I am realizing as an adult how much the media I consumed as a child shaped my attitudes and worldviews. It’s weird, because I’ve never considered myself much of a movie buff. I could write a much longer entry — reams of entries — on the influences books have had on my character and worldview. A few years ago I took this film studies class, and ever since then there’s been a sort of ongoing realization that films have really influenced and shaped how I see and interact with the world, and I honestly did not realize how much of an impact they had.
I guess I find myself thinking of this at odd moments because of how very diverse the worldviews of my siblings and I are, and I can’t help but wonder how media influenced these differences. I mean, we were all raised in the same household and same religious tradition by the same parents, who provided us with the same opportunities and same discipline styles. We attended the same schools, and shared many of the same teachers. We grew up in the same ward. My two oldest siblings might recall living in Germany, but they were both under 10 years of age when we moved back to the states, so I know that we shared a pretty substantial portion of our upbringing in the same environment.
Yet as adults, we’re wildly diverse in political and religious beliefs. Two of my siblings are TBM’s (true believing mormons). One is a nonbeliever, like me. One is religiously inclined, but not toward mormonism. In terms of politics, my siblings and I range from left-leaning socialist democrat/ progressive (me) to moderate to right-wing conservative leaning libertarian. Is it nature or nurture?
As our differences have become more apparent through our adult lives, I find myself trying to trace the differing influences that shaped our formative years. I know it’s a losing battle, because even if I could point to, say, my love of Newsies and exclaim, “Aha! This is why I’m pro-workers rights, and none of you are!” that doesn’t really explain it, because personality factors in.
Anyway, I’ve determined a few movies that I’m pretty sure had a much bigger effect on me than any of us realized at the time. These are films that I used to watch over and over, and that I adored for reasons I couldn’t always articulate at the time. They’re movies that I continue to have a deep, personal connection to. Movies like …
Disney’s Robin Hood
Robin Hood is the classic tale of robbing the rich to feed the poor. The brave hero faces ostracization, imprisonment, and even death in order to undermine a corrupt government/ social order and spread the wealth. He’s the first anti-hero I learned to love.
I shared a room with my sister when I was young, and I recall us once having a whispered night-time argument about how much I liked Robin Hood. At some point, my sister accused my of loving Robin Hood more than I loved Jesus. I heatedly denied it, but was secretly terrified that it might be true.
In my teens, I became really interested in the mythos of Robin Hood. I checked out every book I could find on the history of the legend. I even taught myself some rudimentary Old English and Old French so I could study the images of primary sources included in some of the resource texts. I watched every Robin Hood film and read books like Sherwood, by Parke Godwin.
The story caught me, I think, because so many versions cast him as a person born into privilege who opts out of a corrupt and elitist system. But he doesn’t stop at just eschewing the privileges he was born into, he actively combats those privileges. He fights to undermine the corruption of the social system, and to redistribute the wealth that has concentrated into the hands of an elitist few.
Perhaps in defense against my sister’s childish accusation, I also found parallels between the Jesus and Robin Hood mythos. Both men saw how privileged and inequal the world was, and both chose to address this social disparity by undermining the claims of the powerful. Both took steps to put the power into the hands of the people and redistribute riches. Robin Hood robs the rich to feed the poor, and Jesus specifically tells the wealthy that the only way to get into heaven is to renounce all their possessions and follow him. He actually says it’s easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy person to get into heaven.
That’s some socialist freaking agenda right there, and I love it! This basic story arc, of the rebel going against the social order on behalf of the downtrodden, remains a favorite of mine to this day. As I’ve matured, I’ve come to prefer the narratives that showcase an ordinary person who inspires a community to come together and revolt against an unfair status quo as opposed to the individual-as-savior story arc.
Now, did I develop my stance in favor of democratic socialism and spreading the wealth because of the myths of Robin Hood and Jesus, or was I attracted to those stories because my personality predisposed me to connecting with theses types of stories? I don’t know. It’s a good question. I have similar questions about how films like Beauty & the Beast influenced my view of relationships and feminism, which I’ll explore in a later entry.