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Abortion: Murder or Right?

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

 

Whether about the murder of an innocent or the right of a woman to decide what to do with her own body, the argument over abortion is long running, full of fallacy, and highly emotional. Logic will help wade through the charged terms and poignant testimony to determine the real issue at hand, and find an answer best suited for compromise and legislation. Using arguments from both sides, this paper will show why abortion, in the third trimester, is immoral and should be illegal.
The argument between “life” and “choice” is full of connotative terms that set up straw man fallacies on both sides. Even the terms the two sides call themselves, “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” insinuate that those in the other camp are “pro-death” or “anti-freedom,” respectively, and as such, this paper will refer to the two sides as “those who oppose” and “those who support” legalized abortion. Some of the most bumper-sticker worthy arguments are based on these straw men, such as “Abortion is murder,” and “My body, my choice.” When referring to the unborn, those who oppose legal abortion will say “unborn child,” “innocent,” and “victim” for empathy while those who support abortion will say “zygote,” “embryo” and “clump of cells” to dehumanize the fetus. This illustrates the great difference between the two camps: they view the potential person very differently. One views any unborn child as a person who is not born yet, but still worthy of the rights of a newborn, while the other views an unwanted fetus as part of the mother’s body, a burden, a parasite, “less than human but more than nothing” (Selley, 2011).

Other fallacies run rampant through the argument over abortion, including a false dichotomy and appeals to pity. The false dichotomy is one that is often seen in politics where each side believes that by giving any ground, the war will be lost. Thus those who oppose abortion argue for personhood at conception, while the those who support it argue for life at birth. Of course, science and reality do not fit either category, which will be explained later. Appeals to pity occur on both sides, though the person to be pitied changes. Those who oppose abortion beg for the life of an innocent victim who has not yet had the opportunity to experience the joy of life, and claim that abortion is selfish, particularly when couples are so willing to adopt who cannot have children of their own. They also mourn the well-being of the mother who kills her unborn child, and the guilt she is sure to bear throughout her life. Those who support abortion, on the other hand, mourn the mother almost exclusively. Her opportunities for education, employment, or even childhood are lost because of one mistake. The victim of rape must look at the evidence of her life’s most horrifying and tragic event growing within her, and the poor woman must endure pain and suffering to bring a child she cannot afford into the world only to give it away. There may be kernels of truth within each of these arguments, but they are not the base issue in the argument. Some, such as the child of rape, may provide contextual exemptions to the eventual legislation, but for the most part, they only muddy the waters as red herrings, rather than focusing on the real issue: when does personhood begin, and is it acceptable to kill an innocent person?

Argument one: “The presence of, or lack of, brain activity is an indicator of life or death. A fetus exhibits brain activity near the point of viability, at 24 weeks. Human beings only produce other human beings. Therefore, at 24 weeks, the fetus is a live human.” In this day of machine-assisted medicine, a body can be kept functioning beyond the point of death (Chiong, 2005). Increasingly, doctors are using the irreversible loss of brain activity as the point of death for their patients (Chiong, 2005). If the loss of brain activity indicates loss of life, it follows that brain activity means life. The scientific definition of life includes the ability to grow and gather or expend energy. At conception, the cell divides, and is scientifically alive. This is not debated. However, the debate usually revolves around what makes humans unique, what determines personhood, our consciousness, usually exhibited in our brain (Krause, 2011). With surgical procedures now being performed on fetuses in utero, doctors are now able to monitor them with EEGs. Surprisingly for some, the brain activity of a fetus in the third trimester is enough to consider it more than simply instinctual with voluntary breathing and the beginning of dreams (Rajeev, 2011). With this new information about the formation of the brain in utero, we can say that scientifically, life begins at conception, but personhood begins just before the third trimester.

