SNARK WEEK: A Brief List of Ways Braveheart Fucks It Up

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1. Kilts Aren’t Period (for the 14th Century)

He’d probably we wearing something more like what the English soldiers are wearing. Except, hopefully, less disco-bally.

The development of the kilt and tartan is a fascinating rabbit hole, and I recommend you check out Brenna’s site for more info about its history. But the TL;DR is that the style of kilt represented in Braveheart is 100% not historically accurate for the 1300s. What would the Highlanders have been wearing? Tunics and braes like everyone else in Europe. I know you’re disappointed.

How can you properly flash your junk at the English in braes?

 

2. William Wallace Wasn’t a Highlander

“Shit, they’re on to me!”

The blue-face painted, wild-mullet-haired version of William Wallace as portrayed by Mel Gibson sure makes for dramatic cinema, but I’m here to piss all over your fantasies of the noble Scottish savage. While much of Wallace’s personal history is disputed, there’s evidence that his family hailed from the Lowlands, somewhere in the vicinity of Glasgow. One thing is for certain, Wallace weren’t no peasant nobody. He was a knight of the Scottish court, appointed Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland, probably spoke French with more fluency than Scottish Gaelic, and was pretty much the exact opposite of the stereotype of a poor Highland peasant as depicted in the film.

Also, “Braveheart” was in reference to Robert the Bruce, not Wallace.

You know, this guy? The Judas Iscariot to Mel Gibson’s Christlike William Wallace? Yeah, he’s the real “Brave heart.”

 

3. Princess Isabella

They grow up so fast, don’t they?

Princess Isabella is probably the most historically inaccurate person in the entire film, going so far off the grid that she might as well be considered a fictional character. The real Isabella was not the raven-haired French beauty that has a passionate love affair with Wallace and ends up getting pregnant by him, eventually putting a Scot on the throne of England (tee hee!). She was born around 1295, which would have made her a toddler during the Battle of Falkirk and still living in France. She did not arrive in England for her marriage to Edward II until 1308, three years after Wallace’s execution. And she never would have known Edward I, her father-in-law, because he was dead by the time she shipped off to marry his son. All of which makes it pretty unrealistic for her to bang Wallace and get knocked up with his lovechild, just sayin’.

Shockingly, the one thing this film did get right was the wimple and veil on all the royal ladies. It’s so weird considering the wimple is the first thing ditched in most historical productions of this period.

 

4. Stretch Velvet Isn’t Historically Accurate

I can hear the wails of “BUT IT’S SO PREEEETY!” all the way from here.

Trust me, I know it’s pretty. Hell, I’ve even made a 14th c. gown based on the same aesthetic. But this is not what 14th c. velvet looked like, I’m sorry to say.

In case you’ve never realized it, Frock Flicks’ tagline is a reference to Braveheart. All those stretch panne velvet dresses worn by the Princess might look pretty, but to any historical costumer worth their salt they stand out as SO NOT PERIOD. Real velvet, the kind made from silk, was just hitting the European market right about the early 1300s, imported from the Middle East via trade with Venice, so while it’s plausible that Isabella may have known what velvet was, she still probably wasn’t wearing it around the palace in Scotland. That, and it looked nothing like panne velvet, nor did it include Lycra.

 

5. Edward II and Phillip

Pro Tip: Don’t stand near an open window when your boyfriend’s father is in a murderous rage.

Prince Edward was portrayed as an effeminate little shit who callously rejects his beautiful wife to lavish attention on his equally shitty lover, Phillip. What we know about Edward’s sexual appetites (and honestly, it isn’t much) would put him around a two on the Kinsey Scale. He was thought to have had affairs with both genders, fathering several kids out of wedlock, and his attachment to Piers Gaveston (who Phillip is loosely based on) was strong enough that there were rumors the two were lovers. In short, the film reduced Edward to a gay stereotype to make the character of William Wallace look like the manliest man who ever banged a French princess. Also, no one got thrown out a window.

 

6. Blue War Paint

This tops my list of “Most Punchable Faces in Cinematic History.”

I could write an entire paper about the ways Braveheart appropriates the stereotype of the “noble savage,” and at the top of the list would be the blue woad face paint that Wallace and his army slather on themselves prior to battle. There’s a strong parallel here with Native American “war paint” and the fetishization of sublimated “primitive cultures” as somehow more pure than their dominant counterparts. It also makes it really easy to pick out Mel Gibson in a crowd because his face is almost entirely blue. But the bottom line is that the woad war paint was ripped off from the Picts, a race of people who several hundred years before Wallace’s time.

(Did anyone else notice that Gibson’s woad matches his eye color?)

