Introduction As I mentioned in my previous Spontaneous Quixote column (Part One: Robin Hood), for several years I’ve thought about the differences between heroic figures in different cultures at different times in human history. However, my current workload makes it impossible for me to research this topic as fully as it deserves, so I decided to use my “weekly” column* to at least get some of my thoughts expressed as a starting point in case I ever do find the time to explore the concept to the extent it requires. Thus, my column from three weeks ago, this column, and next week’s column are all devoted to comparing and contrasting the heroic protagonists in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood and 1940’s The Mark of Zorro. My initial idea was to cover everything in one column, but I eventually realized there’s too much material to cover (even in three columns I will barely cover all that should be covered). Thus, I sent Robin Hood and Zorro to separate corners and I am presenting each in his own column before they meet for the Match of the Millennium. I’ve already presented some of my immediate impressions of Robin Hood as a medieval English folk hero; this week I’m briefly examining Zorro as an American pulp fiction hero. So . . . in this corner, wearing black from hat to boot and portrayed by Tyrone Power (another of Hollywood’s top leading men of swashbuckling films) please give a warm Psycho Drive-In welcome to Zorro! The Pulp Origins of Zorro (part one) Unlike Robin Hood, who may have been an actual historical outlaw upon whom the original “good outlaw” folk tales were based, Zorro is an entirely fictional “good outlaw” created by Johnston McCulley and presented in the pages of All-Star Weekly as a serialized novel—the title of which doesn’t even mention the protagonist. Rather than starring a masked-mystery-man in a pulp adventure tale, The Curse of Capistrano sounds more like the title of a children’s mystery starring Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys—except for the fact, of course, that Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys didn’t begin as pulp fiction. Whether published in their entirety or serialized in an anthology, pulp novels began in 1896 as the descendants of the dime novels that began in 1860 and the short stories that appeared in earlier pulp magazines. The first pulp periodical, The Golden Argosy, began publication in December 1882 as a boys magazine, but by 1896 the title had changed to simply The Argosy and the target audience had shifted to young men who had more money to spend—and who were more likely to continue to read the magazine rather than grow out of the material. In 1905, a monthly sister publication titled The All-Story Magazine began with a blend of short stories and serialized novels—some for young men and some for young women. In 1914, the magazine became a weekly publication, and the title was changed to All-Story Weekly. At that same time the focus shifted mostly to stories for young women. The magazine would occasionally publish stories that seemed more appropriate for a traditional male audience, but those stories still contained something of interest for a female audience of that era. For instance, The Cave Man by Edgar Rice Burroughs began in the March 31, 1917 issue, and it seems like it’s a story intended for a male audience. However, it was a sequel to the earlier Burroughs novel The Cave Girl, which was a love story presented within a romantic adventure novel. While the hope may have been that these two Burroughs novels would appeal to young adults of both genders, they were nevertheless serialized in a publication intended almost exclusively for women. The magazine was still focusing on stories for women when McCulley’s The Curse of Capistrano was serialized in five consecutive issues: The Curse of Capistrano (Part I) in All-Story Weekly vol. 100 #2 Aug. 9, 1919 The Curse of Capistrano (Part II) in All-Story Weekly vol. 100 #3 Aug. 16, 1919 The Curse of Capistrano (Part III) in All-Story Weekly vol. 100 #4 Aug. 23, 1919 The Curse of Capistrano (Part IV) in All-Story Weekly vol. 101 #1 Aug. 30, 1919 The Curse of Capistrano (Part V) in All-Story Weekly vol. 101 #2 Sept. 6, 1919 The focus of the novel is not the Zorro story we have come to know—the one in which Zorro is essentially a terrorist who is attempting to overthrow a corrupt dictatorial military government in the Spanish colony of Los Angeles. While that aspect of the story is in the novel, the focus is on the romantic entanglements involving Don Diego Vega, Lolita Pulido, Captain Ramón, and Zorro (who is not revealed to be Don Diego in disguise until the end of the novel). However, despite its origin as a story that attempted to target an audience of young women in 1919, the Zorro story is still an example of the good-outlaw tale in which the hero commits actual crimes. However, unlike Robin Hood, Zorro