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Recessions and Robin Hood

My colleague Binyamin Appelbaum noticed something interesting yesterday: Robin Hood movies are tied to recessions. We're talking here about the adult Robin Hood movies. So set aside "Men in Tights" and the Disney cartoon. Instead, look at first major Robin Hood film, "The Adventures of Robin Hood". Release date? 1938. Similarly, "Prince of Thieves" came out in 1991, another recessionary year. And I ran a quick Google search: Sure enough, there's another Robin Hood movie slated for May of 2010.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 15, 2009; 10:42 AM ET
 
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Comments

Hi,
You leave out "Robin and Marian," starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn, released in 1976. Recessionary year? Formally speaking, I'm not sure.

Posted by: brunoblumenfeld | July 15, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Good catch Bruno. If you go here: http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet?series_id=LNS14000000

You see that unemployment spikes in 1975 to between 8 and 8.6 percent during that year and drops a bit to the still high 7s during 1976. So it would seem to fit in the pattern.

Posted by: Castorp1 | July 15, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

here is a good look at the man himself.
http://www.boldoutlaw.com/images/rhpaint.jpg
here is an interesting digression.
think for a moment about the disparate, culturally infused images of robin hood, and little red riding hood.
he, being mighty and protective...
little red riding hood being gentle and kind, terrified by the stalker wolf and saved eventually, by the brave woodsman.
someone needs to rewrite her story!!!

Posted by: jkaren | July 15, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone want to take a stab at extending this to not strictly true Robin Hood, but Robin Hood-esque movies starring a "steal from the rich, give to the poor" character?

Posted by: nylund | July 15, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

nylund

i can think of lots of recent examples of those who steal from the poor to give to the rich.....where to begin....

Posted by: jkaren | July 15, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Wow, that's amazing. If you don't three-dozen or so movies made since the 50's, a BBC program, and several others, the remaining 3 Robin Hood movies all came out in a recession!

Posted by: CarlBentham | July 15, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Hi Ezra,

I think there is a similar pattern with superhero movies. Not with economic recessions, but rather when the United States has an enemy to fight. Consider the popularity of superhero films in the late 70s, with the Richard Donner Superman films, and then in the 1980s with movies like Batman. We had a clear enemy during the Cold War--The Soviet Union.

Then, the 1990s saw the retreat of superhero films, which I believe had a lot to do with the end of the Cold War and lack of a clear-cut enemy. Instead, we fought against natural disasters in the movies. Twister, Volcano, Dante's Peak, etc. were popular back then.

Then after 9/11, we have a new enemy: terrorism. Out come the superhero movies again, beginning with Spider-Man. And on we go.

I might blog about this over at Ecocomics. Check it out! http://www.eco-comics.blogspot.com

Posted by: ShadowBanker | July 15, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Maybe they should stop making Robin Hood movies so the economy won't crash when they release them.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | July 15, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Another possibility:

It seems Disney's Robin Hood

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hood_(1973_film)

was released in November of 1973, during the 1973 Oil Crisis:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_oil_crisis

Posted by: Castorp1 | July 15, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Re: Robin and Marian. Techinically 1976 was not a recession year. But as my unemployment data showed above there was still high unemployment. Also, the 1973 recession lasted into March 1975. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recessions_in_the_United_States

This would indicate that the 1973-1975 recession spawned both the famous Disney "Robin Hood" and "Robin and Marian."

Posted by: Castorp1 | July 15, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

An interesting idea, but it ignores the (sometimes tortuously)long development process. Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, for instance, has been in the works for years and was originally set to begin filming last year, well before Lehman (although obviously not the housing bust.)

Posted by: KevinReeves | July 15, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Kevin, that's true. But it's worth noting that this project has been stuck in the netherworld of development and re-write for years. That, reportedly, included scripts in which the Sheriff of Nottingham became the misunderstood protagonist, and in which Robin and the Sheriff were one and the same. It's almost as if while the economy boomed, a conventional retelling of the story just couldn't get greenlighted. But then the economy soured, they brought in Brian Helgeland to rework the script again, and the project roared ahead.

And there's a reason for that. As other commenters have pointed out, Robin Hood films and television adaptations are legion. But the hugely successful ones are somewhat more scarce. There were a half-dozen efforts prior to 1922's "Douglas Fairbanks is Robin Hood," but it was that film which set the records for largest cast, largest set, and very nearly, largest budget. Douglas conceived of the project and began research in the middle of 1921, right at the nadir of the vicious post-war recession. And although the economy was on the path to recovery by the time the film premiered the next October, it went on to be one of his biggest box-office successes, and one of the great hits of the decade.

So 1922, 1938, 1976, and 1991. Four huge hits, each coming after several years of economic turmoil. Coincidence?

Posted by: CynicalObserver | July 15, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

CarlBentham's response seems fairly important - how many Robin Hood movies have been made at other times?

And since CarlBentham mentions it, how does this square with the BBC's decision, announced last week, to cancel its Robin Hood television show after three series?

Posted by: WarrenTerra | July 15, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

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