- YEAR: 1973
- DIRECTOR: Wolfgang Reitherman
- KEY ACTORS: Brian Bedford, Phil Harris, Monica Evans, Peter Ustinov, Terry-Thomas
- CERTIFICATE: U
- IMDB SCORE: 7.6
- ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 54%
SEX SCORE: 4/5
✔️ This just passes the Bechdel Test! Marion and Lady Kluck talk about badminton…
✔️ And it’s definitely rewatchable. Often and anytime!
✔️ Robin Hood is the ultimate Disney Prince and a crazily hot fox so yes, of course I would fuck the cast.
✔️ I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I think it did inspire fantasies. Not necessarily sexual ones, but it was the first time I found myself wanting the romance that I saw on screen.
❌ Unfortunately, it can’t get a mark for sex positivity. There is so little content that referring to kissing as ‘sissy stuff’ is enough to drag it down…
As always, this contains spoilers so watch the film before you read on…
STREAMING: Disney+, Amazon Prime (buy £9.99), YouTube (from £9.99). For a full list of streaming options, check out JustWatch.com
Oh, what a difference a year makes! Last February, when I started the Disney Princess series, I was looking forward to watching these movies with my daughter, then just 2. At that time, her attention span only extended for about 25 mins – perfect for The Gruffalo but not nearly enough for a whole movie. But now, at more than 3, my girl is a full on Disney Princess convert! I watch Frozen, Frozen 2, Brave, Moana or Encanto every day. Every. Day. Not the whole movie – we’re relatively relaxed about screen time but that would be excessive – but I am still incredibly grateful that these movies are so rewatchable!
You’ll notice that all of the films I watch with her were released in the last 10 years, and that is no accident. We’ve watched a bit of Sleeping Beauty (because Prince Philip is hot. More on this later.) and she knows the songs from Beauty and the Beast but I’ve been wary of showing her the older movies as I am still concerned about the lessons she will learn from these more passive princesses. I like being able to talk to her about how brave Moana is and how powerful and strong Elsa can be. Also, those older movies were scary!
But now that we’ve got a pretty good brave and feminist Princess foundation and I’m thinking about which films to show my daughter next, I’ve moved my focus to other messages and other lessons that we learn from Disney. While the feminist messages and the role of the Princess are the most discussed, the legacy of Disney is much bigger and more pervasive. And so today, I thought I would look more at the Disney Prince because the Patriarchy hurts everyone.
It didn’t take long to discover that there simply isn’t as much written about Disney Princes, certainly not in the mainstream media. Do you know there are official Disney Princes? According to Disney Princess Wiki, there are 10 official princes, two of whom have their own movies, Aladdin and the Beast. But I’ve realised that I know absolutely nothing about these princes. They suffer from a different form of poor character representation than the Princesses – namely that they don’t have any character at all! I didn’t know that Prince Charming in Cinderella was called Henry or that the Prince in Snow White even had a name! It’s Florian or perhaps Ferdinand. It’s not clear… Either way, it’s not mentioned in the film and doesn’t seem to be important. Which isn’t good!
These Princes, especially the early ones, also fall into the same patriarchal traps as the princesses. I’ve complained that these classic Princesses were too passive and limited to being damsels in distress who were waiting to be saved, but their Princes tend to do nothing but wait around to find someone to save and perhaps engage in some non-consensual kissing, which is hardly ideal either! On top of this, the princes are still objectified in a very obvious way, with articles ranking their hotness and intelligence in a way that would be an absolutely unacceptable way to talk about the Princesses.
And while I obsess over the feminist and feminine role models that my daughter sees on screen, it’s just as important for her to see good representation of men and masculine characters and for young boys to have good role models of their own, and the Princes simply don’t have enough character to provide that: ‘They aren’t anywhere near as popular or memorable, in large part due to the fact that they tend to be underwritten as characters.’
I fear that the Disney Princes are so underwritten and haven’t faced the same scrutiny as the Princesses because only girls like Disney and girls only like princesses or some other bullshit, and so they haven’t had the same revolution as the Princesses, and that’s a problem. Boys already have plenty of heroic and powerful people to look up to – superheroes, cowboys, authority figures like policemen and firemen (yes, I’ve purposefully gendered them to make a point) – and they don’t need the Princes, but this misses such a valuable opportunity.
It’s not all bad news. Some of the new princes are as revolutionary as the new princesses – Kristoff in the Frozen series, for example, is the feminist boyfriend we all deserve! Happy to marry a strong woman with power who definitely earns more than him, asks for affirmative consent before their first kiss, and tells Anna to do what she needs to do when she leaves him behind to save her sister because his love is ‘not fragile.’ What a hero!
And, of course, not all male Disney characters are princes, or even necessarily human…
So I’ve recently started listening to a new podcast called Curiously Drawn where people come to talk about their crushes on cartoon characters, and it’s been pretty enlightening! Firstly because it confirms that cartoon characters are hot and because a lot of these crushes aren’t on human characters. It’s not surprising that we’re attracted to cartoons – to paraphrase the famous Jessica Rabbit quote, it’s not their fault; they’re drawn that way! Sometimes they are literally drawn to entice us, whether hypersexualised for the male gaze (Jessica Rabbit, Caramel Bunny, and all those comic book women with scraps of clothing holding in their gravity defying breasts) or hypermasculine for, well, the male gaze (He-Man). Or they are drawn to appeal to teenage girls, with Tom Cruise famously being the inspiration for Aladdin.
