback 25th anniversary edition when it came out and have read it to a nice wrinkle. This year, I decided to treat myself to the 3oth anniversary edition because AH! New material! Sweet!

I started reading it for the Once Upon a Time challenge and found myself blissfully happy to be in the company of Westley, Buttercup, Fezzik(!), Inigo, and Miracle Max. Then something inconceivable happened.

INCONCEIVABLE, I tell you.

I found I had a problem with the narrative. No, a character. One character, in particular.

And this is probably where I should tell you not to read any further if you haven’t read the book. You have been spoiler warned.

At first, I was all, “It’s okay, it will get better. You love this book. It’s going to be fine.”

Then I was all, “Yes, it’s a problem, but it is small. Nothing to get worked up over.”

By the end, I was fretting.

Yes, fretting.

Enough to cause a lifetime of wrinkles and you will have to read the book to get that reference.

My problem? My Problem?! My problem is Buttercup. Yes, she is beautiful and doesn’t really seem to know or care. Yes, she loves her Horse. And I keep telling myself this is satire, but she’s just so…so…dumb! Goldman constantly dumbs her down. And the way the men, ALL the men (except maybe Fezzik) (still love me some Fezzik) treat her like complete crap. And yes, I know it’s satire! BUT, and I mean BUT, why didn’t he give her one redeeming moment? The moment when it is completely apparent that it’s satire, that we are not to think of Buttercup as this BEAUTIFUL, perfect breasted, true loved, yet stupid, do-what-ever-you-say cow and can think for herself? And is actually kind of smart? Beyond what she learned in Royalty School? Because her only defining moment? Is using her fake Queen powers (because she’s not really Queen, is she) to order some men to let them by as they escape.

“And I,” Buttercup said. “I,” she repeated, standing up in the saddle, a creature of infinite beauty and eyes that were starting to grow frightening, “I,” she said for the third and last time, “am the QUEEEEEEEEEEEEN.”

There was no doubting her sincerity. Or power. Or capability for vengeance. She stared imperiously across the Brute Squad.

Buttercup shrugged, “I’ve been going to royality school three years now; something had to rub off.

Um.

Not exactly my idea of a great defining moment.

And it’s not like Goldman doesn’t try, but he struggles:

“you were already more beautiful than anything I dared to dream. In our years apart, my imaginings did their best to improve on you perfection. At night, your face was forever behind my eyes. And now I see that that vision who kept me company in my loneliness was a hag compared to the beauty now before me.” –Westley

Enough about my beauty.” Buttercup said. “Everybody always talks about how beautiful I am. I’ve got a mind, Westley. Talk about that.”

I honestly got to the point where if one more character pointed out how beautiful Buttercup is, I was going to scream. And that whole, I’ve got a mind part? I never really saw evidence of her actually using it, except to act confused!

And I still hate the way the men treated her. And yes, I know it’s satire. But this?

“Woman,” Westley roared, “you are the property of the Dread Pirate Roberts and you … do … what … you’re … told!”

No. Just… no. That is not okay, not even in satire.

OMG, is this because I’ve gotten older? And (perhaps) smarter myself, that this bothered me?

And it is still bothering me. It’s bothering me a lot. Because this is supposed to be, still, my favorite book in all the world and I want to read it again. Perhaps I need to read it again, right away, and look for what I need from this book, which is…. somewhere Buttercup becomes more than what she is. And I’m so afraid it’s not there. I’m so afraid it’s not there and oh my goodness, I’m about to cry over this, I am so distraught.

OR, by having Buttercup struggle to make the men notice that she DOES have some brains, is THAT where Goldman is trying to “say something?” Oh please, let that be IT! Yes, surely that IS it.

Someone help me. Any thoughts? Have you read The Princess Bride and been bothered by these same things? Should they be bothering me?

 

 

caprici2

17 Responses to “Re-reviewing the Reread: The Princess Bride”

  1. Debi

    Oh Heather. *hugs hugs hugs* This post is so bittersweet. I get what you're feeling. As for me, I've grown so much in how I read since book blogging, since reading so many incredible posts by people like Ana and Dewey and Renay and so many others. I used to read so uncritically–just glossing over problematic things and enjoying most everything I read. But I find it harder and harder to do that any more. And you know, sometimes I miss that willful blindness I used to employ. But I can't help but be grateful for the growth I've made thanks to so many smart, thoughtful bloggers. I wouldn't *really* want to go back. But that doesn't mean it's not hard to accept fault in things that have given us so much joy! And I really don't think we have to give up on a favorite book just because it has some issues. I truly believe we should still rejoice in the good things it has to offer, and just try to accept that our feelings are now simply a bit more complicated than they once were. *more hugs*

  2. bermudaonion

    Oh no, I'm sorry to see you're struggling with a book that has been such a big part of your heart all these years. I haven't read it (or seen the movie) so I don't know what you're alluding to. Wait a few weeks and try reading it again.

  3. Melissa

    I love the movie but haven't read the book. Would this be a good book to read to a 6 yr old. She loves princess's, and is extremely girly. I tried reading Hugo Cabret but she lost interest in it pretty quickly, so I abandoned that book and I'm now looking for another book to read to her.