is not exactly an outlaw who is “supported” by the common people. They admire him and are in awe of him; however, they do not provide him with any actual support, and he does not require anything of them to carry out his mission. In this way, Zorro is a hero of the American type. He fights for the public good, but he does so on his own. Following in the mode started by 17th-century Calvinist settlers in New England and given literary form in the 19th-century Transcendentalist essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Zorro is the self-reliant American hero whose pop-fiction literary siblings are the heroes of the earlier dime novels and such works by Burroughs as Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars. However, in addition to its obvious roots in American juvenilia and New England Transcendentalism, McCulley’s novel also has several elements reminiscent of Baroness Emma Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. Orczy’s 1903 play was first produced in Robin Hood’s hometown of Nottingham at the Theatre Royal where it failed miserably. It was then slightly revised and produced in London in January, 1905 where it was hated by critics but loved by the public. With the play’s popularity, its novelization (also by Orczy) came out before the year was over, and it was the novelization of the play that McCulley was familiar with. Additionally, there were four silent film versions of The Scarlet Pimpernel before the first “talkie” in 1934. Orczy’s Pimpernel is probably the first heroic protagonist to have a “secret identity”—an idea McCulley clearly borrowed for Zorro. However, rather than a mask, Orczy’s Sir Percy Blakeney uses disguises and deception as the Scarlet Pimpernel. Of course, this “secret identity” concept is now prevalent among contemporary superheroes. Thus, it is often considered an American creation. However, the hero with a “secret identity” actually began in Europe with Orczy’s story. Nevertheless, it was in America where the mystery-man hero with a dual identity became extremely popular—producing such protagonists as: Zorro by McCulley (1919); The Shadow by Walter Gibson (1931, albeit with an unusual pedigree leading up to Gibson’s version); The Spider by Harry Steeger (1933); The Lone Ranger by Fran Striker (1933); The Phantom by Lee Falk (1936); The Green Hornet (the Lone Ranger’s great-nephew) also by Fran Striker (1936); Superman by Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel (1938); and The Batman by Bob Kane and Bill Finger (1939). Obviously, there were numerous other mystery-men heroes created during those years; I’ve merely listed my favorites. All of them were created by Americans, and all reflect American values within their heroic concepts. However, the prototype is the Scarlet Pimpernel, and I’ll devote a future column to the 1934 film that starred Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon. The Pulp Origins of Zorro (part two) In The Curse of Capistrano, Zorro initially seems to be just a typical highwayman whom Sgt. Gonzalez is intent on finding and killing in the cause of law and order. However, Zorro’s main antagonist in the novel is not Sgt. Gonzalez; it is Capt. Ramón, whose “crimes” are a bit unusual for a men’s adventure novel but were customary for women’s love stories of that time. Capt. Ramón’s actions are motivated by romantic jealousy and the hurt feelings evoked by unrequited love (or unrequited lust, in this case). The woman to whom both Don Diego Vega and Capt. Ramón are attracted, Lolita Pulido, has turned down the amorous advances of both men, for she entertains her own romantic fantasies about Zorro. Lolita does not know that Don Diego is Zorro (in fact, at this point in the novel, the readers don’t know it either—though they should suspect it). Thus, she has turned down Don Diego’s romantic overtures even though his wealth would help her family considerably, as Lolita’s father lost his fortune due to poor political decisions. Due to his wealth and the plight of Lolita’s family, Don Diego cannot believe Lolita has rejected his romantic overtures; he believes his wealth should be enough to win her affections. However, as Zorro, he is more forward in his amorous acts than he is in his Don Diego identity, and his indiscretions are what attract Lolita to him. As Don Diego, he helps Lolita’s family by allowing them to stay at his hacienda. As Zorro, he helps them by trying to right the injustices committed against the family by Captain Ramón—who initiated a jealousy induced revenge scheme against the Pulidos after Lolita rejected him. It’s the type of plot a male pulp fiction writer could concoct after he’s told to write a story for a female audience. It’s the type of male-centric tale a high school boy might conceive as a love-fantasy that is centered on a girl whom he admires from a distance—the secret hero who protects her from the bullies of the world, and who