robin and marian

I grew up with Robin Hood. My Dad is a big fan of the 1938 movie version starring Errol Flynn. We watched it as kids. The storyline has grafted into my heritage. Then there was the 1991 version with Kevin Costner as Robin Hood. And now ... on Monday nights the phone gets ignored and the video recorder purrs away as we tune into Prime TV to watch the 2006 TV series from the BBC.
What so entices me with this TV series - and so ruins it for anyone within audible range of me as I watch - is that the same old storyline changes so much over time. Take two examples of this: identity and religion.

In terms of identity...
In 1938 Robin is chivalrous and heroic. He is a 'for God and King and country' leader of a throng of merry men. He stands on tables and up trees above his people urging them on to greater works of compassion and justice. In 2006 he cuts a more uncertain figure. Looking like he has just stepped out of a boy band, the charm is there but the plans are less grand. At one point Much, the one who knows him best, observes that 'he just wants to be loved'. And his leadership? He is rarely up front or up high. He leads from within a small group of followers.

And Marian? In 1938 she is a mostly passive and refined lady who knows well her elevated place in a hierarchial society. In 2006 the "Maid" has gone! She fights. She handles the bow and arrow. She moves easily between Nottingham and Sherwood. She is still beautiful - but now she is also fearless and smart. Anything Robin can do, she tends to do better. When all is said and done she is more the hero and heart of the storyline.

In terms of religion...
The Crusades (as they had started to do in the 1991 version) with their brutality of Christians towards Muslims hovers over the 2006 version. Friar Tuck, as the representative of Christianity, does not even make the script (and in 1991 he had morphed into a drunken, stupid, and useless buffoon, eclipsed completely by the Muslim Azeem character in the religious stakes)."For God" is long gone ... and "for King and country" (from 1938) is muted. At one point, when an unlikely pearl of wisdom emerges from Robin he is asked, "Where did that come from - the Bible?". His response? "No, the Koran".

As the series develops - Episode 9 last Monday - the spiritual heart of the movie is carried by a young Muslim woman (Djaq) who enters the story as the leader (how is that possible?) of a slave-gang brought to Sherwood by the Sheriff to work the mines. Djaq is redeemed by Robin and stays on with the group as a Muslim woman, masquerading as a young man. Go figure!? That could never have happened...

It is not difficult to see what is going on here ... but oh, it is such fun! Movie directors are not as creative as they think. They tend to reflect the world in which they live ... and maybe lead it a bit as well. Watch the 1938, 1991, and 2006 versions and we gather insight into the worldview that shapes my parents' generation, my own generation, and now my children's generation. [NB: I might also add that the same sort of thing can be done with many an enduring Disney storyline and Romeo & Juliet is a good one too. In fact I once shared some basic ideas about Romeo & Juliet with someone who ran with it, developed it further ... and it became a foundational part of his doctoral work. There is a doctorate in Robin Hood as well].

And with my childrens' world - both at high school and university - no aspects of worldview are more 'on the move' than identity and religion. These movies are case-studies in leadership and power relationships with 2006 giving prominence to a feminist perspective. These movies are case-studies in religion and spirituality and pluralism, with 2006 presenting this prevailing bias against Christianity. In our universities today the Crusades tend to be mentioned in the same breath as the Holocaust. Christian faith is being humbled and humiliated... None of these features would be anywhere near the original story as the contemporary penchant for revisionist history comes to the fore.

This is all SO useful ... To be effective as participants in the mission of God in the world we need to know our God and know our world and what it is that makes our world go round: worldviews! "To ignore worldviews, either our own or those of the culture we are studying, results in an extraordinary shallowness" (NT Wright). "The critical ideas in society are not the ones being argued, but the ones being assumed" (CS Lewis).

