Analysis of a Human Development Theory and a Family Development Theory of the Movie “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”
Mel Gibson’s “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” parodies the previous movies based on the legend of Robin Hood and because of its themes and motifs it imposes an analyses in terms of human development and family development. Two of the motifs of the movie were the kindness, yet the foolishness of the poor people, who are unaware of their mass force – portrayed by Little John, the giant with little brain, yet with a kind heart and a huge courage and changing social condition, by robbing the rich and giving to the poor. These two motifs will be elaborated using two theories: one human development theory (Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development theory) and one family development theory (conflict theory).
- Discuss how the first theory you chose can be applied to the item
Lev Vygotsky’s theory regarding socio – cognitive development, called the zone of proximal development defines abilities that have not yet became mature, but are in a process of developing, abilities that will develop soon but are currently in an incipient phase. (Crain, 2010). Basically, the theory of zone proximal development elaborates on the idea according to which a child, or a person who is not familiar with a certain knowledge, can develop a critical thinking and the ability to solve problems that require certain knowledge, if s/he is assisted by an adult, or a person who is familiar with the necessary knowledge for solving the required problems.
Applying this theory on the movie “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” for analyzing the development of its characters, we should stop on identifying this theory with the character Little John. The director of the movie, Mel Gibson portrayed Little John as a giant man, maintaining the characteristics that the old legends attribute to him, but instead of featuring a brave and intelligent man, he mocks the legend of this character and makes of him a not very intelligent man and somehow shy (Gibson, 1993). However, he does manage to accomplish the tasks he was required to, after listening to the guidance that Robin Hood serves to him.
The epithet “Little” is associated with a good heart, kindness and even devotion, all attributes that Little John possessed. Nevertheless, in relation to Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development theory, the term “little” can also be perceived as associated to a person with a small mind, in an early socio – cognitive developmental stage, a person who requires assistance from the elders in his proximity for developing his learning.
In the bridge scene, where Little John guards the road and allows travelers to pass in exchange of a toll, we learn that he is “little” in mind for real. He is pushed of the bridge by Robin and falls into the small river bellow the bridge. And although the river was very small, so that if he would have raised the water would have reached his ankles, he panics and yells that he cannot swim. There is a high potential for applying the theory of zone of proximal development on Little John, as this character can be learned step by step how to solve the problems that he is facing.
- Discuss how the second theory you chose can be applied to the item
Another developmental theory that applies to the movie “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” is the social conflict theory, which refers to the divergence that appear within society between different social groups: the ones who have big amounts of resources and possibilities and the ones who do not have anything: wealthy versus poor. This Marxist theory emphasizes the class distinctions and the fragmentation of society into groups of people that fight for social and economic resources (Andersen & Taylor, 2006).
The power is held by the rich ones and the poor ones cannot reach an agreement or a consensus, because they do not share resources and have access to no material and non – material goods. Therefore, they fight back, resisting to be exploited by the rich ones and demanding their own resources.
This theory stays at the basis of the movie “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, portraying the facts and actions that the legendary Robin Hood applied for establishing a social order based on social and economic equity and justice: stealing from the rich people and giving to the poor people.
Applied on the examined movie, the conflict theory explains the actions of Robin and his crew, but also the ones of Prince John and his team. Therefore, while Prince John, seconded by Sheriff of Rottingham has claimed the throne of England, held by his brother, King Richard and kept the country in poverty, imposing impoverishing taxes and confiscating their crops, their lands, their homes and all their possessions when not paying, Robin Hood is stealing from him in order to give back to the poor people what the rich ones have taken from them.
This conflict theory finds Robin Hood in direct conflict with Prince John, indicating the actual conflict between different social classes, disputing for social and economical resources.
This perspective can also be regarded as a family development theory, because Robin Hood created a family with his Men in Tights, a family that was united for sharing common values (hard work, the love for their lands) and of course common traits (Smith, Hamon, Ingoldsby & Miller, 2008) (wearing tights).
People belonging to Robin Hood’s family had the same pattern dynamics: being born poor, working hard for achieving their lands and consolidating houses and a severe lifestyle, paying taxes to the rich people, being expropriated of their homes and of their lands for refusing to pay taxes, following the same life cycle over and over again, as it follows the prescriptions of an inherited social order.
The social conflict theory incorporates the family development theory in the movie “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and it determines to implement changes in the family development life cycle, by fighting back and pretending what is rightfully belonging to the family.
- Compare and Contrast your two theories
Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development theory and the conflict theory have more dissimilarities rather than similarities. In explaining where the two theories contrast, there must be first pointed out the fact that the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky’s socio – cognitive theory) applies to individual, while the social conflict theory applies to society, which implies a discussion about a group of people.
In the movie “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” this contrast is visible. As such, while Vygotsky’s socio – cognitive theory applies individually to Little John, the social conflict theory applies to the entire England society.
Another difference between the two theories chosen for analyzing the movie “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” consists in its purpose. Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development theory focuses on learning, on developing intellectual abilities through exercises assisted by a more experimented person, with a more developed intellect and better problem solving abilities.
The conflict theory, in contrast, focuses on the social order, on people grouped in classes following their interests on achieving or attributing socio – economic resources for themselves and on the competition between classes for owning various resources.
The similarity between the two analyzed theories consists in the fact that both the zone of proximal development theory and the conflict theory follows the development, the evolution of individual(s) through changing the individual(s) actual condition into a desired, targeted condition. Moreover, the two theories complement each other. As such, through zone of proximal development theory, individuals can learn, assisted by a more experimented person, how to deal in certain situations, how to solve various problems. Extensively, conflict theory can take it from here, by guiding masses of individuals on how to challenge the social order, through a leadership figure. In “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” this leadership figure is, of course, Robin Hood, who determines and infuses the poor people with the desire to fight for their lands, stealing back from the rich people their own possessions.
This essay has analyzed how “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” is subjected to human development and family development theories. Applying Vygotsky’s socio – cognitive theory and the conflict theory, the paper has outlined the areas of development that Mel Gibson movie allows, focusing on individual (analyzing Little John’s socio – cognitive development) and society (analyzing the England’s society development and its intended change of the social order). The essay reflected on the differences and similarities between the two developmental theories, illustrating also how Vygotsky’s theory can be extended through conflict theory by a leadership figure, in the person of Robin Hood, in the case of “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” movie.
Andersen, M., L. & Taylor, H., F. (2006) Sociology: understanding a diverse society. Thomson Wadsworth: Belmont, CA.
Crain, W. (2010) Theories of development: concepts and applications (6th edition). Pearson: New York, NY.
Gibson, M. (1993) Robin Hood: Men in tights. 20th Century Fox: United States.
Smith, S., R., Hamon, R., R., Ingoldsby, B., B. & Miller, E. (2008) Exploring family theories Oxford University Press: United States.