by Judy Greenway, Altitude, Volume 2, Article 1, 2002.
In the country of Robin Hood, outlaws have a privileged place in the imagination. Over the centuries, in a multiplicity of Robin Hood narratives from children’s histories to recycled Hollywood costume dramas, outlawry has come to stand for colour and excitement in a monochrome world, and the romance of resistance to an unjust and repressive society. Central to the mythography is Sherwood Forest, the greenwood, the outlaws’ hideout; a place of nature separate from a corrupt society and the machinations of the Sheriff, where the outlaws have a degree of autonomy, and are able to rehearse the values of a different and better world. Robin Hood and his men merge with more ambiguous representations of the outlaw in the Western, perhaps the oldest genre of popular cinema. The outlaw takes on a generic character; and myths of outlawry and safe hideouts become one of the ways of imagining a changed world, or the creation of a new society that is both inside and outside the old.
Judy Greenway is a senior lecturer in the Department of Cultural Studies at the University of East London, where she teaches courses on Lesbian and Gay cultures, utopianism, and feminism and film.