Argument two: “A woman is an autonomous person with the moral capacity and the moral right to decide whether a pregnancy will be aborted or brought to term (Kissling, 2005). A woman has the right to choose what happens to her body. A fetus is a part of a woman’s body. Therefore, a woman has a right to terminate an unintended pregnancy.” This is the base argument for those who support abortion. While few would argue that a person should have the right to their own body, the biggest argument comes from the third premise. At conception, the embryo has its own DNA, separate from the mother. When the fetus’ heart starts beating, it pumps blood in its own cardiovascular system entirely separate from the mother. This also follows from a common sense idea of a person never having two brains, four lungs, or a woman never having male genitalia. Judith Thomson provided a thought experiment to assist in the visualization of this argument (Krause, 2011). If a woman wakes up in the hospital with a world-famous violinist attached to her kidneys, and she is told that the violinist cannot survive without her, is she morally or legally obligated to accept this? Of course, this hinges on the woman being completely unaware of the attachment, which only works when referring to victims of rape who become pregnant. Another stipulation was put on the experiment, adding that the woman was attending a party, knowing that someone with her blood type would be chosen to assist this violinist. This is supposed to simulate the knowledge that any sexual activity can result in pregnancy. Does the answer to the question of obligation change if she willingly attended this party with full knowledge that she may be chosen? Finally, the true litmus test is how the woman’s right to choose lines up against the fetus’s right to live. If the fetus is considered a person, such as in argument one, then it has an inalienable right to life, enshrined in our own Declaration of Independence. All rights stem from life, which indicates that the right to life is greater than the right to choose. In addition to this, one single choice wipes an entire lifetime of choices that will not be made by the aborted fetus. Therefore, the right to choose is an insufficient reason to justify killing an unwanted fetus.

Argument three: “The most likely people to have unintended pregnancies are in bad situations such as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, or poor economical standing. Children born into these situations will suffer as well. Therefore, it is more merciful to terminate unintended pregnancies.” Some people argue that abortion will prevent child abuse, and that an unwanted child is more likely to be abused, however, child abuse has increased since abortion was made legal (U.S. Abortion Statistics, 2011). This must be one of the worst arguments for proponents of abortion. It would be an incredibly cruel person to suggest euthanasia of all children in poor or abusive households, which is why we have social workers and foster care in the first place. Society as a whole would never accept killing children because of a situation they cannot control. If we accept that a fetus in the third trimester is the same as a child, from argument one, then the transitive property states that killing a fetus in the third trimester is cruel and unacceptable as well. This appears to be a case of trying to skew reality to fit a pre-determined world view.

Argument four: “Unintended and unwanted pregnancies occur. If safe and legal abortions are not readily available, women will resort to unsafe “back-alley” abortions. Therefore, to protect women, safe and legal abortions are necessary.” This is one of the more compelling arguments for abortion. There are no compelling and factual estimates for how many illegal abortions were performed in a period of time, or how many women died in the process because these procedures are never reported. However, if the standard of third trimester is adhered to, any woman who claims to “need” an abortion will have plenty of time to arrange one before the third trimester.

After twenty-four weeks, a fetus has brain activity sufficient to consider it a person. Various arguments try to muddy the topic or add complications to what is truly a simple question: Is it moral to kill a human being for what amounts to convenience’s sake? The answer is a resounding “no.” It is immoral to kill an innocent human being. A fetus in the third trimester is a human being. Therefore, it is immoral to perform abortions in the third trimester. Society, as a whole, must work to prevent abortion from being used as birth control. Estimates show that more than half of all women obtaining an abortion were not using birth control when they got pregnant, 47% of women obtaining an abortion have already had one or more, and 84% were performed on unmarried women, suggesting a use of abortion as birth control (U.S. Abortion Statistics, 2011). There are approximately 1.2 million abortions performed each year, and between 88 and 92% are performed in the first trimester, consistent with the current laws to prevent late-term abortions (U.S. Abortion Statistics, 2011). Perhaps if more emphasis was placed on safe sex, less promiscuity, and a sense of responsibility for one’s actions, the argument over abortion would not be so important.

References
Chiong, W. (2005, Nov-Dec). Brain death without definitions. Hastings Center Report 35(6) 20-30. Retrieved October 21, 2011 from Project Muse.
Kissling, F. (2005). Is there life after Roe? How to think about the fetus. Conscience, XXV (3), 10. Retrieved October 21, 2011 from ProQuest.
Krause, K. (2011). Abortion’s still unanswered questions. The Humanist, 71(4), 40-42. Retrieved October 21, 2011 from ProQuest.
Rajeev, L. (2011, September 22). Brain development in fetus. Retrieved November 4, 2011, from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/brain-development-in-fetus.html
Selley, C. (2011, August 31). Less than human, more than nothing. A debate about the selective abortion of twins has exposed the messy ambiguity in pro-choice ranks. National Post, A.15. Retrieved October 21, 2011 from ProQuest.
U.S. Abortion Statistics. (2011, November 5). Retrieved November 10, 2011, from http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/

