#CaseStudy Mandy Patinkin doesn’t get ‘The Princess Bride’

Of course, we have to acknowledge the possibility that Mandy Patinkin merely wanted to distance himself from his admirer Ted Cruz by saying something snotty about him. But, for the purpose of analysis, we will take Patinkin’s comments as though he seriously meant them. I haven’t watched the movie over and over again, but the dispute here is general enough that my experience should be adequate.

The obligatory…

SPOILER ALERT

We’ll assume that the reader is familiar with The Princess Bride and go light on explanation of the film’s plot. Suffice it to say, one of the climaxes of the movie is when Patinkin’s character, the master-swordsman Inigo Montoya, gets to kill the six-fingered man who killed his father in his youth. Montoya says, “Allo, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”—a line frequently quoted by Ted Cruz.

Patinkin claims that Cruz misses the essential message of the movie by disregarding Montoya’s line shortly thereafter. After realizing he’s achieved his mission in life, Montoya says, “I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”

Although it seems like there is a gist to Patinkin’s criticism, it is not really clear what his point really is. Is he saying that revenge is necessarily, or most likely tragic? In that case, his comment is so agreeable that it is not really clear that this is a criticism at all.

Is he saying that Montoya should have actually moved on with his life when he was young and found something other than revenge to live for, and therefore not have exacted his revenge? This seems to be the case, judging by Patinkin’s remarks accompanying his criticism. Patinkin asks

“Why must we always have a knee-jerk reaction, when something happens, to attack? Why don’t we take care of these people. If you want to stop the flow of humanity toward ISIS, of young men and women toward ISIS, give them wonderful jobs, wonderful education. Opportunity in their neighborhoods, in their homes, in their countries. Give them the best that the world has to offer so that they don’t have to reach somewhere else to look for a better life. Every time someone drops a bomb, every time a Assad drops a bomb, or Paris, or America drops a bomb it feeds ISIS’s recruitment center—it’s the food of their entire system. Stop dropping the bombs and start making opportunities for these young, wonderful Muslim people all over the world. It’s a gorgeous religion, it’s a gorgeous community, and embrace them, just like you would a Jewish community, a Christian community, a Buddhist community, a community of human beings. And Mr. Cruz, I ask you to look at that line from The Princess Bride and consider it.”

We’ll begin first with Patinkin’s political comments. It isn’t clear that Patinkin has anything practical in mind other than a new effort for the West (i.e. the United States especially) to Westernize the Middle East through some colossal imperial project. Anything Patinkin might be suggesting short of that belongs in the category of assigning one’s hopes and dreams to reality. Of course, I am not strictly opposed to such an imperial project, but I would only support it if it was characterized by a kind of seriousness of which the West has not been capable in modern times (e.g. ‘democracy’ couldn’t be a short term goal). Of course, that is a subject for another writing.

As for The Princess Bride, it seems as though Patinkin is suggesting that Montoya should not have sought to avenge his father’s death. This is quite bizarre considering that Montoya found that his father’s killer had not changed his ways—i.e. he was still a murderous villain. The six-fingered man surely would have continued his murderous ways if Montoya hadn’t stopped him. It was simply right for Montoya to kill him. It seems as though Patinkin is suggesting that Montoya finding himself with no goal in life—i.e. in a personal crisis—is sufficient cause for him to have pursued something other than justice. This, sadly, is just the hyper-selfishness that is mistaken in our time for altruism and authenticity.

Even if Montoya was doomed to lead a tragic life if he ever managed to avenge his father, it was still the right thing to do. But, it is quite clear from the ending of the movie that Montoya was not so doomed: he got to be the new Dread Pirate Roberts, a job which Montoya could be said to have been incidentally training for his entire life.

It is quite sad that Patinkin felt compelled to find such a superficial message in The Princess Bride. But, it makes an excellent #CaseStudy. It reminds one of Psalms 97:10, “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!”

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