Robin Hood / Jonas Armstrong

BBC 2007 Series Robin Hood

As someone who has written fifteen (and counting) medieval novels set in the late 1100s / early 1200s, I enjoy all interpretations of Robin Hood. This 2007 BBC version of Robin Hood is one I own and enjoy watching. Like every version, it has its good and its not-so-good.

Compared with the 1980s BBC version of Robin Hood, which was very earthy and pagany, this one can seem far too crisp and clean. The villages look like Disney sets rather than-much-lived in homes where medieval people struggled and celebrated. The dialogue is fun, although sometimes it crosses into over-the-top. And for some bizarre reason, the outfits are fairly iffy. We know how medieval people in the 1100s dressed. They absolutely didn't dress like French courtiers from the Renaissance. And yet somehow sometimes the characters look like 1960s housewives, sometimes they look like French aristocracy, sometimes they look like coal barons, it is just a wild mish-mash. There's not any continuity. Sure, medieval portrayals are notoriously 'off' in one way or another, but this version sets new lows.

Robin Hood 2007 features Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood and Richard Armitage as Sir Guy of Gisborne. I love Richard Armitage's acting - for me he's the star of this show. He brings real depth to the character. The sheriff on the other hand is fairly over-the-top in his absolute pure evil, which is a bit silly but fairly typical for these Robin Hood portrayals. I guess I would prefer a slightly more nuanced take on it.

There are some meaningful storylines about the PTSD of the returning crusaders - Robin has been a crusader for five years and was involved in the siege of Acre. There's a storyline about how the men abandoning their families to live in the forest impacted the children and wives left behind. So I appreciate those kinds of takes. I like that Lady Marian is "The Night Watchman" - a vigilante in her own right. I like that they have a Saracen female join the band. There is definitely improvement when you compare this with older versions with their all-white-all-male take on everything, which was simply not the way the Crusades-era was.

On the downside, though, we are absolutely beaten over the head with the trope that English are stupid and backwards compared with other cultures. Sure, I like that it's pointed out that many cultures had breakthroughs during this time period. But we don't have to be pummelled with it. It's already been said countless other times. Also, the petulance by Robin about Marian needing to "sit in her home and do embroidery" is equally silly. Women in medieval times had to pull their own weight so households survived the winters. There were constant tasks - mending, cooking, spinning, weaving, etc. etc. It was non-stop work. Even nobility was always busy managing the servants, overseeing the pantries, etc. There was never a sense that women were "not useful". Quite the opposite. I know they were trying to make a point that Robin wanted to keep Marian safe - but this wasn't the way to do it. He could have said she was much more needed in the tasks that most women DID do - that she was neglecting - and he would have had a point.

I'm not saying this is wholly unusual for a Robin Hood portrayal. As much as I adored the 1980s Michael Praed version of Robin Hood, that one was AWFUL in the way it handled Marian. The band was always demeaning her. So we are better here. Still, though, I would hope for "better than awful" from a modern day representation.

Which leads me to another key issue for me. In this version of Robin Hood, Robin has been accompanied to the Crusades by his loyal servant, Much. Much has stayed by Robin's side through thick and thin, no matter what came. On their return Much is freed, and yet he chooses to stay with Robin. He continues to call him "Master" which bothers me - Robin should put a stop to that if he really respects his loyal friend. But it's clear Robin doesn't. Much is a bit slower than the rest, and this makes him a CONSTANT target of ridicule. Robin and the others laugh and make fun of Much for not being as smart as they are. Robin belittles him. It is really incredibly wrong. Is this how we want a portayal to be? That people who are slightly less smart than us can be publicly humiliated over and over again, even when they are kind, loyal, and steadfast?

But then Marian walks on screen dressed like this, and I have to shake my head.

Robin Hood BBC 2007 Lady Marian

Here's a list of the first season of episodes. There were three seasons. I admit after the first season I quickly lost interest, for reasons which involve spoilers. That being said, it's worth watching to at least see a more open-minded take on this legend.

Season One
Episode 1 - Introduction
Episode 2 - Forming the Band
Episode 3 - The Night Watchman
Episode 4 - Parent Hood
Episode 5 - The Turk Flu
Episode 6 - The Tax Man Cometh
Episode 7 - Brothers in Arms
Episode 8 - Tattoo? What Tattoo?
Episode 9 - A Thing Or Two About Loyalty
Episode 10 - Peace Off!
Episode 11 - The Return of the King
Episode 12 - A Clue No

Here's a few more examples of the inanity of the clothing options in this version of Robin Hood. Remember, this is set in about the year 1197 or so.

Robin Hood BBC 2007 Lady Marian

Robin Hood BBC 2007 Lady Marian

Robin Hood Information, Movies and Legends