…in which we reference a whole bunch of stuff and see if it hangs together…
Still reading C. Vann Woodward’s The Burden of Southern History, enjoying it immensely. In his essay, The Historical Dimension, in which he considers the Southern novelists and their significance for historians, he writes, “In the work of some later writers the historical perspective is even more flat. Hemingway’s characters appear to live completely in the present. To emphasize their historical rootlessness they are invariably pictured as expatriates, as wanderers, as soldiers or adventurers. They are temporarily in Italy or Spain, in France or Africa, in Cuba or the Florida Keys. A Hemingway hero with a grandfather is inconceivable, and he is apparently quite as bereft of uncles, aunts, cousins, and in-laws, not to mention neighbors and poor relations.” The Southern novelist, on the other hand, welcomes the past into the present, including those who have gone before.

I recently purchased DVD’s of both the Tyrone Power Zorro and the Errol Flynn Robin Hood for my kids. I love both movies, and they share much – outlaws fighting corrupt governments for the sake of the people, great feats of derring-do, charming doses of wit, lovely maidens trapped in corrupt aristocratic worlds and longing for the adventure of love, even the splended villainy of Basil Rathbone and the portly piety of Eugene Pallette. But what struck me about Zorro was that it opened with an act of filial piety. Don Diego is living happily in Spain, dueling and courting and cutting a fine figure. Then his father calls him home to what he fears will be boring, provincial California. But he obeys without protest; his father has called him.

When he gets back to California, he finds his father has been deposed, and a tyrant placed in his stead. His mission is to restore justice, but it is also to restore his father. In the course of his efforts, he must deceive his father into thinking he is a spineless fop – a painful sacrifice. Robin Hood is a Hemingway hero; Zorro has a family to think of, a father to obey and love. Robin Hood may be a more fantabulous movie in the end, but I love that familial dimension in Zorro.

Spider-Man is the same way. Batman is an orphan. Superman is an orphan AND an alien. But Spider-Man has Aunt May to consider. And Uncle Ben, whose murder he could have prevented. There’s no guilt like family guilt.


  1. Spider-Man. The only man. Now we all thank his maker Stan. Who’s Jewish. (Hey…who knows guilt?)

    Still think someone should write something entitled “The Prayer of Spider-Man.”

    Zorro is Robin Hood meets The Scarlet Pimpernel. Think it was a clever rip-off job by pulp-novelist Johnston McCulley?

    I love how Zorro loves his father, too. And at the end, when for that brief moment you see them fighting side-by-side, I always just start to fill up. And then it’s over. Nice restraint there, I think.

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