Robin Hood is a big help. We need to know our biblical worldview and let it engage these types of worldviews and find the response which is full of grace and truth. I fear that the christian mysticism spawned by charismatic renewal/contemplative tradition together with the pragmatism to which we so easily gravitate (which together have had such prominence in our NZ church life from 1991 to 2006) just do not have enough grunt for this crucial mission task...

nice chatting

Paul

Comments

Mark Maffey said…
As usual Paul provides us with much food for thought. Can we be too spiritual to be of no earthly good, or too earthly too be of no spiritual good? What the media presents to us is no longer hooded or covert, rather it is being maid overt. Will Tuck find his place in society, or is it too Much to expect of the programmers? How do we speak prophetically to our society which is seeking identity, searching for belonging and understanding and embracing "spirituality". Do we like Paul the Apostle in Acts 17:16 need to interpret societal influences and the "unknown God" people are looking for and provide them with a clear, firm message that states where we stand, on what we stand, and why what that is the answer to the questioning the people have. Like the Athenians their will be varying responses but we need to be compelling in our arguments.I believe there is a place for contemplation, for listening to God, like Mary in Luke 10:38-42 we need to know what it is to sit at the feet of our Lord, to understand his message, for he says to us quite clearly, that the crowds are like sheep without a Shepherd, we need to have compassion, yet we need to be prophetic, are we prepared from listening and hearing to then be the Labourers in the harvest field?
Rhett said…
I always loved the animated version starring Robihn Hood as a fox!
amy said…
Funny, I stumbled onto this page. Haven't read around much, but am looking forward to it.

You're right on target with the Robin Hood commentary. I give my history students extra credit for watching historical films. One of their tasks is to look at the year the movie was made, then speculate on the impact that might have made on the historical perspective the director presents. We often get into discussions about how culture/historical context and trends in theology interact. Endlessly fascinating.

I've had a blog for a few years now (aseefeldt.blogspot.com), almost the same format. Had to smile. Families apparently think alike. Love and greetings to Barby and the not-so-children any more.
your niece-in-law,
amy
Zack Efron said…
Theres nothing wrong with the boyband look......
Paul said…
Gee whiz - at least you could spell his name right. It is "Zac". I should know because there is an uncanny resemblance between my high school photos and those of Zac in High School Musical.
As for uncanny resemblances ... there is a guy in our home group - Timothy Hart - who bears a striking resemblance to Robin Hood in this series. Similar stature, similar charisma, similar facial hair, and similar boy-band good looks.

By the way - really good to hear from you, Amy!!
Jono said…
>I fear that the christian mysticism spawned by charismatic renewal/contemplative tradition together with the pragmatism to which we so easily gravitate (which together have had such prominence in our NZ church life from 1991 to 2006) just do not have enough grunt for this crucial mission task...


I believe that you fear rightly. The church in NZ require men and women of conviction who do not cling too tightly to this life. Men who believe wholeheartedly in the gospel and will speak only with the authority of God's word, not their own. Elders who will warn the flock of danger and shepherd them to maturity in Christ. I know God will raise up these believers, but I hope the NZ church wakes up because at present few have any sense of the need or the enormity of what lies ahead. Comfortable Christianity will not be an option in only a few years time.

Thanks for this viewpoint Paul, makes perfect sense.

"The Church used to be a lifeboat rescuing the perishing. Now she is a cruise ship recruiting the promising."
-Leonard Ravenhill
BJ said…
Hi Paul,

Excellent analysis/reflection. In fact, I see you're famous now and have been picked up by FilmGuide:

http://filmguide.co.nz/blogs/filmreviews/articles/966.aspx
Qoheleth said…
We too are a Monday night Robin Hood family. Don't try ringing us. Leave a message.
And wasn't last Monday's episode loaded with 21st century politics? Gulf war syndrome, peace-loving Islam, the Arabs wanting peace, hidden agendas all around, the power of rationalism over supersition, idiotic political leadership, ambivalent allegiances, introverted West etc etc.
Paul said…
ah ... a kindred spirit! You even have a name I love as the one who wrote Ecclesiastes.

And last week's episode was just fantastic, measured by how many times my children told me to shut-up ... and you've expressed it so well.

And what about Robin governed by that cool scientific (?!) head of his in the face of superstitious and ignorant 'Christians'?

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