history grade: fail.

William Wallace hated nothing more than illiteracy.

I love bad historical dramas as much as the bowl of garlic noodles I’m eating right now. That is to say, I love them both very much.

Tonight I find myself eating said bowl of noodles (not cup, my dear; this is real takeout) while watching Mel Gibson and his white person dreadlocks frolic in a skirt the Scots call a “kilt.” I’m reminded of a review I read in The Guardian years ago that makes me giggle like the high school teacher-to-be/ lover-of-bad-movies that I am.

To start, the reviewer gives us two grades for Braveheart:

Entertainment grade: C–
History grade: Fail

The entertainment grade should be a bit higher (Mel Gibson, face paint, & Aqua Net? At least a B-). But the history grade? Spot on.

Here’s a summary of the most blaring historical inaccuracies. The inaccuracies, also known as lies to make character & plot development easier on the writers, have been divided into categories. I would’ve stooped to the level of paraphrasing, but I’m busying myself with noodles and Mel pre-Passion Of The Christ, which is equally abysmal and hilarious. Let’s hope the sequel is better (ba-zing!).

Edward I expresses a desire to enforce high taxes on the rich. Apparently, in Gibson’s world, this makes him evil. In case you need even more evidence, on a whim he reinstates ius primae noctis, allowing English nobles to interrupt Scottish weddings and shag the bride. Not only fictional, but profoundly ridiculous.

Cut to a jolly wedding party in Scotland, complete with dancing peasants and a fun competition where they throw rocks at each other’s heads. Everyone looks like they’re at a Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome convention, except, oddly, for Mel Gibson, who has turned up dressed as Fabio. The English arrive to spoil the party, with the local lord (played by John Cleese being Sir Lancelot the Brave, except you’re not supposed to laugh) claiming his freebie with the wife.

Wallace falls for a local girl from a neighbouring hut. She has the perfect teeth so typical of Scottish peasants in the 13th century. He is surprised to find out that she can’t read. The audience is not so surprised, because she is supposed to be a 13th century peasant and lives in a hut. And then the big ponce starts trying to talk to her in French.

Meanwhile, the king’s daughter-in-law Isabella of France is finding stories of Wallace a lot sexier than her gay husband, who prances around the palace in a baby blue crushed velvet tunic while a pageboy carries a mirror in front of him (Gibson denies that his film is homophobic). Bizarrely, the king sends her to negotiate with Wallace. So irresistible are the Scotsman’s hairy charms that she allows him to impregnate her. This scene is set in 1304 or 5, when the real Isabella would have been nine years old. Accuracy on that point might have been a bit tasteless, but accuracy on the point that she was still living in France and didn’t marry the Prince of Wales until three years after Wallace’s death would have been fine.

At the Battle of Falkirk, Edward I attacks with Irish troops, who are gamely waving a big green banner with harp (invented in 1642). The very loosely accurate portrayal of Robert the Bruce as a flip-flopper torn between England and Scotland provides the only passable historical contention in the entire movie. Wallace loses, but goes on to invade England and sack York. No, he didn’t do that, either.


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