Sexism can be viewed as gender
discrimination or prejudice. Sexism can be used to refer to the discrimination
of an individual, whether male or female, due to his or her gender. Sexism is
often linked to gender roles and stereotyping, where one gender is regarded as
superior to the other. The Arthurian films, “Excalibur” and “Knights of the
Round Table”, expressed through various characters, showed how roles in the
community were defined and how sexism was approved and supported.
“Excalibur” was produced by John Boorman
in 1981. This Arthurian film showcased the story of the legendary King Arthur.
Merlin, who was a sorcerer, retrieved the Excalibur for Uther Pendragon. The
Excalibur was retrieved from the Lady of the Lake. Uther fell in love with
Igrayne, Cornwall’s wife. Merlin used the Charm of Making to make Uther look
like Cornwall, so that Uther would be able to seduce Igrayne. The seduction was
a success because Uther ended up impregnating Igrayne. Later, Merlin takes the
child, Arthur, with him. Uther thrusts the Excalibur on a rock and Merlin declares
that whoever retrieves the sword would become king. Years later, Arthur
retrieves the sword from the stone and thus is crowned the king.
Arthur used the powers of the Excalibur to
defeat Lancelot but later regretted his actions because his actions caused the
Excalibur to break. Eventually, the Excalibur got fixed, which Arthur used to
unify the land. Around that time, Arthur created the Round Table and married
Guinevere. However, Guinevere and Lancelot fell in love with each other, which caused
Lancelot to distance himself from the Round Table. Lancelot then returned and
battled Gawain because Gawain intended to cause trouble for Lancelot and Guinevere with accusations that had to do
with their love for each other. After the battle between Lancelot and Gawain, Lancelot
headed into the forest where Guinevere eventually found him. While in the
forest, Lancelot and Guinevere had sexual intercourse and were then caught by
Arthur. Arthur jabbed the Excalibur between them. This provided Morgana with
the chance to use the Charm of Making to disguise herself as Guinevere to trick
Arthur. Arthur was fooled because he ended up making love with Morgana,
thinking that she was Guinevere. This false relationship led to Morgana giving
birth to a boy named Mordred. This incest caused the land to be cursed. To remove
the curse, the Holy Grail needed to be found. Perceval ended up getting his hands
on the Holy Grail because of a riddle that he successfully answered. Perceval gave
the Holy Grail to Arthur, which led to the removal of the curse that was placed
on the land. Aside from that, Arthur and Guinevere worked things out, which led
Guinevere to hand back the Excalibur to Arthur. Later, during a battle against
Mordred, before Lancelot died, he and Arthur had also worked things out. Eventually,
Arthur killed Mordred with the Excalibur but got stabbed by Morded when doing so.
Arthur’s last command before dying was to Perceval, whom he told to throw the Excalibur into the water. Perceval did as he was commanded.
The Lady of the Lake caught the Excalibur.
“Knights of the Round Table” was produced
by Pandro Berman in 1953. This Arthurian movie started by showcasing how Arthur
and his half-sister, Morgan LeFay, struggled on who was the rightful heir to
their father’s throne. They visited a sorcerer known as Merlin to determine
England’s rightful leader. Modred, Morgan’s knight, struggled to retrieve the
Excalibur but Arthur retrieved it easily which meant that he would be crowned
the king. In his journey, Lancelot encountered Modred’s fighters who fought
him. He won by the help of Arthur who joined in the fight. Arthur was chased
away by the Council of Kings, but he attacked Modred’s men during the spring
and won. Arthur was crowned the King of England. After the battle, Lancelot and
Arthur disagreed regarding how to deal with their former enemies. Lancelot
saved a beautiful lady named Guinevere who had been kidnapped. Arthur and
Lancelot re-affirmed their partnership.
Morgan and Mordred hated Arthur. Guinevere
learnt that Lancelot loved her and she told him to marry Elaine to avoid
trouble. Lancelot proposed to Elaine. Percival, Elaine’s brother, visited
Elaine and Lancelot and narrated to them a vision of the Holy Grail which
involved the cup from which Jesus drank from in the last supper. Lancelot
returned to Camelot as planned by Modred so that he would be framed due to his
love for Guinevere. One day, Guinevere became jealous after seeing Lancelot
kiss another lady. She went to Lancelot’s house, unaware that Morgan and Modred
are spying on her.
Later, Lancelot and Guinevere were tried
at the Round Table, and they were found guilty. Lancelot confessed his love for
Guinevere and Arthur banished him from England. Guinevere was confined. Modred
claimed that Arthur had shown mercy since instead of recommending a death
sentence upon Lancelot, he had banished him from the land. Modred turned all
the enemies of the king against him, and a battle broke between them. Modred
and Arthur agreed to disband the Round Table as an agreement to end the war.
