The charming and quick witted, sometimes cross dressing fox is no doubt one of my favorite heroes and vastly underrated films of the Disney saga. Released in 1973, Disney used anthropomorphic characters (foxes, bears, rabbits…) to tell the famous of Robin of Locksley, the charming rogue that steals from the rich to give to the poor. This is the overreaching theme and moral of the story; distribution of wealth, corruption of the upper class, and the merits of socialism. As Louis Giannetti notes in Understanding Movies, “Virtually every more presents ups with role models, ideal ways of behaving, negative traits, and an implied morality… every film as a slant” (Giannetti 403). Simplified for children, the story tells that all people deserve to have some semblance of equality and that the rich have enough to go around. While at its core, this is a resounding message of equality and sharing, the film can leave a sour taste in some adults mouth as it can be seen to glorify theft and undermine the value of hard work.
I have a family that I nanny for, and the father flat out banned me from letting his 5 year old from watching Robin Hood because he believed that is encouraged the idea of receiving free handouts for no work and would encourage laziness in his developing children. But does Robin hood truly spread the message that the poor are underserving of help because of a lack of work ethic? Nonetheless, this is a message that can be received negatively for some more conservative minded adults. The glorification of the tenets of socialism can be a real turn off for some people more inclined towards the libertarian lifestyle.
This message is achieve almost entirely though pathos. Not only is the draw of having animals instead of humans gives a huge pathos draw because everyone loves a cute fluffy animal right? It’s the old trick in the Disney hand book. Lunsford writes in Everythings’ an Argument “characters matter when we think about people” (Lunsford 43), and any character is immediately more appealing if they have tail, am I right? The oddest part of this whole scheme involving Robin Hood and Maid Marian as foxes is that they still have realistic enough human characteristics (such as “well-proportioned bodies”, charm, and innuendo) that they still appeal to the audience on an ethos level. Giannetti explains “goods looks and sexual appeal are compelling traits, predisposing us in favor of a given character” (Giannetti 406) and so we relate Robin as the protagonist. This even works in the reverse; the main villains are respectively overweight and gaunt looking. Essentially, even in cartoon animal form, its’ not difficult using the ethos of appearance to tell who we are meant to be rooting for.
So now that we are on the side of the protagonist, it’s easy to see him as the hero saving the town from poverty and the “socialist redistribution of wealth” as the only natural solution. We no longer see Robin as a thief, a villain, or even a wanted criminal because he’s clearly the good guy given the pathos argument. We feel bad for him because he’s lost his true love and the pitiful villagers for living in squalor. Lunsford explains that Disney is essentially using “a particular incident to evoke sympathy, understanding, outrage, or amusement” (Lunsford 39), and this film has all of that.
So essentially, is it possible to that Disney is bashing the ideals of Libertairianism, hard work, and capitalism and glorifying Socialism? Possibly. Is the message conflicting enough to confuse children? Absolutely not. Robin Hood is at its core spreading the idea that everyone should share to allow people to be more or less equal and if that’s not a good message to send to children, then I don’t know what it. 3 out of 3.