Like a 14 year old girl from 1987, or Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies. If you haven’t seen it go to your nearest library and check the DVD out. Andre the Giant, Fred Savage, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal and Mandy Patinkin round out the cast. If you want to see it, skip this post as Spoilers are ahead (weird to have Spoilers for a 25 year old movie).
Westley was a simple farm boy who loved Buttercup but was too shy to break free and say it for a long time. When he finally had the courage to express his love, it was great, but then he had to leave to find a job worthy of supporting Buttercup. In the movie, the Dread Pirate Roberts is a total badass. He dresses in black, is a 9th degree black belt in swordsmanship, is smarter than his foes and is both feared and revered. His reputation is dastardly, he kills his enemies and takes no survivors. When he kidnaps the now Princess Buttercup, he says he murdered the love of her life, Westley. However, it is soon revealed that Dread Pirate Roberts is Westley.
Essentially, Westley apprenticed for years under Dread Pirate Roberts, apparently learning things like swordplay, shipping, piracy, being a bad ass, how to wear black like a man, athletic feats and building up tolerances to poison. Later it is revealed that the Dread Pirate Roberts isn’t the original; that the name was passed down from the previous version. As it was time to retire, the Dread Pirate Roberts passes his name down to Westley who took all roles and responsibilities contained therein.
So being one and the same person, like the Edward Norton character and Tyler Durden in Fight Club, it is interesting to see who the two halves fight each other for what is both inside themselves and what is shown to the outside world. This analogy is similar to all of us who strive to become a better version of themsleves. The Westley side is the kind, nice farmboy; “as you wish” being his key phrase to do everything to please his Buttercup. The Dread Pirate Roberts side is uber-confident without being a dick about it, gentlemanly even in battle (see fight with Inigo Montoya or battle of wits with Vizzini), exciting, has “skills”, and stands above the rest of men, while still having the ability to love and be loved. Instead of being a beta-orbiter like he was originally, he has transformed himself through hard work into someone to be respected. By the time he’s saved Buttercup from the fire swamp, she’s putty in his hands instead of the other way around.
A number of things to take away from this:
1) Add some more Dread Pirate Roberts to who you are – be more mysterious, confident and bad-ass. Learn some new manly skills to your repertoire. Your kids will think it’s exciting that you’re doing martial arts or learning archery for (potential) hunting; your wife will see you in a new light and you’ll stand above the rest. If you’re constantly doting on your wife, back off and quiet down a little bit. Getting in shape, eating right and learning manly skills all inspire the kind of self-confidence that is real and not a facade.
2) Your reputation precedes you – the name Dread Pirate Roberts inspired respect and fear to all. How you handle your business on a daily basis is your reputation. It’s difficult to repair once damaged, so be ethical and moral in your dealings, and in your marriage and as a father, work towards garnering a reputation of leadership and don’t tolerate poor behavior. Set boundaries, hold yourself and those around you accountable to gain this reputation, even if it means short term push-back and resistance from those you deal with including your wife and children.
3) Having enemies is ok – everyone probably liked Westley, and why not, he was nice and agreeable and tried to please everyone. He himself wasn’t happy though and saw the need to make himself better, though the execution was different than expected. The Dread Pirate Roberts had a lot of enemies and he was at peace with who he was. If you stop trying to please other people, and worry more about yourself, you’ll have to push back on other’s expectations or requests of you. That may ruffle some feathers, may even make enemies of some. That’s ok. I struggled with this for a long time, as my upbringing was one of trying to be nice to and please everyone even at the expense of my own happiness. I’m now not afraid to say “no” when things aren’t in my best interest and worry much less what people think of me. Taking a stand for or against something you feel strongly for solidifies your position and may result in enemies from those with opposing view points.
As that version of the Dread Pirate Roberts showed, you can still be true to your core beliefs while becoming a much more confident and indomitable man.
[Dread Pirate Roberts]: “Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning”