The Joy of the Hate-Watch

By Sarah Miller

Credit...Illustration by Eden Weingart

I knew I would hate ‘The Princess Bride.’ What a delight to confirm not just my hunch, but that I know myself so well.

“The Princess Bride” debuted on my 18th birthday — Sept. 25, 1987 — but did not find its way onto my radar until 10 years later, when suddenly everyone was running around saying, “I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

“Oh yeah, I’ve never seen ‘The Princess Bride,’” I would say.

“You’ve never seen ‘The Princess Bride’? You must watch it immediately!”

“I am sure I would hate it,” I would say, and they would say, “No one hates ‘The Princess Bride.’”

Imagine the number of times it’s possible to have this exchange over some 25 years. Then triple it.

I vowed to never see this beloved movie. Whole personalities have been based on less.

About two weeks ago, I thought: Perhaps I will watch “The Princess Bride.” So many people had told me they liked it that I thought it was actually possible that I would.

From the moment Robin Wright said “Fetch me that pitcher” in a fake British accent and Cary Elwes responded, “As you wish,” in his real one, to the final montage of the pair, those creepy Aryan clones, riding into the sunset with Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and Fezzik (Andre the Giant), I was in all the agony I had anticipated and more.

“How can you hate ‘The Princess Bride’?” I must now get used to hearing. I suppose I shall answer: “Bit by bit.”

I hated the rhyming game Fezzik played with Montoya.I hated the name Princess Buttercup, and the insult “warthog faced buffoon.” I hated the way Fred Savage, the little kid listening to his grandfather tell the story (the movie’s framing device, which I also hated) was a whiny brat, and I hated that there was a giant bag of Cheetos on the shelf above his bed.

I was grossed out by the sores on The Albino’s lips, and by the teeth rotting in the mouth of the old peasant woman who screams at Princess Buttercup in her nightmare. It offended me how these markers of misery and poverty were simply meaningless elements that comprised the formless, empty whimsy of the entire project.

Everything about this movie kept shouting at me: “Look! I am funny! Laugh!” Like “Mutton, lettuce tomato sandwich, get it?” and “Mawage. Mawage is what bwings us togever today. Mawage that bwessed awangement, that dweam within a dweam.” I recognize that this is something I am supposed to find funny, I recognize the signs pointing to this being a joke. And yet, I am not laughing.

OK, I laughed when Wallace Shawn dropped dead. And Mandy Patinkin used to be hot, a fact probably lost on no one, least of all Mr. Patinkin himself, who let’s face it, is still pretty hot.

Aside from those minor pleasures, I watched in a state of scornful resentment, made exceedingly pleasurable by the fact that I had long expected it and by the additional insight that “The Princess Bride” had probably paved the way for a whole other class of beloved movies I can’t stand, like “Toy Story” and “The Incredibles” and “Finding Dory,” which kids and adults can watch together, because they’re totally innocent but clever, a combo to which I say, politely, no thank you.

What a delight, I thought, what a joy, to know oneself so intimately. I thought of how people say, “How can you know you hate something when you’ve never even tried it?” and how, indeed, you absolutely do not have to try something to know that you hate it, if you truly know yourself.

If “The Princess Bride” is one of your favorites, sorry, but I am sure there is almost nothing I or anyone can say that will change that for you. I have gotten all the joy I can from watching it — which is the joy of knowing I would hate watching it and being right. But if you can get more from watching and rewatching, well, as you wish.

Sarah Miller is a writer in Nevada City, Calif.

Doodles by Eden Weingart. Eden is an art director at The Times.

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