However, war broke again after one of Author’s men drew his sword to kill a snake.
Arthur was wounded, and he asked Lancelot to fulfill his wishes which included
killing Modred, throwing the Excalibur into the river and informing Guinevere
of Arthur’s forgiveness and love.
two movies were similar in a large extent since they described the events that
took place during the reign of King Arthur. Sexism in the Arthurian movies was
well described in the two movies, in various instances and through various
characters (Ahem, 98). First, the different roles of men and women were described
through the marriage between Arthur and Guinevere. In the early 1950s, the
marriage partners had to balance between their public sphere which involved
labor and work and the private sphere which involved their family matters. Men
and women had to engage in different activities which embraced morals and which
guided their families. In the movie, “Knights of the Round Table,” by Pandro
Berman, Arthur was more concerned with his role as a King thus neglected his
family life. Although Arthur loved Guinevere, he failed to engage in his
activities as a man which included having more time with her, traveling and
involving her in making important decisions.
Due to his role as the King, Arthur
existed predominantly in the public sphere. His main focus was his kingdom thus
neglected his family. Lancelot, although being a knight, was able to balance
between his public life and personal life. He excelled as a fighter and won
various battles. However, he spared some time and expressed his love for
Guinevere. He also listened to Guinevere’s advice and married Elaine. Lancelot
saved Guinevere after she was kidnapped and was closer to him emotionally than
her husband the king. Thus, men in ancient England were expected to balance
between their businesses or political life with their family lives for their
families to thrive.
The other aspect of sexism that is evident
in the two movies is the issues regarding the inheritance of property and most
importantly, the Throne and power. After a king died, someone had to be chosen
to inherit the throne. Two things were considered at the time according to the
movies. First, the person had to retrieve the Excalibur and secondly, that
person had to be a man, related to the previous king. Since most kings at the
time were men, women felt neglected and discriminated. No matter how strong and
intelligent a woman would be, she could not inherit the throne. In the movie,
“Excalibur,” by John Boorman, Arthur was crowned the king since he was the son
of Uther and most importantly, he was a man. In the Movie, “Knights of the
Round Table,” by Pandro Berman Arthur retrieves the Excalibur and is crowned
the king although his half-sister Morgan is equally a worthy heir. Morgan
believes that the throne was taken from her in unfairly after Merlin used
The power to rule and guide the land was
bestowed on the crown. However, women were denied the right to inherit the
crown either through witchcraft or various laws and rules. Men are usually
stronger than women, and thus the law had it that the person who could retrieve
the Excalibur from the rock would be crowned the queen (Ittmann, 82). This law
was simply put in place to ensure that women are locked out of the throne.
In addition to that, the role of making
important decisions affecting the future of the land was bestowed on men. The
council of elders that determined whether Arthur’s win over Morgan, was
predominantly made of men. The king, Arthur, in both movies was a man. Most
knights in the two movies, who led during the war, were men. The sorcerer,
Merlin, was a man. Perceval and Lancelot, who were entrusted with the Perceval
to take it back to the river were men. This reflects a patriarchal society
where men dominate all the important positions of power. In 1953, when “Knights
of the Round Table,” was produced by Pandro Berman, most people in politics and
business positions were usually men. Men were known to be better in making
crucial decisions regarding the kingdom. The only woman who played an important
role was the Lady of the River who was the chief custodian of the Excalibur
used to appoint a new king.
Also, decisions regarding marriage were
made by men. For example, Arthur decided to marry Guinevere and Lancelot
proposed to Elaine. It is clear that men made most of the crucial decisions
while women were left out during such occasions. The major decisions made in
the society affected both men and women alike. For example, during war and
conflict, men were killed while women were kidnapped. Thus, women ought to have
been consulted before such decisions were made.
The major role of women as described by
the two movies was to bring forth children and engage in household activities.
Guinevere, in both movies, took care of her husband. She maintained a good
image of her family and marriage even when there were problems within her
marriage. Elaine also engaged in various household chores and took care of her
husband. As men engaged in hard jobs in politics and business, women stayed at
home to engage in kitchen chores and cared for their children.
Like many societies in the 1950s, England
segregated women when considering people for vital jobs. Women were only
allowed to engage in household jobs since they were considered too weak to
handle manual jobs. The activities carried out by women depended on their
status. The mistresses and servants helped those in the political classes. The
wives of those in power ensured that they supported their husbands emotionally.
Some women felt that they were energetic and mature enough to engage in politics
like Morgan, but their efforts were rendered fruitless since they were not
given a chance to compete favorably with men.
The society had two hands, men, and women,
but decided to only use one hand in national development. The results of the
patriarchal society are evident after the society experience fights and
calamities which would have been avoided if women were also involved in making
decisions and engaging in activities that shaped their society and improved
their future lives.