11/12/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Learning | , , , , | Leave a comment

Women in the Navy: Stereotypes

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

Women in the Navy: Stereotypes

            There are many stereotypes in the world, some more harmful than others, and some more concentrated in one group of people than another.  For example, there seem to be more harmful stereotypes about women than there are about men, and more about minorities than about whites.  One place that is full of stereotypes is the Navy.  The stereotypical sailor is a man with a drinking problem, a girl in every port, and a wife back home who sleeps with the neighbor.  Of course, the trouble with stereotypes is that they are not always, or even nearly always, true.  The stereotypes I will explore are not isolated to general Navy stereotypes, but also specific to my field which was a combination of engineering, mechanics, and nuclear physics, all of which are male-dominated.  During my eight years in the Navy, my image and performance were both damaged by the stereotypes that women are poor mechanics, that women flirt or sleep around to get ahead, and that women shirk responsibility by getting pregnant.

The first stereotype is a common one.  Women are not strong enough to turn large valves or wrenches.  Women do not know how to use tools.  Women are not logical enough to be engineers.  There are more excellent male operators than excellent female operators.  Therefore, women are not good nuclear Machinist’s Mates.  There are a number of false premises and fallacies committed in this argument, the first being in the first premise.  The assumption is made that even the strongest female is weaker than the weakest male.  Of course, this is not true.  A male, smaller than me, tried to tell me I did not belong because I could not perform as well, physically, as the amateur bodybuilder on our watchteam.  I pointed out that he could not either, however, there are more aspects to our job than just physical strength, and I excelled in those.  In addition, there are several large valves we were required to turn, but rarely were we required to turn them without help.  One in particular almost always had two or three people turning it for speed, but when I was training for that watch, one of my officers required me to open the valve, by myself, every time, until I qualified.  The next premise is tied to the third.  Both assume that women cannot learn the things that are required for basic mechanical engineering.  When I joined the Navy, I had no idea what the tools of the trade were, let alone how to use them, but directly after boot camp, all mechanics are sent to “A” school where they teach you everything you ever have to know to be a mechanic, starting from the names of wrenches and screwdrivers.  I had the highest grade in my class of thirty with a 3.83 (out of 4.0).  Following that was a school designed to teach the engineering and nuclear side of our jobs, which I graduated in the top ten percent of our class of three hundred, again with a 3.8 average.  The idea that a woman cannot learn what is required is obviously untrue as well.  The last premise is a fallacy based on lopsided numbers.  The best ratio of men to women I ever saw through school and actual shipboard experience was thirty-five to one.  With an even percentage of over achievers and underachievers within each sex, there will still be more males in the upper echelons of ability than females simply because there are so many more men than women in this field.  None of this proves that men are more capable mechanics than women.  However, it was the reigning thought process “in the plant.”  When I got to the ship, many of the men I worked for assumed that I would not be worth training, either because I would not learn or because I would not be onboard long enough to go through the trouble, so they did not train me to do specific jobs as they did for others.  Without the specific training, I did not live up to my full potential as a maintenance person, even as I excelled as an operator.  Due to this stereotyping, I was one-sided as a mechanic rather than well-rounded.

The second stereotype is about female sailors in general. Women flirt to get ahead.  Male sailors are away from their wives and girlfriends for extended periods.  Therefore, female sailors will take advantage of superiors by sleeping around or flirting to get ahead.  This is one of the more obvious stereotypes from my time in the Navy.  At one point, I was the entirety of the divisional rumor mill, and had as many as fifteen men that I was supposedly dating or sleeping with.  Taking the argument apart, we start with the emotional aspect of being in the Navy.  It is hard to argue with, especially since nearly every unmarried woman that came to the ship wound up dating somebody from within the confines of that steel.  However, it does not mean that all women date within their division.  The other side of the argument assumes all women are willing to lower themselves and manipulate others to gain special treatment.  This was another common thought among the men I worked with.  There were several watches that had to be qualified, each one consisting of several “check-outs” followed by an exam and an oral board.  Many of the men I worked for refused to sign check-outs for me, or made them excessively difficult compared to my male counterparts’ check-outs, because they did not want to appear to be favoring a female.  Others tried to give me check-outs for nothing, but those I refused because they had reputations for being the kind of men that expect the women to flirt with them.  In all, I wound up studying more for the operation of the plant than many of the men did, which increased my operational knowledge, even if I was slower to qualify because of that extra knowledge I was required to show.

