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      Robin Hood Film Mirrors Iraq/Afghanistan

      The New York Times' haughty dismissal of Ridley Scott's Robin Hood is an unfortunate sign of the times. Reflecting the current political atmosphere, A.O. Scott writes that the Robin Hood tale is "one big medieval tea party...kind of." This Robin Hood is "no socialist bandit", says the Times, but a "manly libertarian rebel striking out against high taxes and big government", turning history and the movie upside down.
      The film by Ridley Scott is not nearly as political or propagandistic as the Times' review can be said to be.
      But the film certainly is a morality tale about today's Iraq and Afghanistan. In 1187, the Muslim hero Saladin reconquered Jerusalem for the Arab nation, leading to the West's Third Crusade. In 1191, Richard the Lionheart inflicted a notorious massacre on thousands of Muslim prisoners. In Jerusalem, rivulets of blood ran in the streets. Those were pivotal moments in shaping today's Middle East, with Osama bin Ladin now following the legend of Saladin.
      The Times' review not only ignores this parallel, but the choice to make Russell Crowe's Robin Hood character a traumatized veteran of the Crusades, who suffers flashbacks over the killing of women and innocent civilians, accuses the king directly, and returns to Europe with a burning resentment.
      It is true that taxes and "big government" were at the center of Robin Hood's revolt, but not in the sense meant by today's Tea Party.  It was not liberal big-spenders who drew Robin Hood's fury, but the taxes wasted on the military crusades which bankrupted a people to perpetuate a monarchy. This Robin Hood fought for the rule of law, an elected parliament, and the end of a monarchical state.
      Today's parallels lie in three wars - Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq - that are seen as modern crusades by the Arab world, wars which will cost trillions of dollars, and which have resulted in unprecedented levels of suicide and mental illness among American soldiers.
      Against these sobering lessons, it is impossible to understand Scott's twisted dismissal about the story of Robin Hood stealing from the rich and giving to the poor as "liberal media propaganda." He is not only blind to the parallel with the Crusades, but sounds like royalty himself in pooh-poohing the idea of redistribution.
      The Robin Hood film is little more than an adventure story on the surface, which will entertain more than educate most of its audience. The line in Hollywood these days is that anti-war films can't sell tickets, so the serious underside of this Robin Hood is mostly between the lines. But the character needs to be rescued from his fate as "the mischievous outlaw of future Mel Brooks and Bugs Bunny spoofs."
      No doubt there are returning veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq who will appreciate this film more than the Times reviewer, and may act accordingly. 

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