I just finished watching the director’s cut of King Arthur (2004) with Clive Owen and Keira Knightley [Official site IMDb Wikipedia]. I remember watching it in theaters with Bobby (I’m pretty sure he had to foot the bill ^_^;;), and although I know I really liked the movie (despite its bad reviews), I don’t remember the theatrical version well enough to compare the two. Apparently the director’s cut has a better ending (and by “better” I mean supposedly “more realistic/historically accurate”), and I’ve been searching in vain for the past hour for the original (theatrical) ending so I can see the difference.

The many battle scenes were thought-provoking. After watching the knights’ “last stand” (as it were), my question is this: what compels someone to follow another person into battle? I know that Arthur’s knights loved their leader; they knew he was a good man and a man of his word, and they believed in him and in what he stood for. I can understand why they would follow him into battle–he was truly the first among equals. But what of the Saxon army? Perhaps they fought to prove their manhood, or were caught up in a mob-mentality, or were afraid of their leader, Cedric. Why did the infantry walk into the death trap that was past the wall? Just because they were ordered to? That can’t be the only reason. Because they didn’t want to let each other down? Because they would think less of one another if they refused?

More generally, I have noticed that wars begin (and are prolonged) primarily because of miscommunication. Why do people kill one another? Because they can’t figure out how to live with one another any other way? Because they refuse to compromise? Because their ideals are completely different from those they fight against? I can say that at least I have no idea who the U.S.A. is really fighting in Iraq right now. I probably couldn’t even point to Iraq on a world map. I don’t know anything about Al Qaeda (including how to spell the word itself), Saddam Hussein, or even Islam. What are we fighting for? Revenge? Oil? Some higher sense of justice? If I, an intelligent and well-educated young woman, don’t know what we’re fighting for or who we’re fighting against, how can the average American (who is generally less intelligent and less educated than I) know? Is this just blind anger focused upon the newest (within the last 5+ years) scapegoat?

I’m pretty sure that if we left the Middle East alone, they’d have to deal with each other before they’d threaten us; we’re across an entire ocean, after all, and their neighbors are… well, their neighbors. When I make this argument, someone inevitably brings up September 11th. I don’t mean to belittle those who lost their lives that day or presume that survivors “should have gotten over it by now,” but I don’t know anyone who was even remotely involved in the attacks. My boyfriend grew up in New York City and he is only marginally affected by the tragedy. Granted, Bennett’s an interesting case, and not one I should really base my opinions upon, but I don’t understand why–more than five years later–everyone is as paranoid as they were on the day it happened.

I don’t even know where I’m going with this anymore. I just keep coming back to the Saxon army in King Arthur, who literally gave everything to a leader who threw them away as disposable. I cannot believe it is truly better to be feared than loved.

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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