can be assertive around her only because she doesn’t know who he actually is beneath that masked identity. The 1920 film The Mark of Zorro that starred Douglas Fairbanks Sr. follows the novel’s plot. We don’t get the version of Zorro we now know until Tyrone Power’s 1940 film, which has the same title as the 1920 film though the plot and several of the characters have greatly changed. The 1940 film owes even more to 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood than McCulley’s original Zorro novel owes to The Scarlet Pimpernel. In fact, two of the actors in 1938’s Robin Hood essentially play the same character in 1940’s Zorro: Eugene Pallette, who played Friar Tuck in Robin Hood, plays Fray Felipe (Friar Felipe) in Zorro. Basil Rathbone, who played Robin Hood’s nemesis Sir Guy of Gisbourne, plays Zorro’s nemesis Captain Esteban Pasquale (a revised version of Captain Ramón). The Mark of Zorro (1940) As I mentioned in “Part One: Robin Hood,” I am not clarifying why the social structure depicted in either movie is important. For now, I will simply point out that The Mark of Zorro is similar to The Adventures of Robin Hood in that it presents a society with a three-tiered structure. While the society in Robin Hood was essentially accurate historically (though simplified), the three-tiered society in Zorro is not historically correct for Los Angeles in the early 19th Century. Instead, it is a fictitious Los Angeles contrived for a swashbuckling adventure tale—albeit one that still tries to appeal to a female audience by bringing in the “feuding families” love-story from Romeo and Juliet. In this version, Zorro and Lolita (now Lolita Quintero rather than Lolita Pulido) are the star-crossed lovers from rival families. After deposing Zorro’s father, Don Alejandro, as alcalde of Los Angeles, the military junta headed by Captain Esteban Pasquale installs Lolita’s uncle, Louis Quintero, as alcalde. Thus, as lovers, Zorro (Don Diego) and Lolita come from feuding families, and this reworking of the love story in The Curse of Capistrano into a Romeo and Juliet love story adds another dimension to the romantic triangle in which the three points are the two identities of the male hero and his female paramour. Adding the Romeo and Juliet element while also revising the plot into an imitation of the 1938 Robin Hood film makes the three-tiered society an obvious and logical element. Now the star-crossed lovers are not only from opposing families, they are also from opposing social classes. Thus, the social structure of Los Angeles in the film is comprised of: The upper class, which is the military junta in which the alcalde is the dictatorial figurehead who is being controlled by Captain Esteban Pasquale; The middle class, which is comprised of the caballeros who used to be the upper class until they were overthrown and replaced by the military; and The lower class, which is composed of the peons. Ultimately, in this version of the story, Zorro is a terrorist who is attempting to change society and the government by terrorizing the ruling class behind a mask and a hidden identity rather than facing them in open opposition. His decision to be a terrorist is due to him essentially agreeing with his law-abiding father that an open revolution would fail. Thus, he commits his acts of terrorism to scare the alcalde into resigning, to name Don Alejandro as his successor, and to give back to the peons the money that has been taken from them by the military government. However, at the end the movie, Zorro switches from being a terrorist to being a revolutionary (sort of) as the peons and caballeros finally join in open revolt after Zorro escapes from jail just before he is to be executed. He is then able to bring about the desired social change without killing the alcalde (though he did kill Captain Pasquale). The Rhetorical Situation in The Mark of Zorro As I mentioned in “Part One: Robin Hood,” a rhetorical situation occurs when a conflict involving two or more sides can be analyzed and addressed through a civil discussion or argument. Since Robin Hood and Zorro are stories in which the plots focus on the conflict of an oppressive government and the heroic protagonist who seeks to eliminate government oppression, both have rhetorical situations that can be analyzed in a literary critique. The five elements of the rhetorical situation in the Zorro story break down this way: The exigence is the oppression of the Spanish ranchers and peons by the military junta under the orders of Captain Esteban Pasquale and the new alcalde. The “text” of Zorro’s side of the argument is that the oppression needs to end. Fray Felipe presents this argument to Don Alejandro and the other ranchers. However, while they agree with the Catholic clergyman, they do not want to disobey the authorities. Thus, as Zorro, Don Diego takes action on his own to try to bring down the oppressive regime and to show