Robin Hood: Why the Arrow Is Always Pointed Up on the “Social” Bandit

When society seems to be struggling, a new Robin Hood emerges.

Be it Robin Hood from 13th century folklore or Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves from 1991, one theme is celebrated across the tales and centuries of telling — social banditry is welcomed.

Social banditry is a term coined in the late 20th century by British historian Eric Hobsbawm. Hobsbawm explains: “though a practice in social banditry cannot clearly always be separated from other kinds of banditry, this does not affect the fundamental analysis of the social bandit as a special type of peasant protest and rebellion.”

In other words social bandits are not criminals. These “bandits” are heroes to the poor, those who have been treated in an unscrupulous manner look to these figures for justice.

Throughout history and In Hollywood, each new telling of the Robin Hood lore seems to align with current societal distress. In the 1870s, Jesse James reach near celebrity status during the economic depression. James was said to have front the money to save a widow’s farm, only to rob the banker who demanded the funds. James then returned the money to the grieving woman.

1922’s Robin Hood film followed the recession after World War I while actor Errol Flynn played the role of Robin Hood in the 1938 depression-era film The Adventures of Robin Hood, while Sean Connery’s Robin and Marian was released during the 1970s recession. The 2008 international banking crisis gave us Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood.

Now, opening this week, we find another cinematic adaptation, this time starring Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx.

Conveniently, 2018 is ripe with social unrest, the rich getting richer and the poor becoming more desperate — the perfect storm for a new Robin Hood.

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