Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Uncomfortable Medieval Plot Summaries

I can't properly attribute this because of the semi-anonymous nature of the place I got it from but here are "Uncomfortable Plot Summaries." Those of medievalist relevance:
  • BEOWULF: Colonists hire assassin to drive natives from land.
  • CONAN THE BARBARIAN: Petty thief murders religious leader.
  • LABYRINTH: Girl is negligent baby-sitter. [and I would also add is the jailbait love interest of David Bowie]
  • LORD OF THE RINGS: Midget destroys stolen property.
  • MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL: British comedy troupe inadvertently creates language lab for nerds.
  • ROBIN HOOD: Disgruntled veteran protests taxes. [Actually, I'm very comfortable with this plot summary]
  • SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS: Layabout stepdaughter shacks up with seven miners.

On the non-medieval front, this reminds me of that horrible film, The American President, in which the President sleeps with a lobbyist and changes policy in exchange for her affections -- and we're supposed to applaud him for it. A film that could only be loved by an audience that is both politically and ethically ignorant.


  1. I have yet to see a "heartwarming" political film that wasn't politically and ethically ignorant. Take the famous Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as the key example. In the film, we have the head of the Boy Scouts (I mean Boy Rangers) filibustering for pork -- the loan for his proposed boy camp where young men can be properly indoctrinated -- against the interests of another pork project -- a dam being built in the state.

    Dam projects -- even in 1939 -- mean jobs and charging young boys, or their parents, to attend a camp in order to repay a federal loan is absurd. Why not raise charitable funds the classic way? The young men seem to be able to collect dimes enough in the film to pre-pay the camp as it is. The only evidence we have that Mr. Smith's pork is superior to the dam is Mr. Smith's word that the dam is going to the "wrong location." No mention is made of the 100s of jobs Mr. Smith will be preventing, etc.

    Now I understand that public works projects aren't real long term job creators, Japan is the perfect example of how you eventually run out of rivers to dam. I also understand that this might have been a swipe at the Boulder Dam project (Hoover Dam) which was massively expensive and might have been seen as unnecessary in 1939.

    But the point stands that Mr. Smith is advocating pork -- that benefits an organization he is the head of -- over another form of pork.

    As for The American President, I like it. I find it funny and the romance works. The politics are wacky, and the whole special interest angle disturbing, but the comedy moments work. The same can be said of Dave.

    I also like The Distinguished Gentleman, which eventually gets a little crazy in the bad science department (cancer clusters? really?), but represents Washington fairly well.

    My favorite scene is when "Jeff Johnson" is talking with one of the corrupt old guard about legislation. The guy asks him where he stands on sugar subsides. Jeff says, "where should I stand?" This is answered with, "it doesn't matter. If you are for them I can get you money from x and y, if you oppose them I can get you money from a and b." It's a perfect illustration of how lobbying, even when explicit, need not be "buying" of votes -- especially if there were mandated open disclosure laws.

  2. Oh, and at least Post Modern Barney got Robin Hood right. It's not about "stealing from the rich and giving to the poor." It's about "taking back unjust taxes and returning them to the freemen." Serfs don't have money to tax, though they do pay their share of goods, it's the mercantile class who pays taxes.

    I am also very comfortable with the plot summary.

    I would change Monty Python and the Holy Grail to: British King lays siege to French Castle to take a cup.

  3. In the film, we have the head of the Boy Scouts (I mean Boy Rangers) filibustering for pork

    Well, he's also filibustering to stall his expulsion due to bogus charges made by the villains, who forged his signature to make it seem that he will benefit financially from the pork.

  4. Re: Robin Hood....doesn't whether he has it right depend greatly on whose Robin Hood is being spoken of? Like Beowulf, well, really a lot more than Beowulf, the Robin Hood legend(s) are adapted and readapted according to need--including whether or not he was a "veteran."

  5. Brigand,

    Fair enough regarding the filibustering in order to keep his job after being falsely accused. The political machine are genuinely villainous, and Mr. Smith is still heroic in his struggle against this particular injustice, but in the end it's pork vs. pork.

  6. Anonymous10:51 PM

    That's really a horrible misrepresentation of The American President. More accurate would be to say that the loss of his girfriend's affection wakes him up to the fact that he's lost his way. As Christian said, above, both the comedy and the romance work in that movie, and that wouldn't be the case if it were as you misrepresent it.

  7. I'm guessing the anonymous poster is either Mark Sanford or James McGreevey.