that rebelling against illegitimate authority is possible. The audience is the oppressed citizens of Los Angeles—caballeros and peons. The author of the argument is Fray Felipe and Zorro. There are a few constraints within this rhetorical situation. First, Don Diego is constrained by taking open action against the government—partly to honor his father’s wishes and partly because an open rebellion would fail due to the military junta being too well trained and great in number compared to the caballeros and peons. Additionally, the caballeros and peons are constrained by participating in a rebellion, or in assisting Zorro, in that they fear losing their lives and property to the military junta regardless of how corrupt that government might be In terms of the four categories of moral response (based on Lawrence Kohlberg’s Six Stages of Moral Development), Zorro takes action based on his own internalized ethical principles. He has the highest moral response to the situation. However, as Don Diego, he feigns a position of maintaining the social order—as he tells Fray Felipe when the Padre fails in his attempt to get the caballeros to take up arms against the military junta: Fray Felipe: Then you believe that we should not be moved by injustice and cruelty until it touches us? Don Diego: But my dear Padre, such things exist in the world and always will. While he does not actually believe that we should not be moved by injustice and cruelty, Don Diego cites such aspects of humanity as the natural social order—essentially telling the man of God that God has created a world in which injustice and cruelty are intended to be part of God’s plan, and that humans should not seek to oppose God and his plan. This feigned position is similar, but not identical to, the view expressed by John Winthrop in his 1630 sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” that he preached aboard the Arbella before he and his fellow Calvinists landed near present-day Boston and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In this sermon, Winthrop explained that “GOD ALMIGHTY in his most holy and wise providence, hath soe disposed of the condition of’ mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poore, some high and eminent in power and dignitie; others mean and in submission.” In other words, America’s founding intellectuals (for that is what the New England Calvinists were) held the belief that God created a natural social order in which some people were destined to have wealth, power, and dignity while others were destined to be poor, inferior in quality (mean), and live in servitude. Winthrop then provided three reasons for God creating humanity to adhere to this social order: So that humans would be like the rest of God’s creation in which some animals are powerful predators while others are weak prey. However, powerful humans should not prey upon the inferior humans. Instead, they should keep the inferior humans as their servants so that they can then dispense their gifts through the hands of their numerous servants rather than have all the gifts come from their own “immediate hands.” (Yeah, I know it doesn’t make sense logically, but it was a sermon, which means it was based on an emotional appeal, not a logical appeal.) So that God can “manifest the work of his Spirit: first upon the wicked in moderating and restraining them” so that the rich and powerful will not prey upon the poor, and so that the poor will not rise up and rebel against their superiors. In this way, superior people will be able to display their “love, mercy, gentleness, [and] temperance” while inferior people will be able to demonstrate their “faith, patience, [and] obedience” (This second reason comes closest to what Don Diego is essentially saying to Fray Felipe about why the Caballeros should not rebel against the military junta.) So “that every man might have need of others” and form a tight community of “brotherly affection.” Powerful people need inferior people so that they can be charitable towards them, and poor people need rich people so that they can survive due to those acts of charity—charity that is not an indication of honor among men, “but for the glory of [the] creator and the common good of the creature, man.” Obviously, Winthrop’s view of such a natural social ordering of humanity is based on the European feudal social order that was also evident in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church from the Pope down to the Cardinals down to the Archbishops . . . and on down to the lowly serfs. However, by the early 1800s, this medieval social structure was disappearing in the Western hemisphere following the American Revolution and the French Revolution. However, The Mark of Zorro is a story based on 18th-Century Spanish worldviews with a plot borrowed from a medieval English folk tale. Thus, it is not surprising to see parallels between the social order expressed in