Finally, the last stereotype about women in the Navy is about the unique ability of women to get pregnant. Women who get pregnant are removed from the ship.  Several women get pregnant before long deployments.  Therefore, women get pregnant to get out of deployment. Some of the men I worked with said that if they were able to get pregnant to get out of an eight-month deployment, they would, but this is another fallacy.  There are many reasons a woman may decide to get pregnant.  I found out I was pregnant only a few weeks before our ship went on deployment, and some of the men in my division called me selfish, claiming that I only got pregnant to get out of the deployment.  The logic of taking on a lifelong responsibility to get out of a six-month responsibility is ludicrous to me, but there are women in the past who have done so, sometimes opting for an abortion after their chance of returning to the ship has passed.  My husband and I had been trying for over a year to get pregnant, and as deployment got near, I considered putting our family-building on hold because of this stereotype.  I did not want to add to any negative stereotype of the women following behind me.  However, there were many reasons, including my family’s medical history, that I wanted to start my family immediately, and I knew I would regret it if the Navy was the reason I could not have children of my own.  In the end, I decided that what my husband and I wanted was more important than what the men on the ship thought, especially since I would never speak to most of them again.

The three largest stereotypes about women in my field, that women are not good mechanics, that women flirt or sleep around to get ahead, and that women get pregnant to shirk responsibility, had an impact on both my image and my professional life.  Most of the time, I chose to actively, and sometimes aggressively, fight against the stereotype, but I had to be careful not to go against what I wanted while doing so.  I may not have been well-rounded as a mechanic, but I was a good operator, and have a beautiful baby girl to show for it all.

References

Ditto, P. (n.d.). How pre-existing beliefs distort logical reasoning [Video file].  Retrieved from Ashford University Intelecom Network database.  (Clip file INT_IO_13K_005)

Kemick, A. (2010, August 12).  Stereotyping has lasting negative impact.  U.S. News and World Report.  Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2010/08/12/

Mosser, K. (2011).  Logic: An introduction.  Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/

11/02/2011 Posted by | College Papers | , | Leave a comment

As You Wish: A Critique of The Princess Bride

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

“Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles,” The Princess Bride (1987) has it all (Reiner, 1987).  Filmmakers use a variety of techniques from narrative structure, acting technique, cinematography, tempo, sound, style, the potential for societal impact, and genre convention to tell the story they desire. The Princess Bride is one of the great movies, using all the techniques mentioned to create a satire of the fairy tale, meanwhile becoming one of the most beloved movies decade after decade.

The Princess Bride uses a unique structure to tell a story as old as story itself.  Nothing is entirely clear when analyzing the structure due to the unique writing of William Goldman’s book, The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure/ the “good parts” version, abridged by William Goldman, which Goldman then translated to screenplay.  The book is written as an abridgement of a nonexistent political satire infused with excerpts from Goldman’s fictional life.  The film maintains this formula by using Columbo’s Peter Falk and The Wonder Years’ Fred Savage to frame and interrupt the storybook tale (IMDB, 2011b; IMDB, 2011c).

The framing storyline is a three-act narrative focusing on the internal conflict and growth of a sick grandson.  The beginning introduces the unnamed grandson as a sports-loving, ill child with a grandfather he barely tolerates.  The strength of the story draws the kid in, and the climax comes with his explosion of emotion when the apparent protagonist is killed only halfway through the story.  “Jesus, Grandpa!  What’d [sic] you read me this thing for?” he yells at his grandfather (Reiner, 1987).  It is at this point that the grandfather explains that life is not fair.  After this, the interruptions stop as the book reaches its climax, and the ending shows that the grandson has grown to appreciate not only the “kissing parts,” but also his grandfather’s love.

