Monday, October 31, 2011

The Robin Hood Delusion

Forget the movies. We know what's happened with the Robin Hood movies - they've only gotten worse over time. Errol Flynn was probably the best Robin Hood. Despite his priapic narcissism (or, more likely, because of it), his R.H. knew how to keep his little band of men merry. It was all down hill from there. Kevin Costner's R.H. is a tedious prig - Alan Rickman totally steals the movie as the sheriff of Nottingham. As for Russell Crowe - Christ, who needs a fat depressive in that role? I mean - Jesus! Didn't Frank Sinatra do some movie about Robin and his hoods? Or am I just thinking of, like, Ocean's Eleven - the original Ocean's Eleven, the good one, in which Richard Conte collapses from a heart attack on The Strip, the gang hides their loot in his coffin to get it out of Vegas, and then it all goes up in smoke at his funeral. Very sad. Very suavely ironic. I would opt for Sinatra as a modern Robin Hood, but then again he and his shark-skin-suited Rat Pack always looked a little too well-heeled and too sleekly well-shagged to really have an authentic and desperate need for more cash. Except, of course, to maintain their lifestyles. Besides, Sinatra and his ilk are dead, well on their way to medieval obsolescence themselves.

Ultimately, it is impossible to imagine some dude committing larceny for the greater good, and remaining charismatic in the process. Charisma, among thieves, is notoriously the sign of a sociopath, and sociopaths care for no one but themselves. Uncharismatic dudes who steal for The People evoke instead the specter of a socialist bureaucracy, and we can't have that either. Especially not nowadays. If anything, we cling to the myth of the inner goodness of the charismatic thief. He is, if nothing else, attractive. Tycoons, moguls and other persons of impossibly inflated wealth invariably imagine themselves to have come from "humble beginnings" - even if their Dads were law partners or something. Anything would seem humble compared to their multi-billionaire status. And, because they enrich others beside themselves - even if these others are their equally rich cronies or majority shareholders who share the same delusion of "humble beginnings" - they imagine themselves to actually be sharing what they steal. Because they can never really feel rich enough, they delude themselves into the role of a valiant and resourceful poor man reaping lucre from some faceless moneyed multitude. And they love that image, too - Robin Hood-ism is the icing on their cake. In this sense, we are all like these dudes. If you're a used car salesmen or a crooked building contractor with a wife and three kids, you can justify every lie you tell or corner you cut or palm you grease as your own little way of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.

This is the Robin Hoodian dichotomy - you and your own, oppressed as you are even if only by your own human imperfection and mortality, are "The Poor", and "The Rich" are simply the rest of the world. Everyone else, to wit. Be you a mafioso, some Old West outlaw or even Whitey freakin' Bulger, that's what you think you are. A righteous avenger against what may be nothing more than the human condition. That is another hallmark of the sociopath - not just charm, but the sureness that one is being persecuted, or put upon or misunderstood.

Robin Hood may be nothing more than the projection of a pathology, the embodiment of how sociopaths see themselves - not what they really are or could ever be. They say that mental institutions are full of people who believe they are Jesus or Napoleon. I suspect there are also more than a few who see themselves as Robin Hood. Maybe Robin Hood is really just the front man for a syndrome that belongs in the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But then again, the top dudes in psychiatry recently de-pathologized Narcissism (probably because of its embarrassing prevalence among their own) - so good luck with getting Robin Hood-ism on the books. There are lots of powerful people out there with a vested interest in seeing themselves as plucky underdogs.

No comments:

Post a Comment