Sunday, January 29, 2012

We are the Champions: Medieval Times

I debated whether or not I should include this outing on this blog at it's cheesy compared to what I usually write about it, but I finally decided that this could qualify on the "and entertainment" component of the blog's mission. Today's outing was to Medieval Times, the entertainment chain that purports to bring spectators back to, you guessed it, the medieval times through a dinner feast and jousting tournament. As far as I can remember, not much has changed about the Medieval Times since I first went as a child, nor does it vary much from location to location. I guess when you have a good thing going, you stick with it. There's actually quite a bit of dinner theater to the spectacle, in that there is a whole story involving the king and his quest for peace, which is inevitably broken, but mostly it's the atmosphere and the clanking swords that we care about as viewers. There's also some fun moments where we get to see the effects of what must be months and months and months of animal training -- a falcon flying gracefully above the crowd and horses who do fancy trots and other fascinating movements. My friend and I were both seriously astounded by how magnificently these animals performed, especially given the noise and lights that came from the crowd.

Besides Americans' *entirely accurate* (read: not at all accurate) view of medieval Spain, one of the things I find most fascinating about Medieval Times is that you could easily convince me that it is actually an elaborate sociological experiment. We are all aware, at least on some level, of the psychological shortcuts that allow us to see the world in terms of "like us" and "not like us." Them against us often becomes the resulting attitude. This can be ill-applied when it comes to differences such as skin color or ethnicity, and racist attitudes prevail. We also see the "them against us" mentality in more trivial aspects of life, such as choosing a sports team to root for (although some people do get quite carried away with this as well), But Medieval Times brings this to a whole new level. The them vs. us mentality emerges simply by handing someone a colored paper crown.

See, there are several different knights in the Medieval Times tournament and to simplify matters, they are all referred to by their color (green knight, red knight, etc.). Spectators are seated in color-coded sections and given a corresponding paper crown to wear. And, amazingly, before the knights even appeared on the scene, people began getting wild fan attitudes about their knight. We were seated in the yellow section, right next to the blue section, and a bitter rivalry was soon struck up between the two colors. Blue and yellow spectators were shouting (and cursing) across to one another. And the tournament had yet to begin; likewise the knights still had not appeared, so there was absolutely nothing to base our undying fervor upon such as skill or even something trivial like looks. Right before the tournament was about to commence, our server came by and told us which knights were our allies -- all were on our side except the green knight, who we should boo. I then had to point out that we had apparently been wasting our time booing the blue knight for about half an hour, and our server replied that we could boo him, too, if we so desired. And so the bitter rivalry continued on the rest of the night.

Every time a knight came out into the arena, the crowd in his corresponding color went wild even before he started competing. Meanwhile, the poor princess, the only female character in the whole spectacle, had hardly anyone cheering for her as she had little to do but talk to the king, make a toast, and hand out roses to the winning knights. But when those same knights in turn tossed roses into their corresponding crowds, again their color's crown-wearing fans went wild. When it came down to one-on-one jousting tournaments after the all-in games, you could actually feel the crowd's enthusiasm waning when their knight wasn't amongst the two knights fighting. Seriously, it was amazing to me how quickly people could become invested in rooting for their "team" (so to speak) and thus I am convinced this is all some social experiment on racist attitudes, mob mentality, and etc.

Oh, and for the record, our yellow knight was ultimately named the champion, so clearly we had been on the winning team all along and our fervor was not without reason! ;)

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