The old Disney Robin Hood
We enjoying watching this with the kids last night and are still amazed at the way in which all of Henry’s PRs in “Quantity of food eaten in one sitting” include popcorn.
While the film/legend is cultivating moral sentiments that I worry may be immoral, I still found it to be a beautiful tale.
I struggle to know, however, whether Emma’s conclusions from the film will be “Help the needy” or “Steal from the mean guys” or “Steal from the rich guys” or as I so imprudently suggested “Trump is like Prince John and Biden is like King Richard.”
Scenes like “Hen Madden” are perennial classics and it’s always enjoyable to see an Aquinas-esque figure belly bump the secondary antagonist out of a church! Roger Miller’s bard-like narration was wonderful as well.
I remember watching the film quite a bit as a child, but the voices of the characters (especially Pat Buttram’s ‘pre-pubescent’ twang) have become disproportionately paradigmatic of these character tropes. I’ll have to do some more research, but I suspect Disney overused these screen actors to the exclusion of the trained Voice Actors of the day—much as they do today.
Let’s consider the depiction of the Crusades as a way of returning to the moral aspects of the film. Making judgments on history is never simple and the judgments themselves should never be simple. Nevertheless, the glorification of the Crusades is a mark against the movie. Thankfully, none of my children have the requisite background knowledge for this portrayal to do lasting harm (I hope!).
Finally, the heart of my critique concerns itself with the legend itself. As someone who was formed in the birthplace of one of America’s most notorious heroes (Sorry, I meant to say “outlaws.”), I am especially sensitive to the Robin Hood legend.
The common description of Robin Hood (but not at all of James… sorry Kearney) involves stealing from the rich to give the poor. This type of action is obviously morally wrong. (If you don’t agree, let me know that in the comments!)
Therefore, if we leave the moral lesson of the legend there, we have cultivated immoral sentiments and habits in our children. The film, however, allows for a more fine-grained approach. Robin Hood is stealing from a tyrannical usurper to the throne who has quite literally hoarded all of the money in the land.
In this case, I submit that it would be morally permissible (perhaps even obligatory) to steal from said tyrannical usurping hoarder (and his agents) so as to provide for the poor. I am not very confident in this submission and am open to being corrected (please try to do so in the comments!).
In taking this position, I want to resist the blind adherence to absolute moral prohibitions that I’ve seen in Candace Vogler (and maybe Elizabeth Anscombe), on the one hand, and the quite silly utilitarian calculus on the other.
Please feel free (or bound) to let me know what you think of these ramblings.
Lastly, I feel the need to be explicit: James was absolutely nothing like Robin Hood and should not be celebrated.