Viking Night: The Princess Bride
By Bruce Hall
January 11, 2011
Most consumers have no problem loving a huge budget blockbuster. Movies that are meant to appeal to the widest possible audience usually do just that. But some films have a narrower vision, or simply contain more complex meaning than meets the eye. They aren't always art, and they aren't always even very successful. But for a devoted and eccentric few, they're the best entertainment money can buy. Once, beginning with Erik the Viking, a group of dedicated irregulars gathered weekly in a dingy dorm room to watch these films and discuss how what pleases the few might also appeal to the many. Time has separated the others in those discussions so that I alone remain to ponder the wider significance of cult cinema. But while the room is cleaner and I no longer have to skip class to do it, I still think of my far off friends whenever I hold Viking Night.
Food for thought: children’s entertainment is usually created by adults, and since most adults were once children, sometimes the material is meant as much for us as it is for them. Case in point: The Flintstones, a prime time animated series filled with adult situations, contemporary pop culture references and Fred and Barney shilling cigarettes during commercial breaks. A cartoon yes, but not entirely meant for the tots. And then there’s the vintage Looney Tunes series of animated vignettes. Originally shown as theatrical shorts, they often featured graphic physical violence, ethnic stereotypes and social vices, making them somewhat more suitable for grown-up audiences. Looney Tunes shorts were usually just escapist fun, while The Flintstones more often than not contained subtle messages about living up to your responsibilities and getting along with your loved ones.
Without a doubt, mature concepts are often easier to digest when they’re presented in unconventional ways, and many a married couple felt themselves quietly reliving their low points as they nervously enjoyed Fred and Barney’s antics together. But the formula can also be used for more innocent purposes, and hiding messages for the over 30 set in material ostensibly meant for pre-teens has turned many otherwise forgettable things into enduring classics.
Take The Princess Bride, for instance. It is part adventure, part fairy tale, and part lighthearted homage to myopic naiveté. It looks, on paper, like something only a 12-year-old girl could love. But it leaves you with an appreciation for the improbable notion that anything is possible if you just believe in it really hard – or at least it should leave you more tolerant of people who really do think that way. But most of all, this is a film that makes an effort to inspire the adult in us by reminding us or something almost all children believe; that total confidence in something greater than yourself, coupled with youthful curiosity and drive can lead to great things.