But why so many animals? Discussions on Curiously Drawn suggest that cartoon animals were often seen as the safer choice, especially when compared to their buff and sexualised human compatriots. Animals weren’t ‘jacked, He-man, male power build’ and perhaps, ironically, felt more achievable as a potential love interest than, say, Wolverine. So many of us had crushes and early sexual or romantic feelings when watching cartoon animals – stereotypically Robin Hood for people who date men and Nala from The Lion King for people who date women. (I’m looking at you, Eddie Redmayne). Dr Kathryn Seifert, a psychologist who studied child development and sexuality, claims that children ‘are not looking for a partner, they are trying to understand relationships’ and so don’t differentiate between imaginary characters or real people when exploring these feelings. Amy Lang, another parenting and sexuality expert, adds that cartoon crushes as children are a ‘natural extension of imagination-based play’ and that kids ‘don’t have those filters’ that would make us feel weird about these crushes as adults.
It makes me a bit sad that there were so many articles reassuring people that having crushes on cartoons or cartoon animals didn’t mean that they were weird. As with so much, it reminded me how important it is to talk to children about sex and pleasure so that they don’t feel any shame at the same time as these early sexual feelings.
Anyway…we’re over 1000 words into this post and I haven’t started on the actual movie yet!
So. Robin Hood. As you’d expect, it tells the story of the foxy outlaw, Robin Hood (Bedford), and his battle to defeat the villainous lion, Prince John (Ustinov, who knew?!), outwit his sidekick snake Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas), save the animals of Sherwood Forest from tyranny and win the heart of his fair lady, Maid Marian (Evans).
It’s a story that’s been told many, many times before and since. This Disney version comes after 12 other movies, according to Wikipedia, which include the original Douglas Fairbanks film from 1922 and the role defining Erol Flynn version from 1938. It’s also not a story that has ever really gone out of fashion with the 17 year gap between 1993’s Men in Tights and Ridley Scott’s attempt in 2010 being the longest time between cinematic releases, and there were high profile TV series during that time instead. It feels frankly ridiculous that there have been five Robin Hood movies in my lifetime!
And this Disney version is clearly my favourite. I absolutely love this movie! I have a lot of time for Prince of Thieves and I don’t think there’s a movie that I don’t like, but Disney’s fox stole my heart when I was young and everyone else pales in comparison. While I can’t remember whether my more conventional crush on Sleeping Beauty’s Prince Philip came first (classic hero good looks, great cape, looks angry and defiant when restrained *swoon*), the Robin Hood fox crush was deeper and longer lasting.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Robin Hood is a surprisingly good template for the men I would fall for in the future – the character in general, not just the fox! Robin Hood walks the fine line between nice guy and bad boy, and the results are pretty incredible. He’s a thief and an outlaw and objectively a criminal, which makes him hot (I know. I know, but I don’t make the rules) but he’s also softly spoken and gentle and has morals and principles, believing in justice and fairness, which makes him attractive as a person (or fox). Top that with the fact that he’s often a bit posh from an aristocratic background but isn’t a public school wanker and has incredible forearms from all that archery, and he’s a movie crush dream come true. To such an extent that it doesn’t matter that he’s a fox! Bedford’s Robin Hood fox also has such a great voice and such a sparkling character that I’m not at all surprised that generations of people have fallen in love with him.
It can also be argued that Disney’s Robin Hood is an unexpectedly feminist movie, especially considering the time that it was made and the fact that it’s about male bandits robbing male authority figures. Sean Randall for his Feminisney series, which I wish I’d discovered last time I wrote about these movies, has done some diligent research about how often Robin Hood confirms and defies gender stereotypes. According to his research, none of the female presenting characters dress as men but Robin and Little John dress in traditionally female clothes for one of their scams, which isn’t exactly an example of gender exploration but is still the last time this happens until Mulan in 1998. Prince John’s reaction to the possibility of female bandits – “Poppycock!…What rubbish!” – also mocks assumptions based on gender. Robin and John are seen doing laundry, an example of ‘named male characters breaking gender stereotypes with their actions.’ Unfortunately, Maid Marian is presented as a prize to be won, a very unfeminist act, and Skippy, the little rabbit, refers to kissing as ‘sissy stuff,’ ‘implying that physical displays of affection are “unmanly”’ so it’s a bit of a mixed bag…
But perhaps more importantly, the damsel in distress theme that is so prevalent in other Disney properties isn’t as thickly applied here. Admittedly, Marian does run along at one point shouting ‘Help, Robin, help!’ but this is at the same time as Lady Kluck is beating the shit out of rhinos and elephants more than twice her size and Marian does eventually join in the fighting by throwing some fruit pies around. This one fight is also the only there is a damsel in distress moment, and it’s more of a by-product of Prince John’s attack on Robin than a sign of Marian’s weakness.
Sadly, there aren’t enough women in Robin Hood and they simply don’t have enough to do, but I do feel that the characters are developed enough and interesting enough despite their limited screen time that I don’t resent this. Yes, the plot revolves around a male character and his fight with another, but the women feel like more than just set dressing – the little church mouse (sadly unnamed) is compassionate, for example, and Maid Marian and Lady Kluck are hilarious with a believable friendship beyond her role as Robin’s love.
It’s somewhat ironic that Robin Hood is considered among the worst animations within the Disney back catalogue, reusing entire scenes from previous movies and having a surprising number of continuity errors, as I think it’s one of the best with the most interesting and complex story of the early Disney movies. Dan LeVine for CineNation ranked Robin Hood as his most underrated Disney movie, highlighting the ‘unusually dark and bleak’ tone and the impressive character development. Because of Robin Hood, I learned about taxes and how their misuse causes and exacerbates poverty. I learned that excessive use of the penal system to imprison people without due cause makes you a tyrant. I learned that authority figures that use violence and intimidation are weak and not to be trusted. And I learned that justice is often a battle but that true happy endings are possible when good people join together to fight for what is right.
All that and a fuckable fox. I mean, it’s perfect!
NEXT TIME…Incredibles 2