Can we please (please) talk for no less than one thousand hours about the splendor that is Heath Ledger as a knight. Not as a white knight (no thank you, overdone patriarchal trope), but as some flawed dude in full metal garb, accepting who he is and was and where he started out. A real character. Both in terms of this movie and in terms of a well-written part.
One thousand hours. No less.
OR, the few minutes it takes you to read this: the five things I learned from a movie that inspired my 11th grade baking teacher to take a class of 16-year-old brats (honestly, we were—we only took that class so we’d get good marks for making cookies that were then sold to actual students in the cafeteria) to Medieval Times, where the Black and White Knight gave me a flower and I passed out with embarrassment after trying to refuse it.
Either/or—the latter of which I present you with now, so hop on your. . . horse. (There’s a reason I live in 2015.)
Women are not damsels in distress
Here’s what I like about A Knight’s Tale: a) everything b) neither Princess Jocelyn or Kate the blacksmith (who played Lydia in Breaking Bad, thank you very much) needed guys to save them. I mean, sure, Kate was employed by Heath Ledger-as-William, but she was part of a team. (It’s not like she would’ve stopped being a blacksmith if William hadn’t come along—she was a self-made person with her own business in the middle ages, people.) And Jocelyn didn’t put up with any of William’s nonsense, whether it be a smooth line or the fact that he hid who he was from everybody. Girlfriend was also NOT going to hook up with that one shady dude, either, regardless of whether or not she ended up getting with William.
No one was playing for her heart (or if they were, it wasn’t going to do them any good), and she certainly made up her own mind about who she wanted to be with and who she wanted to be. And true, this 100% wasn’t the way it was back in the day (because it was hellish in the 1400-1600s, especially for a woman, and the fact that any of our relatives survived that era is a surprise and straight-up blessing), BUT, in this fictional story, that’s how it is, and for that we can all tip our hats and/or metal helmets.
You are who you are, so JUST EMBRACE IT (because everyone will find out eventually, anyway)
So this whole thing begins when William hides his identity to become the best jouster in the land, which is a problem because only knights can joust, and William is lacking that title. So he lies, and he moves up in the world, and then he is found out because you are always found out. ALWAYS. It’s true: if you lie about who you are or where you came from, you will be discovered because that’s just the way it goes (especially in movies).
And when he does embrace who he is, it’s wonderful. He remembers how much his dad loved him, and how hard his dad worked, and that ultimately, he didn’t have anything to be ashamed of. PREACH. We all hail from backgrounds we might not be 100% proud of, or maybe we’ve done things that are worse still—BUT, those stories make you the person you are, and frankly (as someone who has made the BIGGEST mistakes and whose life literally exploded within itself more than a few times), I’d rather have the messy past with life experience than just a whole lot of beige.
Posses are important
The best thing about the pal group in A Knight’s Tale is that it’s the opposites of Grease‘s in every way. (Remember last week? Yikes.) In this case, you’ve got Paul Bettany as the hype man, Roland and Wat as. . . men who exist (and who offer much-needed comic relief, considering the whole point of jousting is to basically die), and Kate, Master Blacksmith a.k.a. baddest b—h. (I mean, would I watch a movie just about Kate? Absolutely. I would watch it right now.) And all of them support William and each other, despite being a relatively unglamorous cast of characters. Which I am grateful for, because glamour is fine, but it’s just not as interesting. And here, you’ve got interesting people—even if a few of them deliver a couple one-liners that remind us, it’s okay, we’re just watching a movie.
None of us would’ve survived the middle ages
Maybe you would, and I’m just assuming. But for the most part, no. Nope! No, thank you. First, the rats. Second, everything else. LOOK AT THOSE LIVING CONDITIONS. Guys, in my old apartment, I had mice and I only saw them two times and I went into a spiral of “I NEED TO BLEACH MY LIVING SPACE.” They did not have bleach in the middle ages. They didn’t even have ways of making sure your meat was cooked all the way through. Sick? You’re dead. Tired? Too bad, you have to, like, plow. I went to the museum the other day and realized that my entire family was or would’ve been serfs. (We were farmers on one side, or, as my Mom just said, “Had… sheep?” My great-grandmother ended up being a bootlegger, so there’s that.) Right now I’m sick (STILL), and working on a comfy chair on my laptop, and the only thing I’m currently thinking is, “Wow, Anne. You’re so brave.” Imagine me in the middle ages. Imagine any of us. Just nope.
Heath Ledger should’ve been in everything
And that’s just the harshest life lesson of all.