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The Morality of Robin Hood

Last night I watched Disney’s rendition of Robin Hood, and was struck by a few things that I had never noticed before.  First, I was struck by the economic implications of the movie.  When Little John asks Robin Hood how he feels about stealing, Robin retorts by calling stealing a “naughty word,” and that he should think of it more like “borrowing from those who can afford it.”  While they also do a good job of showing the true problem of Prince John not being the “true” king of England, it is interesting that they paint Robin Hood as a hero for stealing.  I say this because small children who watch the movie are having more than just a nice Disney movie experience; they are having their morality formed.  And I am not sure that there is great truth in the idea that we should “steal from the rich to give to the poor.”  I say this because I don’t think it gets to the heart of the problem.

The true king is gone, and a corrupt king is in place.

Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor only means higher taxes and an angrier corrupt king.  Perhaps a better movie would be Robin going after the king himself so he can no longer tax his fellow man.  But this would not make for a good children’s movie.

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7 thoughts on “The Morality of Robin Hood

  1. My parents were quite conservative with movies in my formative years, and although I would do things differently, what I really appreciate about what they did is having a family discussion after watching a movie and giving reasons for why we weren’t allowed to watch some movies again. For instance, we weren’t allowed to watch Aladin, because he is also a thief whose actions are semi-approved of. “Gotta steal to eat, gotta eat to live, what are you gonna do?”

    We also weren’t allowed to watch The Little Mermaid, not because of the outfits (or lack therof :)), but because Ariel lies to her father and at the end of the movie, the father approves of her actions.

    Kids movies, even without violence and sex, are pretty tricky when it comes to worldviews.

  2. Great insight!
    How subtly moral objectivity is injected into the minds of our kids…Robin is allowed to decide what is right in his own eyes.

    Two thoughts come to mind:
    1) A few days ago my five year old boy punched his sister. I put him time out, then told him it is wrong to hit a girl. He retorted, “but I can hit a boy! You said I could hit Jude” (a little boy on the block who is to rough). In trying to persuade Malachi to defend himself, I inadvertently (and hypocritically) allowed a double standard; a fluctuation in moral code.

    2) In conversing with my sister last month on the pros and cons of universal health care, I brought to light the fact that both plans out there are unfunded, and that ultimately I, the taxpayer, will be paying for what is funded. My sister, who is a big fan of universal health care and has done her homework said, “no, according to the tax bracket you fall in, you won’t be paying for it…that’s the great thing about it…the RICH will be the ones taxed for it.”

  3. I personally love Robin Hood. Love love love it. Every time I watch it I experience and intense tension between the typical “stealing is wrong” and “but they’re STARVING.” I don’t know what I would do. Is stealing wrong? Why is it one of the ten commandments? Does it encourage a property valuing mindset? Is that good? Are the 10 Commandments cultural? I have no idea.

    Anyway…

    Have you seen Fried Green Tomatoes? You should watch it. There’s a scene where a character steals food and gives it to the hungry people. Her companion is apprehensive. She attends a very conservative (Baptist?) church. It was interesting and produced that same Robin Hood tension in me.

    Do you think I think we shouldn’t steal becasue it’s what I’ve grown up with? I don’t know.

  4. Except I don’t know if I would steal. I don’t know. I just want to defend him. I don’t know why. Ok. I’m done now.

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