    • Heather

      No, I don't think so. There are a lot of adult themes and the story within a story construct might be confusing for a 6 year old. Read it first for yourself to check, but you may want to wait a few years. <DIV style=”FONT-FAMILY: verdana, helvetica, sans-serif; FONT-SIZE: 10pt”> <DIV style=”FONT-FAMILY: times new roman, new york, times, serif; FONT-SIZE: 12pt”> <DIV dir=ltr> <DIV style=”BORDER-BOTTOM: #ccc 1px solid; BORDER-LEFT: #ccc 1px solid; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0px; LINE-HEIGHT: 0; MARGIN: 5px 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 0px; PADDING-RIGHT: 0px; HEIGHT: 0px; FONT-SIZE: 0px; BORDER-TOP: #ccc 1px solid; BORDER-RIGHT: #ccc 1px solid; PADDING-TOP: 0px”></DIV>

  4. Andi

    Oh I feel ya. I found myself feeling annoyed at the relationship between Diana and Matthew in A Discovery of Witches for many similar reasons. Diana is supposed to be SMART but she's so freakin' NEEDY. Ya know? And this wouldn't have bothered me a few years ago because I would've been SWEPT AWAY but now it's glaring and it sucks.

    *pout*

    But it is worse because this is one of your favorites. :( I'm sorry.

  5. Meghan

    I liked The Princess Bride when I read it, but it never became one of my all-time favourites. Your experience here is exactly why I'm always a little scared when I go to reread one of my favourite books – what if I've changed? But now I am curious to read it again.

    I agree with the other commenters too – blogging has changed completely the way I read. But I always had that edge of fear, even before I started.

  6. Kristen M.

    Since I just read it for the first time, I was sorta just caught up in it and not thinking too hard. But I totally see what you're saying and I did notice it. It made me wonder why Westley fell for her in the first place — just because of her looks? Then he's no better than Humperdinck, right? Well, except he didn't plan to assassinate her after their marriage. :) But, it's a silly book and maybe it was just your mood on this read. I hope it changes for you on your next read!

  7. christina

    Hey Heather –

    I just recently reread this one too (post coming shortly) and although I agree Buttercup is irritating to the umpteeth degree, she didn't irritate me THAT much. Although I suspect if I knew her in real like I'd more than likely have punched her already. AND all of the boys that flocked her way.

    But here's the thing. I read and loved me some Princess Bride in middle school but this second time reading…*gasp* I might have to succumb to the acknowledgment that i just prefer the movie. I know, I know! It just didn't grab me like it did when I was a kid. And pray tell I couldn't even get through the first page of Buttercup's Baby.

  8. Kailana

    *sigh* See, I loved this book when I read it and it sits prettily on my shelf, but I watched the movie with Lorrie, he had never seen it, and it got me thinking about things and I started wondering why it was that I even liked the book and now I am scared to reread it. (Yay, run-on sentence.) And, Buttercup would probably annoy me now in ways that she didn't when I was younger. And I have reached a point where if problems exist like that, I feel guilty saying I like the book. It's like I don't care how women are portrayed… And I do, but sometimes the rest of the story makes up for it, you know? (Like Andi, A Discovery of Witches comes to mind..)

  9. Melissa

    Oh man, this is what I’m always terrified will happen when I re-read my favorite books. I’ve read and loved The Princess Bride, but it’s been quite a few years. Like a few of the other commenters A Discovery if Witches didn’t work for me bc of the “stupid woman” syndrome. I hate it when authors do that!

  10. Aarti

    Oh, I know exactly what you mean! Like Melissa, this is why re-reading books really worries me, particularly childhood classics. I have a feeling the men aren't quite so gentlemanly and the women quite so amazing as I remember them in my mind. I am so sorry this happened for one of your absolute favorite books. I often think this is why reading childhood favorites for the first time as an adult sometimes doesn't work. And I realize now what people say about blogging having an impact- I think I read much more critically than many of my friends. A very mixed blessing, but at least it makes you feel… smarter? Er, worthier? I don't know!

  11. Lu

    Oh no! I'm sorry you are not as enamored as you once were. That's so disappointing :( I don't know if you watch How I Met Your Mother, but my very favorite episode is when everyone starts to notice each other's annoying habits. They play this ridiculous glass shattering sound, because you can never view the other person without noticing that bad habit again (like chewing loudly). I feel like it's that sometimes when we reread. I'm sorry this happened with a book that's your favorite!

  12. trish

    Unfortunately, I won't be able to help you because this is something that bothered me immediately. Buttercup is SO DUMB to the point where it's ridiculous. And I get that it's satire, but it just didn't do it for me. This is one where I prefer the movie to the book.

  13. jmchshannon

    The movie is one of my all-time favorites, so I had high hopes when I read the book for the first time a few weeks ago. I just could not enjoy it. I though Buttercup was awful, and I struggled with the satire throughout as it was just TOO heavy-handed. Like Trish, I think this is one where the movie is much better than the book.

  14. Trish

    This is one of the reasons why I haven't ever read this book. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE the movie. I still remember brandishing kitchen accessories as knives when I was 8 and yelling You killed my father, prepare to die! But it's also a reason why I don't do a lot of re-reading in general. Sometimes a first read is just so magical that I fear that a second read just won't be quite as magical. This post breaks my heart a little bit for you.

  15. Michelle

    I totally, totally feel you. I watched the movie a bunch of times before reading the book, and though there were some parts of the book I found better than the movie, Buttercup being so consistently portrayed as stupid really bothered me. In the movie, she’s not exactly portrayed as /smart/, but she’s not portrayed as stupid either (though maybe a bit helpless). But yeah, and everyone just going on and on and on about her beauty in the book got SO annoying. So… I guess my advice would be shift your loyalty to the movie? I know that’s kind of hard to do if you read the book first, but Buttercup is seriously a better, stronger character in the movie, and the other characters treat her better, too. But in the meantime, just know that your feelings about Buttercup are, at least in my opinion, /completely justified/.

Leave a Reply