Life Does Not Mean What I Thought It Means (Because I Have Never Watched Princess Bride)

Life Does Not Mean What I Thought It Means (Because I Have Never Watched Princess Bride) March 6, 2015
©1987 20th Century Fox
©1987 20th Century Fox

I have received a great deal of criticism (and lost a lot of credibility) since I first acknowledged Tuesday that I have never watched Princess Bride. It was during a break in a discussion on Hegel. I tried to explain that I prefer wholesome family comedies like The Godfather trilogy. Even so, since my acknowledgment, all kinds of people have been alluding to the movie. Perhaps they have always been alluding to it, but I was just not aware.

A philosophically minded friend named Eric wrote in response to my Facebook post on the subject, “Hysterical….and I like that this occurred during a break with Hegel. The Godfather is also more my speed but some of my favorite people are nutz about the Princess Bride. Perhaps the criticism is a just correction.” Indeed, it is. Another friend named Rob said something like, “He’s a connoisseur of Zeppelin, but even Zeppelin members probably know Princess Bride. So much for cultural acumen.”

Some of you may be asking about the strange connection to Hegel. It does appear rather odd. For one thing, based on what others have told me about the movie, I hesitate to think Hegel would have seen Princess Bride as a clear manifestation of the Eternal Absolute’s realization in history. However, it is true that Hegel infused meaning into words that did not fit common parlance—words like “God.”

This leads me to the connection the students made in class. When I was discussing how some readers maintain that Hegel’s philosophy is a defense of Christian orthodoxy, whereas others beg to differ (See this blog post: “How Hegelian Is Christianity?”), one student named Becca quipped, “You keep using that word [“inconceivable”]. I do not think it means what you think it means” (See the movie clip).  I tried to respond to what I thought was a call for clarification of the use of the word “orthodoxy.” Another student (Ed) chuckled and then asked if I had ever watched Princess Bride. He had caught his classmate’s allusion to a line from the movie, and noted that I seemed to be unaware. When I confessed that I had never watched the film, an uproar and warmongering ensued along with one-liners from the movie none of which I knew.

Two days later, as I was still trying to make my way forward in the midst of this new state of cultural disequilibrium, I asked my colleague Marian if she had watched the movie. Her response did not help me feel better about my place in society: “Of course, I have. Everyone’s seen it.” I feel like I have missed out on life. Life does not mean what I thought it means. So, I am very grateful for the gracious rebukes and exhortations of friends to watch Princess Bride—soon—while there is still time.

I will watch the movie this weekend so as not to get left further behind. In addition to Princess Bride, what are some other cult-classic films that you think everyone needs to watch and know to be conversant in our world today?

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