The story is a little less clear where the boundaries lie.  The obvious protagonist is Westley, but Inigo steals some of the spotlight, and Buttercup also makes a strong argument for the title.  The border between exposition and action is clear, between the narration of Peter Falk and the kidnapping of the princess.  The climax, however, is very confused.  Inigo’s duel with the six-fingered Count Rugen is the last bit of action, but does not have any connection to the main conflict of Westley and Buttercup versus Prince Humperdinck.  Instead, that conflict is decided by nothing more than clever dialogue.  The storybook ending is remarkably short, and follows the “To the pain” bluff with all storylines being neatly wrapped up in a ride on four white horses.

As has been mentioned previously, there are several conflicts in the story.  The main conflict of the modern story is the internal conflict the grandson has with the adult themes of love and the unfairness of life.  The main conflict of the storybook tale is between Buttercup and Prince Humperdinck.  Westley’s conflict with Prince Humperdinck is a more obvious choice for the main conflict, but it does not encompass the entire plot.  One of the more entertaining conflicts is in the Spaniard Inigo’s lifelong search for the six-fingered Count Rugen.  Also included are the conflicts between Vizzini and Inigo, Fezzik and the Man in Black, and the conflict between true love and death.

The Princess Bride is a satire of fairy tales written as the abridgement of a political satire.  Inigo is the best swordsman, Fezzik is the strongest man, Vizzini is the smartest, yet Westley beats them all at their own strength.  During life and death struggles, like the duel at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity, the fight is punctuated with humorously emphasized sound effects and sharp dialogue, such as Inigo’s complaint that “there is not much money in revenge” (Reiner, 1987).

Adding to the humor of satire are several moments of irony.  There is at least one example of each type of irony present in The Princess Bride.  Verbal irony is seen when Buttercup is mourning her separation from Westley, but Humperdinck blames her attitude on the king’s failing health.  When Humperdinck kills the most obvious protagonist only halfway through the movie, nobody expects him to actually die, showing situational irony.  Finally, in the scene before the wedding, Buttercup says Westley will save her.  Humperdinck smiles because he knows that he killed Westley, but in dramatic irony, the audience knows Westley has been revived by Miracle Max.

Finally, the narrative deals with the universal truths of love conquering all, the glory of retribution, and the understanding gap between generations.  Westley is supposedly murdered by pirates, still manages to beat all the masters of strength, steel, and mind, and even comes back from the dead because of true love.  A life spent in study and pursuit pays off in the end when Inigo avenges his father’s death.  The last example is that of a young, sports-loving kid who barely tolerates his loving grandfather, but grows to appreciate him in the end.

Part of the humor and greatness of The Princess Bride is in the decisions made in casting and acting technique.  The acting itself is slightly stylized- the filmmakers want the audience to know that the storybook tale is not reality.  Every scene has an almost imperceptible nod or wink from the characters as if they know they are in a book, or film.

Cary Elwes was a fairly new actor when he was cast as Westley, but had established himself as a dramatic actor in period pieces.  Robin Wright, likewise a new actress at the time, was also considered a serious actress.  The villains, played by Christopher Guest and Chris Sarandon, were well-known, unlike Elwes and Wright, but were also considered serious actors.  In fact, the only comedian cast in the film was Billy Crystal as Miracle Max (IMDB, 2011d).

Cinematography uses lighting, mise-en-scene, different shots, and special effects to help tell the story.  The cinematographer, Adrian Biddle of Judge Dredd (1995), Event Horizon (1997), and V for Vendetta (2006), had only been Director of Photography for one movie, Aliens (1986), before heading cinematography for The Princess Bride (IMDB, 2011a).

Before the first line of dialogue, there are several things we can determine about the story.  First, the title of the film is shown in a font that evokes the old fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty (1959).  This sets the story as a fantasy tale.  The title word, “Princess,” marks The Princess Bride as fantasy, while the title word, “Bride,” hints that it may be a love story.  Immediately following the title, while the screen is still black, is a cough that sounds small, hinting at a sick child.  A video game appears on screen, Accolade, Inc’s “Hardball,” about baseball.  This shows that the sick child is likely a boy who likes sports.  As the camera pans around the room, we see several Chicago sports teams and players on the walls, and a Chicago Bears t-shirt on the child.  This places the setting of the framing story in, or near, Chicago, Illinois.  In this way, the mise-en-scene can enhance the audience’s knowledge of characters, setting, and plot.