 

7. The Historical Mullet

*shudder*

For some unknown reason, the vast majority of men’s hairstyles in period films are what we call the “historical mullet.” It’s that ubiquitous shoulder-length shaggy haircut that says “manly man up front, sensitive ponytail guy in the back.” This is probably one of the top tropes of historical movies, particularly those filmed after 1970, and Braveheart was no exception. The historical mullet is featured on numerous male characters in the film, but the most egregious offender is Mel Gibson, mainly because he’s in like 99% of the scenes and you have no choice but to stare at that abomination of a haircut. Also, for some unknown reason, every Scot in the film is wearing a rodent tail in his hair, as well as random braids and odd bits of twine and strips of fabric tied on. It’s pretty ridiculous.

“You’ve been sentenced to death for crimes against history.”

 

 

Join us, with special guest Brenna Barks, in snarking the shit out of what Braveheart gets wrong — listen to our Snark Week podcast below or on iTunes!

(NSFW — Braveheart nearly broke us, and there’s a lot of swearing. A lot more than what’s normal for us, for sure. So if you’ve got kids around or are in public, you probably want to put on the headphones before listening.)

 

 

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About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Website

Sarah discovered her dual passion for history and costume right around the age of twelve. Dragged kicking and screaming to her first Renaissance Faire at Black Point, she was convinced she was going to hate it, but to her surprise, she fell head over heels in love with the world of reenactment and dress up immediately. Her undergraduate degree is in Clothing & Textile Design, and she has a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture. When she’s not hauling crap to SCA events and ren faires, Sarah enjoys reading true crime books, writing fiction, and sewing historical clothing from the Middle Ages through the 20th-century. One of these days, she might even start updating her old costuming blog again.

37 Responses

    • Sarah Lorraine

      YES. I don’t remember if we mentioned that in the podcast or not (it was VERY drunk out) but we collectively lost our shit when we realized they were indeed washers whilst watching the movie.

      Reply
  1. Adam Lid

    A lot of this shows up again in “The Patriot”, sans the blue face paint. And yeah, talk about telegraphing with the open window- I figured what was going to happen and sure enough, boyfriend takes a header.

    Reply
    • Sarah Lorraine

      Ok, maybe you can help me out here… I distinctly remember there being this whole backlash to “The Patriot” wrt it being a completely transparent rehash of “Braveheart”, but when I went to look for the sources to back me up, I found nothing! The trouble is that all of these sources I recall were from that weird transitionary period of the late-90s where stuff online wasn’t really archived.

      But I’m glad you think the same thing! I thought I was going crazy when I tried to explain it recently and people were like “what are you even talking about?”

      Reply
      • Lady Nefertankh

        Is “The Patriot” going to be featured in Snark Week? :)

        I have seen a LOT of people sarcastically refer to “The Patriot” as “Braveheart with guns”. One person I used to know (via an online historical community) had a breakdown here : http://www.silverwhistle.co.uk/cinema/patriot.html

        To be fair the film helped introduce some people I know to the American revolution, so I try to see the good in it, from that perspective…but there are just way too many wince inducing inaccuracies for me to enjoy it.

        Reply
        • Sarah Lorraine

          “Braveheart” similarly inspired a lot of my generation of SCA members — we were dorky teenagers who had just discovered this amazing world of pretend and what’s the current big budget movie at the time? A film about a long haired guy on a rampage against the murderers who killed his one true love. Extra points for being Scottish, because if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap. ;)

          A friend of mine recently confessed that the film was also responsible for a generation of young men in the SCA being really sexually aroused by wimples. LOL

          And don’t worry, at some point we will tackle “The Patriot” and relive more of Sarah’s teenage damage.

          Reply
        • Sonya Heaney

          Lady Nefertankh: Thank you for that link.

          I sorta fell for the music and costumes and drama back in my late teens when The Patriot came out. I certainly haven’t felt the same about it for a while, but as a non-American my knowledge of this sort of stuff is a little vague.

          Reply
      • SarahV

        I did have Jason Issacs looking devastatingly hot in his Royal Dragoon uniform, though. That’s all I remember.

        Reply
  2. Janet Nickerson

    If the filmmakers wanted to portray Wallace having an affair with a lady at the English court, it would have made more sense for him to have the affair with Margaret of France, Edward I’s second wife. But as the scriptwriter Randall Wallace supposedly said,’ I don’t let the facts interfere with the truth.’ BTW, I did a paper for a writing class on just how historically inaccurate the film was.

    Reply
      • Alys Mackyntoich

        Ditto. Of course, I can’t imagine the damage some awful writer would do to Isabella in the name of making her “relevant” to modern women.

        Reply
        • Matilda Wynter

          oh god we’d all get alcohol poisoning!!! (still…she had nice crispinettes…)

          Reply
      • Andrew.

