For: strong pervasive moral confusion including positively-portrayed suicide, physical abuse, and brief necromancy
The Princess Bride is the surprisingly immoral cult classic comedy about a pirate, two hit men and a snake oil salesman [audience laughs] on a fateful quest for the hit man’s personal vengeance [audience applauds] and the restoration of the jealous and at times abusive pirate’s relationship with his suicidal princess [audience swoons]. Half of The Princess Bride’s appeal is frankly unaccountable, half of it is the immorality itself, and combined they make a wholly and pointlessly depraved feature film.
Strong Pervasive Moral Confusion Including Positively-Portrayed Suicide
The Princess Bride portrays piracy, theft, kidnapping and murder as acceptable, heroic or even funny, as long as they are committed by someone with charm.
Main character Westley claims “with pride” to be a pirate, and a friend and leader of other pirates “who never left captives alive”. He freely admits, “I kill a lot of people,” and says that his change of name was important “for inspiring the necessary fear”, because “no one would surrender” to him otherwise. In a ludicrous exchange, his lover Buttercup explains to the prince who captured him that Westley is a pirate, and begs the prince to return him to his pirate ship, as if piracy was viewed as a legitimate profession.
The Spaniard Inigo is portrayed as having dedicated his life to the pursuit of revenge against a bad murderer, who killed for money. This is presented as a noble and heroic pursuit. Inigo, however, is himself a murderer, who kills for money.1 Both men are ethically guilty of homicide first degree. This is an extreme form of relativism, hypocrisy and moral perversion. The giant Fezzik is, likewise, nothing but a friendly hit man, who tries to kill an innocent man to avoid losing his job. Their attempts to end an innocent man’s life are played as comic relief. Westley holds them “in the highest respect.”
Fezzik and Inigo participate in the kidnapping of Buttercup, knowing their leader Vizzini plans to kill her. Both of them express their absolute unwillingness to stop working for Vizzini, then or afterward. Even still, The Princess Bride portrays criminals as victims of poverty and social prejudice who, despite their persistent, purely voluntary involvement in crime, are basically good people.
None of the positively-portrayed characters repent of any of their crimes.
When Inigo’s revenge is complete, Westley recommends piracy as a new life mission.
The Princess Bride has a pervasive theme of “true love” as a rare and mystical force, but severely perverts biblically-defined love. In real life, and defined by scripture, love is patient and kind, does not envy, boast, insist on its own way or rejoice at wrongdoing, and is not arrogant, rude, irritable or resentful.2 Buttercup is arrogant and rude to Westley to the degree that her favorite pastimes include “tormenting” him; yet she “realized that she truly loved him”. Westley is irritable and resentful toward Buttercup, goes so far in insisting on his own way as to physically force her into it, and rejoices in his mistreatment of her, all the while reproaching her as the one who needs reminding about the nature of “true love”. Westley and Buttercup’s “true love” is, biblically, not true love.3 According to The Princess Bride, true love is something that just “happens”, and “not one couple in a century” “truly love” each other and has the chance to be “truly happy”.
Buttercup threatens suicide dramatically several times and actually attempts suicide once. She is portrayed as noble for this.
A man creates and sells a “miracle pill” he claims will bring someone back from the dead. It is later revealed that he never believed it would work. His deliberate fraud is portrayed as funny.
Severe marital problems, including breaking promises and a threat of divorce, are portrayed as funny.
Westley considers Buttercup’s agreement to marry another man, five years after she believed Westley to have been killed, an act of infidelity, and, in disguise, mocks her and physically abuses her for it.
Westley throws Buttercup around, shoves her, and pretends that he’s going to hit her as “a warning”, telling her that next time he really will hit her.
Buttercup correctly calls Westley’s behavior “cruelty” when she thinks he’s someone else, but instantly switches to calling him “my sweet Westley” the moment she realizes the identity of the man who has been treating her this way. They both either forget his abusiveness or consider it justified, and he merely continues reproaching her for not having waited for him after his supposed death. She apologizes and looks at him dreamily.
Westley repeatedly refers to women in general in his mockery. For example, “What is that worth, the promise of a woman?”
Inigo kneels in prayer to his long-dead father, begging for him to guide his sword toward help. Inigo’s dead father seems to answer this prayer.
Inigo also repents to his deceased father and swears by his soul.
1 That Inigo did not succeed in killing the innocent man does not negate the fact that his plan was to succeed.
2 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
3 While Westley and Buttercup each sacrifice for the sake of the other, and obviously have romantic passion for one another, these elements are not in themselves enough to constitute true love. The relationship is one of infatuation, obsession and desire, but is not, biblically, one characterized by love.