Lighting can also help tell the story by establishing the mood of a scene.  Most lighting is natural, since it takes place in wide open countryside with the lights simulating the torches of the castle and lights in the grandson’s room.  There are a few notable exceptions.  During the scene in the grove when Inigo asks his father to guide his sword, the close-up of his face and sword are shot from below with streaming backlighting.  This enhances the spiritual feeling of asking his deceased father to help avenge his own death, providing a sort of halo around Inigo’s head.  In the fire swamp, the lighting is dark and mostly comes from behind to show that the fire swamp is a scary, eerie place that people avoid.  Finally, in the scene Fezzik claims to be the Dread Pirate Roberts, his face is lit from below, partially to simulate the flames engulfing his body, but also to show the unsettling effect he is having on the gate guards.

The Princess Bride is relatively low budget, and used few special effects to help tell the story.  Most of those special effects were used to disguise the fact that Andre the Giant could not support the weight of even Robin Wright due to a recent back surgery.  For example, Rob Reiner, in his commentary on the special edition DVD, explains that they had ramps for Cary Elwes to walk along instead of hanging from Andre’s back, and he was supported on a board when he caught Buttercup at the end (Lear & Reiner, 1987).  One effect that could go unnoticed is the unnatural, likely painted, sky of the fictional Florin.  The sky, much like in the movie Vanilla Sky (2001), seems to show that this land is only in the imagination and not reality.

Finally, there are a few times that different shots with a telephoto lens or subjective camera are used to enhance depth or terror in the audience.  Depth is achieved when Fezzik, as the Dread Pirate Roberts, points at the gate guards.  His pointing finger comes into focus, and his face out of it, when he says, “Soon, you will not be here” (Reiner, 1987).  This emphasizes the view the guards must be seeing, complete with an oversized finger pointing in their collective face and bathing in fire.  The shots of Fezzik are a bit of light subjective camera, mixed with the objective camera showing Inigo and Westley behind Fezzik.  This shows how the image of a burning pirate is being created by the characters, while also showing what the guards are experiencing.  Another example of depth is when Westley finishes his “To the pain” speech, lifts his blade, and says, “Drop your sword” (Reiner, 1987).  The point of the sword is blurry as if it were too close to Humperdinck to see it clearly in another example of light subjective camera work.  The other examples of subjective camera are seen in the monster scenes when Buttercup is being charged by a shrieking eel and when Westley is being attaked by an R.O.U.S.  These both allow the audience to feel more of the fear the characters must be experiencing.

The way the shots are put together in editing has a large impact on the effectiveness of the story.  Having dual storylines, especially with the grandfather and grandson interrupting the fairy tale, qualifies as incongruous editing.  As with most films, the vast majority of the movie uses direct cuts.  There is evidence of a series of jump cuts when the grandfather is returning to the shrieking eels after an interruption scene.  As he struggles to find the place he left off, he “scans” the book, with each sentence fast-forwarding in visuals as well.  This is also an example of the tempo created by The Princess Bride.  For the first half to two-thirds of the movie, scenes with serious or tense emotion are interrupted by the Chicago plot.  From jump cuts to remove the kissing scenes to worry for Buttercup’s safety amid the shrieking eels, and the scene Humperdinck kills Westley, The Princess Bride keeps the mood light by showing the storybook through the child’s eyes, and keeps the tempo a bit off-beat to maintain the satirical humor.

There are several dissolves apparent in The Princess Bride as well, three of which in particular enhance the story.  The first is in the beginning while the grandfather starts reading.  The scene dissolves to the shot of the farmhouse as the grandfather becomes a voice-over narrator to show that the fairy tale has started.  The next important dissolve is used to show the passage of five years’ time between Westley’s supposed murder by pirates and Buttercup’s engagement to Humperdinck.  Finally, during the wedding scene, the long shot dissolves into a closer shot to more quickly transition from establishing shot to action shot without the disruption from a direct cut.

Coverage, the use of several takes from different angles, has one particular appearance in The Princess Bride.  During the Miracle Max scene, Mandy Patinkin had a lot of trouble stifling his laughter at Billy Crystal’s performance (IMDB, 2011d).  Patinkin says the only injury he sustained during the filming of The Princess Bride was a bruised rib from trying to hold his laughter in, and Rob Reiner had to leave the set during the scene because he would laugh so hard, he would become nauseated (IMDB, 2011d).  Coverage was useful in this scene to ensure that all of Inigo’s shots showed him with a straight face.