Winthrop’s 1630 sermon and Don Diego’s feigned position as a caballero in a Spanish colony in the early 19th Century. However, while Winthrop’s sermon clearly instructs the poor to not rebel against the rich, it also instructs the rich to be charitable to the poor—instructions that the military government in The Mark of Zorro is clearly not following. It’s interesting to note, though, that in McCulley’s The Curse of Capistrano, Don Diego is following Winthrop’s model as he extends charity to Lolita’s family—though he had the ulterior motive of Lolita falling in love with him due to his charity. In this light, Fray Felipe’s moral response is interesting in that as a member of the Catholic clergy his view seems to be that rebellion is necessary when the powerful are not being charitable to the poor. Rather than expressing the American perspective that has come down from the New England Calvinists, he is expressing the American perspective that has come down from Thomas Jefferson and the other deists who fashioned America’s philosophic perspective in their roles as our Founding Fathers (such as George Washington, Thomas Paine, and Benjamin Franklin—all of whom were, arguably, deists and, thus, technically “atheists” in that they were not-theists). However, Fray Felipe is clearly not a deist (so, he’s an “anadeist,” to coin a term). He believes in a theistic God, and thus his moral response is one of deference to a higher authority—either God or the Catholic Church as the higher moral authority whose commands overrule the secular authority of the colonial government of Los Angeles. There are only two other characters whose moral responses to the rhetorical situation are of importance: Don Alejandro Vega (Zorro’s father) refuses to rebel against the legal government, which makes it appear as if he is considering the views of the law as a type of deference to a higher authority, as when he tells Don Diego “the law is the law, my son.” In contrast to Fray Felipe’s deference to a higher spiritual authority, Don Alejandro seems to defer to the higher secular authority of civil law. However, it could also be argued that actual moral response is one of maintaining the social order, and that evoking the “law” is merely a way of protecting himself from criticism regarding the consequences of his non-interference stance. Lolita Quintero (Zorro’s girlfriend) is an interesting case in attempting to analyze her moral response. Aside from seeing her in the courtyard of the alcalde’s hacienda on the day Don Diego arrived from Spain, we first meet Lolita when she is praying in the chapel. She then seeks guidance from a clergyman wearing a monk’s robe with the hood drawn up over his head and face. It’s immediately obvious that she considers the views of “a higher authority” in making her moral decisions. Yet, she seems to be completely ignorant of the plight of the peons and the abuse of power being perpetrated by her uncle’s authoritarian regime. While he is disguised as a visiting clergyman, Lolita tells Zorro that she wonders whether her uncle is a good man; he has always been kind to her, but she hears how much the people of Los Angeles fear and hate him. In responding to her, Zorro commits the logical fallacy of hasty generalization—drawing an inference from insufficient evidence as he tells her that if the people fear and hate her uncle then there is her answer about whether he is a good man. Of course, Zorro has not come to his conclusion with insufficient evidence. He knows that the military junta is ruling Los Angeles through cruel and unusual punishment (such as cutting out the tongues of people who speak out against the high taxes) and fear of such punishment. However, his answer to Lolita is expressed as the fallacy even though his own understanding of the situation is not fallacious. Yet, Lolita reveals her lack of critical thinking by accepting the fallacious statement as proof that her uncle is not a good man—and so she sides with Zorro. It’s arguable whether she ever moves beyond her fallacious habit of mind. At best, she seems to defer to Zorro as the higher moral authority whose lead she will follow in all ways and from whom she will seek moral guidance. However, Lolita is played by Linda Darnell, who was only 16 years old at the time the movie was filmed, and who I have had a crush on ever since I first saw her in The Mark of Zorro when I was in my early teens. Thus, I’ll just go along with anything she says because she has always dazzled and distracted me with her dark and mysterious beauty and her warm and effervescent charm. Next Week: The Match of the Millennium: Robin Hood vs. Zorro! * My “weekly” column hasn’t been very weekly lately, but it will get back on schedule once I get caught up on my two “day jobs.” See larger image The Mark of Zorro (Special Edition) (Colorized / Black and White) New From: $7.97 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.