‘Scollywood’: Why Braveheart isn’t patriotic to Scotland

3682003771_e88dd9d11eIn Scotland, Braveheart is still a big deal.
It has been credited with bolstering national identity, tourism, and shaping the political landscape which allowed for Scotland’s devolution and Independence referendum.
The problem is that Braveheart is a huge Hollywood turd which is selling our own cultural identity back to us. And unfortunately, many people are still buying it.

My family’s heritage can be traced back hundreds of years in Scotland, and to me the actual story of William Wallace is truly inspiring. So this invites the question, “If it’s already so good, why mess with it?”

A statue of Mel Gibson as William Wallace was originally put on display near the Wallace Monument. It was later removed due to vandalism.

A statue of Mel Gibson as William Wallace was originally on display near the Wallace Monument

And Braveheart really does mess with it. A lot. But there is no shortage of people jumping on the bandwagon; it was the fifth highest grossing film in the UK in 1995, with 28% of that audience being Scottish.

The film triggered expressions of patriotism and reignited a sense of Scottish identity. And now that we’re in the lead-up to the Scottish independence referendum it’ll likely raise its head again, invoked by those trying to stir up feelings of patriotism and nationalism.

But it doesn’t reflect Scottish history, and shouldn’t represent Scottish identity.

Basically, it all comes down to Hollywood, which put simply means: profit.

It’s pure Hollywood fluff; an American film pronouncing American values. This concept of ‘Freedom’  is the wet-dream of American neo-conservatives and Tea-Party rallies.


13th century Scots according to 20th Century Fox

The film is taking Scotland and running it through the Hollywood mill; all we’re left with is ‘Scollywood’ and an American fantasy.

Seriously, it had people in 13th century Scotland living in mud-huts. And the Battle of Stirling Bridge didn’t even have a bridge!

Everyone was dressed in kilts and painted their faces with blue woad. I assume that’s because they decided at a production meeting “that’s what looks Scottish.”

This image of ‘Freedom’ – “Freedom to the people! Go to hell, Big Government!” – is a American neo-conservative’s fantasy, not ours.


Stirling Bridge, missing from film’s Battle of Stirling Bridge

As a film Braveheart looks good, but that doesn’t mean it should be at all related to Scottish patriotism. It’s an image constructed in a boardroom in LA that would sell in the US, nothing more.

The English get a raw deal too; Braveheart has been criticised for inciting Anglophobia, and with no substance behind it. The Anglophobia was basically a side effect of the filmmakers’ need for pantomime baddies, and in this case, the English sufficed (complete with snooty London accents and disapprovingly flared nostrils).

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“Pffft. . . !” The evil, sniffy English

Basically, the Galactic Empire, Bond villains, Freddy Kruger, and the English from Braveheart all fall into the same category. It really is as simple as that, only the English are, y’know, real, and might notice the effects of someone who’s taken Braveheart to heart.

You’ll still hear people saying that, for all the glaring historic inaccuracies, Braveheart “just makes you feel so patriotic!” But taking Braveheart as patriotism is like getting Mel Gibson drunk in a synagogue; it’s a bad idea that can easily provoke needless and lobotomised xenophobia.

Voting on a referendum is one thing, but Braveheart has nothing to do with Scotland or being Scottish. Considering it that way is simply buying into a Hollywood advert.


2 responses to “‘Scollywood’: Why Braveheart isn’t patriotic to Scotland

  1. I wouldn’t say Braveheart has “nothing to do with Scotland and being Scottish.” It is a highly sensationalised, “Hollywood” account of Scottish history, true, but it wasn’t an original idea, it is based on Scottish history. A bridge may not be included in the Battle of Stirling Bridge, but it doesn’t stop it from being the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

    That said, I agree, no one should base their Scottish Independence vote on whether or not Braveheart made them feel good/patriotic! Good post!

    • Thank you, I’m glad you liked it.

      I get what you mean; Braveheart does use Scottish history as a basis, and in that way is related to Scotland. But the story arc is pure Hollywood and could be used to fit just about any underdog story. I might have phrased it badly saying ‘it has nothing to do with Scotland’ (the last few lines were written in a hurry), but fundamentally it’s not Scottish, and Americanises a very inspiring piece of Scottish history.

      I do take issue with people who tie-in Scottish identity with Braveheart, which (in a bizarre and unusual defence of the film) never claimed to be historically accurate, and with the referendum then I can see pro-Independence folks playing off it (with a fair amount of casually implied Anglophobia).

      But I’m still irked that they didn’t include the bloody bridge. . .

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