Sometimes mythmakers find that their myth gets ahead of them. Especially those in Hollywood.
That was the case with film director George Lucas and "Star Wars." Whatever Lucas and his team intended when they invented Yoda or Darth Vader, it was probably not to help President Reagan win the Cold War. Yet the film stirred something deep, mythical and, yes, Republican in the American soul.
Within a few years, the name "Star Wars" attached itself to the Strategic Defense Initiative, elevating Reagan's pet project. Lucas sued to prevent the name being used in connection with the Pentagon. Lucas was too late. The title already had intimidated a generation of Russian generals.
The same fate may befall director Ridley Scott. His new film, "Robin Hood," wasn't written to serve as a battering ram against Fortress Obama. After all, when Scott and a series of screenwriters and concept men were struggling over drafts of "Robin Hood" in 2007 and 2008, there was no tea party movement. President Obama himself was just an extra on the political stage. Yet a better gift for the tea partiers of 2010 couldn't have been dreamed up by Republicans, no matter how many portions of Friar Tuck's mead they downed.
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To be sure, this mythic movie starts off Democratic. The parallels between "now" and "then" are so strong that they swim together in the moviegoer's mind. A primitive and sanctimonious king named George — oops — Richard has led a tragic crusade to the Middle East. Other kings have led other crusades before, but this one is especially catastrophic.
The king has forced good men to slaughter innocent Muslims, revealing him to be the very opposite of the godly figure he claims to be. The foreign expedition drags on, dividing the king's people against one another, Red State Saxons and Blue State Normans. The crusade drains the royal coffers. News comes that the king has perished in battle.
So when Robin Hood and his merry men set foot in London, our moviegoer is prepared for some Rahm Emanuel-style collectivism and redistribution. And that is probably how most of the participants in "Robin Hood" imagined the plot would unfurl.
At this point, though, the "Robin Hood" of 2010 takes an unexpected turn. A new king, indolent John, Richard's brother, foolishly considers restoring the fiscal household-tax increases and tells his court that the move will replenish the royal coffers. The knave has forgotten his Reaganomics, a failure for which his mother promptly berates him, offering up a metaphor that is the feudal equivalent of the Laffer curve. But John makes like Bush 41 and taxes away.
Into this heavily taxed desperation steps the yeoman hero Robin Hood. The redistributive impulse is still present, but doesn't dominate. This Robin Hood is rather about freeing people from tyranny by cutting regulation and taxes.
This tax cutters' fantasy of a Robin Hood is compelling, and becomes more so when the rebels get the king to agree, at least for a while, that he will sign their Magna Carta. Magna Carta principles are, of course, ones dear to tea partiers' hearts: that the king's freedom to act is limited, that punishment must fit the crime, that arbitrariness on the part of a leader is itself tyranny, that kings must follow the law.
The frustration of the "Robin Hood" team at this interpretation is palpable. "No, no," said screenwriter Brian Helgeland when queried about whether this was the first tea party movement.
But inspired by their new myth, all the tea partiers have to do now is roll out their rams and charge right through to Election Day in November.