I've always said that Americans ought to be forced (forced!) to really study pre-modern European history. And I mean everything. Often, American schools glance at Europe, talk vaguely about Rome and the Caesars, dash over the Magna Carta and the Reformation, and then plunge straight into the American Revolution. It's very bad. If people understood the Reformation -- I mean really understood all its blood, horror, and forced confessions -- you'd understand America, and have a lot calmer dialogue in politics today.

But I digress. Mainly, I'm just annoyed because everyone thinks Robin Hood wore tights. Despite two trailers and a lot of production stills to the contrary, The Hollywood Reporter still felt the need to ask Russell Crowe if he sported a pair in his Robin Hood: "There are no tights in this film. They weren't invented until quite a few hundred years after when the story takes place. We start our story in 1199. Tights don't come into play until the 1600s. I do apologize of those who will be disappointed that there are no tights." He's absolutely right, though I've seen quite a few among the blogosphere sneering at him. (He's been held responsible for all Gladiator inaccuracies, just so you know.)

Hose has been around since roughly the 15th century, long after the period when the Robin Hood legend popularly takes place. But without elastic or nylon, they aren't really the "tights" you would picture. They were certainly fitted, but considering they were made out of wool or linen (velvet, silk, or leather if you were rich and flamboyant), they wouldn't have been very Errol Flynnish. They wouldn't have been skintight pantyhose by any means; in fact I imagine they were probably a bit saggy most of the time. But this is what everyone pictures thanks to a weird belief that they had sheer nylon back then. To be fair, medieval paintings might also suggest that, but everyone should have a basic grasp as to when synthetic materials didn't exist!
It's a funny fear, really. You wouldn't have had a movie called Robin Hood: Men in Tights if people didn't fear men and their leg seams. Every time there's a superhero movie, critics and moviegoers start sniggering about this or that actor having to wear tights, even though I can't think of a major superhero beyond Christopher Reeve who can safely be said to have worn them. Comic books are full of jokes about tights. Men and women fear to go to the ballet because of men and tights, and we all know why. (It makes a strong case for including more male full frontal nudity in film. Let's just get over the hang-up, already. 50% of the population does have a penis, and yes, it's a visible organ.)

Once upon a time, men actually wore tights and meant them. Ladies fawned over them. Henry VIII was fond of showing off his well-muscled calves in them. (He didn't get the first three of those six wives by being frighteningly overweight and gouty, you know.) In one of the Horatio Hornblower stories, Horatio is so upset by his skinny legs not looking sexy in his stockings that he makes the 18th century equivalent of a breast implant, but for his calves, out of plaster and oakum. It's a really cute scene. But more importantly, they used to be hot. Men were nothing if they didn't look gorgeous in a pair of tights.

Now? Now they're totally gay, girlish, and ewww gross, I'll see his junk in them! Russell Crowe is going to wear tights for Robin Hood, let's point and laugh at his masculinity! It is impugned. Spider-Man is going to wear them too! Gross! Well, none of them are wearing tights. The Green Lantern isn't even going to wear his sci-fi version of tights, they will be CGI'd on, and even then I imagine they'll be closer to Kevlar than anything Henry VIII ever dreamed of flaunting. Haven't they always been? You didn't think Wolverine and Superman were actually fighting bad guys in easy-to-rip nylon? (I never did, but then I can't put a pair of hose on without completely shredding them, so I had reality as a basis.)

It's not a cute joke anymore. It never was. I realize reporters use it as a pithy talking point, but there's something a little ugly about it. Tights are something only women wear nowadays, so the idea that any macho man is going to put them on immediately raises all kinds of cultural mocking points. If he doesn't want to wear tights for a role, he's hiding some physical flaw, and he's not secure in himself. If he wants to wear them, he's gay. You know the drill. It's been going on since, what, Joe Namath put on a pair of Beautymist? Who knows. But let's quit harping on it. It's crass, and it's just a little bit ignorant.
categories Movies, Cinematical