        I’ve been enthusing for some years about the two French mini-series Les Rois Maudits based on the six books by Maurice Druon. (One of which is entitled La Louve de France, i.e. The She-Wolf of France). The series is about the end of the Capetian dynasty and the beginning of the Valois. The 1972 version is the French equivalent of I, Claudius. The 2005 version has a lot more sex and violence ala GoT. In the 1972 version, Isabelle is placed by Genevieve Casile. In the clip below, (subtitled), she is uncovering the adultery of her sisters-in-law to her father, Philip the Fair.

        In the 2005 version, Isabelle is played by Julie Gayet.

        As a bonus for those who dislike Gerard Depardieu, in the 2005 version you get to see him burnt at the stake as Jacques de Molay

        Reply
    • Susan Pola

      Pussy I still abhor auto-correct and now it’s editing my f***ing bad slang for sex. A moral auto-correct?

      The Pussy comment was in relation to the podcast. BTW what did you drink as a reward for suffering through the Braveheart garbage?

      I also noticed that the panne velvet – pink – Dress looks like they sewed the nap backwards on one side.

      Reply
      • Sarah Lorraine

        Brenna and I were drinking manhattans and K&T were doing cosmos. I ran out of whisky halfway through and had to beg my fiancé to deliver reinforcements. He walked into a house full of drunk women screaming at a TV. And then promptly made us more cocktails, because he’s awesome like that.

        Reply
        • Susan Pola

          You have my sympathies in watching Braveheart. Glad your fiance is so wonderful.

          You and Brenna made the ultimate sacrifice for FrockFlicks & it’s fans.

          Reply
  3. M.E. Lawrence

    My Scottish husband giggled his way through Mel Gibson as Wallace. (Way too old for the role. And what is it with these Hollywood males who love directing themselves as martyrs?).. Historical inaccuracy aside, Sophie Marceau’s Isabella was the only thing I liked about “Braveheart,” even though the idea of her going to Scotland to negotiate with Wallace was kind of like Diana’s being sent to meet with Arafat.

    Reply
  4. Saffron Shearer

    As a Scot, we were laughing hysterically in the cinema at Wallace as a child…who had a broad Glasgow accent. NB all Scottish accents are not the same.

    Reply
  5. Aileen Brasche

    Previous podcasts had a download link. Will this one eventually have one too? It like to listen to these on my mp3 player, while walking or doing chores around the house.

    Reply
  6. Shona

    The Irish Army provided many of the extras for the film, cheap burly squaddie labour was one of the reasons the film was made there (was what I was told at the time.) Because of this, the highlanders behind the front row all have very short army hair with odd braids stuck on… guess they didn’t have the wig budget to give them all a mullet!
    I am Scottish but had a lovely Irish boyfriend at Uni and he lived near the filming, South of Dublin. We were on our way to a Saw Doctors concert and passed the wooden fort before it was burnt, everyone near Brae was very excited by the production I seem to remember.

    Reply
  7. Gina P

    The most horrifying aspect of “Braveheart” is that it beat “Sense and Sensibility” for 1996’s Best Picture Oscar.

    Reply
      • Gina P

        Why indeed!

        Of the other movies that were nominated that year, Apollo 13 (which I liked,) Il Postino and Babe (WTF Hollywood, REALLY??), S&S was far the superior of the lot.

        On a high note, Emma Thompson won for Best Screenplay Adaptation and Susan Sarandon won Best Actress (not for a historical movie, but I wuvs her anyway.) Best of all, Restoration triumphed over Braveheart with an Oscar for Best Costume Design.

        Reply
  8. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    Ok, my rage at this movie knows no bounds. It has been responsible for many an inappropriate kilt related flashing at SCA events. Especially on good gentles that should be in a nice loose tunic with braes.
    It also muddied the name of Isabella of France and made it seem that she loathed Edward II. From all the evidence she was in love with him in the beginning and did not start to turn away from him until Hugh Dispenser the Younger came on the scene. While there was the affair with Roger Mortimer, even at her death she asked that her heart be buried with her dearest Edward.

    Reply
  9. picasso Manu

    I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work, and it was my first time hearing podcasters getting totally sloshed!
    Soooo funny! (I hope the hangovers were manageable)
    And so necessary, I appreciate your suffering in our stead. I couldn’t, since I think I burst a couple of small eye blood vessels on seeing that bubblegum crushed velvet… Thing.
    One thing caught my attention in your comments: One of you said the film was very anti british, and the brits were shown as fops, too fancy… Clean even!
    Obviously NOT as virile as the leading man (can you imagine how he was supposed to smell? *gags*… pass me the second rate whiskey before I faint!)

    Usually, it’s the French who get depicted like that. Frumpy, effeminate, decadent, you name it. It wasn’t funny to begin with, and doesn’t get better as the years go by (cf outlander).
    I wonder if we’re fair game, or what?

    On the other hand I’m grateful we haven’t attracted Mel’s attention further than Sophie Marceau… And the real She-Wolf of France would have had him on toast at breakfast !(maybe not, she was a lady of taste)

    Reply

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