A common use of selective cuts is shown when using stunt doubles.  Typically, a director will use longer shots when stunt doubles are used, not only to better showcase the action in the scene, but also to minimize the chance that the audience can tell a double was used.  In the sword fight, Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin both learned to fence with both their left and right hands, and stunt doubles were only used for each character’s acrobatic flips (Lear & Reiner, 1987; IMDB, 2011d).  During the wrestling match between Westley and Fezzik, Cary Elwes had to walk along ramps on the close shots and a stunt double was used on long shots because of the aforementioned back surgery.  The last bit of special effects, and the only example of slow motion camerawork, is in the final scene of the fairy tale when Buttercup falls from the window to Fezzik’s arms.

Using a distinctive score, witty dialogue and emphasized sound effects, The Princess Bride uses sound to add emotion and humor to the film.  The Princess Bride’s theme is a romantic piece of music evident in the introduction and other reunion scenes between Westley and Buttercup.  There is also an exciting piece of music playing behind the sword fights and parts of the fire swamp to enhance the proper emotions.

Using a serious delivery of humorous or witty dialogue is one way the film manages to be funny without becoming ridiculous.  The film’s characters, such as Inigo, Fezzik, and Vizzini, have exaggerated accents that also add to the humor.  The juxtaposition of the humorous content of the dialogue against the deadly circumstances the characters find themselves in is part of the charm of this movie.  Inigo tells Westley there is little money in revenge before their duel.  Vizzini calls Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates morons before failing in the battle of wits.  Even the duel between Westley and Humperdinck is decided, not by the sword, but by way of dialogue.

Finally, sound effects assist in storytelling and add humor to the film.  The music and sound effects often coincide to emphasize action, such as the scene when Inigo throws himself against the locked door chasing Count Rugen, and Fezzik’s punches as he misses Westley in their match.

While a director is often considered the author of a film, using auteur theory, the film and screenplay follow William Goldman’s book so closely, it is hard to consider anyone else as the author.  Reiner wanted to make as authentic a recreation of the story as possible, and Goldman chose him to direct based on his previous film, This is Spinal Tap, which was also a satire (Lear & Reiner, 1987).

As a fairy tale satire, The Princess Bride does not offer much in the way of societal impact.  It extolls the virtues of following your heart and love over power, but also encourages a life in pursuit of revenge, supplemented by work to pay the bills.

When creating a satire, the typical genre conventions must be followed, if only to exaggerate them.  A common theme in fairy tales is “Love conquers all.”  The Princess Bride takes this beyond most fairy tales by allowing Westley to return from the dead, once by virtue of misinformation, and once via miracle.  Each of the three kidnappers is the best in the world at what they do, be it steel, strength, or wit, and have honed their respective craft for twenty years or more, but Westley, with only five years’ practice and motivation, manages to beat each at their strength.  Along the way, Fred Savage’s character makes comments about the typical conventions, asking his grandfather, “Who gets Humperdinck?” and explaining that “someone has do it,” before the grandfather explains to him that this is not the “typical” fairy tale (Reiner, 1987).

“Let me ‘splain [sic].  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up,” (Reiner, 1987).  The Princess Bride uses narrative structure, acting technique, cinematography, tempo, sound, style, the potential for societal impact, and genre convention to create an endearing story that nears the top of many lists of favorite movies.  Many people may list the numerous bite-sized quotes or the thrilling sword fight as reasons they love the film, but it may be the ability to tie all the aspects of great storytelling into such a tidy satire of the stories children were brought up to love that makes this film truly great.

References

Goldman, W. (2007). The princess bride: S. Morgenstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure/ the “good parts” version, abridged by William Goldman (30th Anniversary ed.). Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, Inc. (Original work published 1973).

Goodykoontz, B. & Jacobs, C.P. (2011). Film: From watching to seeing. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books

IMDB. (2011a). Adrian Biddle. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000939/

IMDB. (2011b). Fred Savage. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/ name/nm0000625/

IMDB. (2011c). Peter Falk. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000393/

IMDB. (2011d). The Princess Bride. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/

Lear, N. (Producer) & Reiner, R. (Director). (1987). Director’s Commentary. The Princess BrideL Special Edition [DVD].

Reiner, R. (Director). (1987). The Princess Bride: Special Edition [DVD].

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