Sexism can be viewed as gender discrimination or
prejudice. Sexism can be used to refer to the discrimination of a particular
person, 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. Two Arthurian films,
“Excalibur” and “knights of the round table” described through various
characters how roles in the community were defined and how sexism was approved
“Excalibur” was produced by
John Boorman in 1981 and describe the story of the legendary King Arthur.
Merlin, who is a sorcerer retrieves the Excalibur for Uther Pendragon. The
Excalibur is retrieved from the Lady of
the Lake. Uther falls in love with Igrayne, Cornwall’s wife. Merlin transforms
Uther into Cornwall’s likeness with the Charm of Making so that he could seduce
her. Uther impregnates Igrayne, and later Merlin takes the child, Arthur with
him. Uther thrusts the Excalibur on a rock and 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 uses the powers of the
Excalibur to defeat Lancelot but later regret his actions. Arthur unified the
land, created the roundtable and married
Guinevere. Later, Guinevere falls in love with Lancelot and Lancelot decides to
run away. Guinevere finds Lancelot in the forest, and they consummate their
relationship. Arthur finds Lancelot and Guinevere and Lancelot sleeping
together in the forest. He thrusts the Excalibur between them. Morgana uses the
Charm of Making to trap Arthur and Arthur made love with Morgana thinking that
she was Guinevere. They gave birth to a child, Mordred and the land is cursed due to their incest. Perceval
encounters a vision which helped him answer the riddle and thus gains the Holy
Grail. Arthur and Guinevere reconcile, and she hands him the Excalibur. Arthur
and Lancelot later reconcile during a battle, and Lancelot dies with honor.
Mordred stubs Arthur, but Arthur struggles and kills Mordred with the
Excalibur. Arthur makes a wish to Perceval and tells him to through the
Excalibur into the river and after Perceval throws it the Lady of the Lake
catches it. Arthur sails to the Isle of Avalon.
The movie, “Knights of the
Round Table,” was produced by Pandro Berman in 1953. The movie starts by
describing how Arthur and his half-sister Morgan LeFay struggle on who is the
rightful heir to their father’s throne. They visit a sorcerer known as Merlin
to determine England’s rightful leader. Modred, Morgan’s knight, struggles to
retrieve the Excalibur but Arthur retrieves it easily which meant that he would
be crowned the king. In his journey,
Lancelot encounters Modred’s fighters who fight him. He won by the help of
Arthur who joins in the fight. Arthur is chased away by the Council of Kings,
but he attacks Modred’s men during spring and wins. Arthur is crowned the King of England. After the
battle, Lancelot and Arthur disagree regarding how to deal with their former
enemies. Lancelot saves a beautiful lady named Guinevere who had been kidnapped. Arthur and Lancelot re-affirm
Morgan and Mordred hate
Arthur. Guinevere learns that Lancelot loves her and she tells him to marry
Elaine to avoid trouble. Lancelot proposes to Elaine. Percival, Elaine’s
brother, visits Elaine and Lancelot and narrates 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 goes
to Lancelot’s house unaware that Morgan and Modred are spying on her.
Lancelot and Guinevere are tried at the Round Table, and they are
found guilty. Lancelot confesses his love for Guinevere and Arthur banish him
from England. Guinevere is confined. Modred claims 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 agree to disband the Round Table
as an agreement to end the war. However, war broke again after one of Author’s
men draw his sword to kill a snake. Arthur is wounded, and he asks Lancelot to
fulfill his wishes which included killing Modred, throwing the Excalibur into
the river and informing Guinevere of Arthur’s forgiveness and love.
The two movies are similar in a large extent
since they describe the events that took place during the reign of King Arthur.
Sexism in the Arthurian movies is well described
in the two movies in various instances and through various characters (Ahem,
98). First, the different roles of men and women are described through the marriage between Arthur and Guinevere.
During that era in England, 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 which guided their families. In the movie,
Arthur is more concerned with his role as a King thus neglecting his family
life. Although Arthur loves Guinevere, he fails 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 neglecting 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,” Arthur is
crowned the king since he is the son of Uther and most importantly, he was a
man. In the Movie, “Knights of the Round Table,” 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 witchcraft.
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
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 ancient
England, 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 plays an important role in the Lady of the River who is 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 proposes to Elaine. It is clear that men make most of the crucial
decisions while women are 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 is to bring forth children and engage in household
activities. Guinevere, in both movies, take care of her husband. She maintains
a good image of her family and marriage even when there are problems within her
marriage. Elaine also engages in various household chores and takes care of her
husband. As men engage in hard jobs in politics and business, women stayed at
home to engage in kitchen chores and care for their children.
Like many societies at the
time, England segregated women when considering people for vital jobs. Women
were 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 only to 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 stand at a better chance to become successful than women. This is because men are thought to make
decisions based on the reality, consequences, and evidence while women are
known to make decisions according to their emotions. Also, in the past, parents
educated their sons and left their daughters uneducated (Gilbert, 872). The
society also reserves better job opportunities for men and less valuable jobs
In the two movies, women
strive to gain a share of power. Since they are
not appointed to leadership positions, the only way to rise to power is
after being married by people in the loyal class. In the movie, “Excalibur,”
Guinevere is in love with Lancelot but gets married to King Arthur. Although
she wants to be with Lancelot since he cherishes their love, Guinevere is forced to stick with the king so that she
can remain in the loyal family. Although she is
highly ranked in the kingdom, her success is predominantly due to her
marriage to the king not due to her great deeds. In the movie entitled,
“Knights of the Round Table,” Percival brings forth Elaine, his sister, to
Guinevere so that she can be made a
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
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,” 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 “Elaine
bears Lancelot’s a son. It is not clear if Elaine loved Lancelot, but it is
evident that bearing him a child would make give her a chance to become
successful and influential in the kingdom since Lancelot was influential.
As evidenced above, some women
were desperate to become pregnant with influential people. This shows how hard it was or women to become
popular in the land through excellence, commitment, and hard work. It is every
woman’s wish to bear a child with a man she loves. Thus, bearing a child just
for social status shows 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 is 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
In the movie, “Excalibur,”
Perceval is 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 is taken
by the Lady of the River. In the movie entitled, “Knights of the Round Table,”
Arthur informs 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 tells 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