Every person in the world wants a chance
to become successful. The society is supposed to create an opportunity for
every member to become successful regardless of their gender. However, men
stood at a better chance to become successful than women, during the creation of
the movie, “Knights of the Round Table,” by Pandro Berman in 1953. This is
because men were thought to make decisions based on the reality, consequences,
and evidence while women were known to make decisions according to their
emotions. Also, at the time, parents educated their sons and left their
daughters uneducated (Gilbert, 872). The society also reserved better job
opportunities for men and less valuable jobs for women.
In the two movies, women strived to gain a
share of power. Since they were not appointed to leadership positions, the only
way to rise to power was after being married by people in the loyal class. In
the movie, “Excalibur,” by John Boorman Guinevere was in love with Lancelot but
gets married to King Arthur. Although she wants to be with Lancelot since he
cherished their love, Guinevere was forced to stick with the king so that she
could remain in the loyal family. Although she was highly ranked in the
kingdom, her success was predominantly due to her marriage to the king, not due
to her great deeds. In the movie entitled, “Knights of the Round Table,” by
Pandro Berman, Percival brought forth Elaine, his sister, to Guinevere so that
she could be made a lady-in-waiting.
The above illustrations show that women in
the society under consideration believed that marriage to a man from the loyal
family was not due to love but an easy way to succeed in life. Thus, women
believed that it was very hard to gain power and leadership in their kingdom no
matter how hard they worked. For men, if a man fought well during battles, he
was almost sure that he would become a knight or an influential person in the
kingdom. However, women had to be beautiful and seduce the men to be admitted
into the loyal family.
In addition to marriage, becoming pregnant
with a loyal man was an easy way to gain power. Women in the society seduced
men or used witchcraft to lure them into sleeping with them (Gilbert, 873). In
the movie entitled, “Excalibur,” by John Boorman Morgan used witchcraft to take
the form of Guinevere and seduced Arthur. After Arthur slept with her, she
bears a son named Mordred. In the movie, “Knights of the Round Table,” by
Pandro Berman, Elaine bears Lancelot’s a son. It was not clear if Elaine loved
Lancelot, but it was evident that bearing him a child would make give her a
chance to become successful and influential in the kingdom since Lancelot was
As evidenced above, some women were
desperate to become pregnant with influential people. This showed how hard it
was for women to become popular in the land through excellence, commitment, and
hard work. It was every woman’s wish to bear a child with a man she loves.
Thus, bearing a child just for social status showed how women were segregated
and disregarded in running the affairs of the kingdom.
According to the movies, men were
obligated to carry out the wishes and desires of other men especially those who
were dying. In the ancient society, it was believed that the wishes of a dying
man to a fellow man who was regarded below them in the social class had to be
implemented. Men respected the wishes of fellow men and implemented them
regardless of how unrealistic they seemed.
In the movie, “Excalibur,” by John
Boorman, Perceval was told by King Arthur to throw the Excalibur into the
river. Although Perceval believed that it was unrealistic to throw such an
important sword into the river, he had to fulfill the wish of the dying man.
Perceval threw the Excalibur into the river, and it was taken by the Lady of
the River. In the movie entitled, “Knights of the Round Table,” by Pandro
Berman, Arthur informed Lancelot that he should throw the Excalibur into the
river. Although Arthur and Lancelot had divergent views at various instances in
the movie and even fought severally, Lancelot had to fulfill the wishes of
Arthur (Ahem, 102). Also, Arthur told Lancelot that he should inform Guinevere
that he has forgiven her and that he loved her so much. Although Lancelot loved
Guinevere and so he would feel uncomfortable to inform Guinevere that Arthur
loved her too, he had to fulfill the wishes of a dying man.
The above examples show how men were
willing to stand and protect the interests of fellow men. It is said that women
are their enemies. Women in the movies could not unite and help each other.
However, men were ready to fulfill the desires of fellow men regardless of the
enmity that existed between them. Thus, men exhibited sexism by fulfilling
every desire of fellow men especially those who were almost dying.
Sexism in the ancient English society was
exhibited through various ways including marriages, roles and responsibilities,
and inheritance among other ways. After two people were married, the man was
the head of the family while the wife took care of the babies and household
chores. Men made important decisions while women only implemented the
decisions. This created a gender gap and women decided to engage in revolutions
to agitate for their rights.
Gender discrimination and sexism were also
experienced in the political processes. Most leaders were men and women were
denied access to the throne even when they were the rightful heirs. Sexism has
divided nations in the ancient times and current world. Men should allow women
to engage in activities that change the society and not to restrict the women in
the boundaries of the kitchen. Women have the ability, strength, and ideas to
change and transform the world. Women should also respect men and avoid using
underhand methods to gain power including using witchcraft or seducing men to