Money Heist – Heroes or Criminals?
Money Heist evokes the search for freedom, the recovery of seemingly forgotten values. Moreover, it's the rebirth of Robin Hood, one who no longer uses a bow and arrows but has modern weapons. Would you like to discover the keys to the success of this show?
Money Heist is one of the most successful Spanish TV series in recent years. It began as a local TV series until Netflix bought the rights and launched it to international fame. They released it in 2017 and its success continues to be on the rise. In fact, it seems that this show is here to stay. So, what’s its secret?
It seems that non-English-speaking series often encounter various obstacles in their distribution. But thanks to the Internet and new ways of dissemination, people can now watch productions from other countries that, surely, you would’ve never seen otherwise. Thus, much of the success of Money Heist belongs to Netflix.
However, a series isn’t only successful due to its distributor. It must also have ingredients that can grab a viewer’s attention. Money Heist is the story of a robbery. Not just any robbery though; a large-scale robbery. These people intend to steal from one of the richest institutions in the world. The robbers, who use code names and don’t really know each other, follow the orders of a mastermind, “The Professor”, throughout this complex operation. All of them, with the exception of this character, go into the Royal Mint of Spain with the mission of manufacturing 2400 million euros.
They have hostages, 11 days, and everything planned to the very last detail. From the outside, the Professor gives the orders and negotiates with the police to gain time. This claustrophobic series with its own identity, enlivened by the partisan music of “Bella Ciao” and the characters’ Dalí masks (true to their origin), catch anyone’s eye.
Contemporary Robin Hoods
Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. He lived outside the law, fought the sheriff (the figure of power and oppression), and was the hero of the poor. As you can see, an outlaw isn’t necessarily a bad person. In fact, they can easily be heroes working for the common good. There’s a classic conception of a hero that’s closely linked to social order. They usually comply with the laws and what society established as proper behavior.
Consider, for example, many of the medieval heroes, such as El Cid. He was banished by King Alfonso, endured many injustices and yet never rebelled. Also, he never confronted him and didn’t try to invade his territory. Medieval heroes maintained their loyalty to a king, a superior, and to any other powerful figure. Honor and loyalty were fundamental in the Middle Ages and also in the subsequent centuries. Even today, the system establishes what’s good and anything beyond it is bad.
However, Robin Hood stepped outside the norm and, yet, most people consider him good. Why is that? Well, it’s because the social order is often unfair. It’s an oppressive institution that fosters inequality. Thus, Robin Hood is a hero that hardly fits into the same archetype as El Cid, despite the fact that both have medieval roots. Robin Hood is a hero who breaks rules and has its own parameters of justice. And the oppressive figure, anyone with power and authority, is evil to him.
Challenging the rules proposes a fairer, more egalitarian society and will, consequently, attract the mass. This is exactly what Money Heist is about, a group of thieves led by a brilliant mastermind. Far from being villains, they bring hope to society.
Heroes and villains in Money Heist
The barrier between hero and villain becomes blurry each time an oppressor exerts power over others; each time they drown the oppressed. Thus, what’s the core of contemporary life? It’s money, no doubt. But it’s the center of the world and everything revolves around it. It’s what determines whether a person can live a better life or not. Thus, it’s what gives oppressors their power.
Robin steals from those who have the most to give it to those who need it most; he’s a vigilante. The thieves in Money Heist aren’t going to give it to those in need though, but they certainly do what everyone yearns to do. That is, access the center of power and, destroy it from there. They don’t literally destroy it, however. It’s just that, by entering it, they show that power can falter and, thus, can mock the oppressors.
The series shows the influence of the media; how those in power manipulate the news. And still, public opinion is on the side of thieves. The righteous outlaws aren’t only like Robin Hood but are also rooted in romanticism. This romantic trend brings you closer to marginal characters who demand freedom.
You can see an example of this in José de Espronceda. In his verses, specifically. He drew characters that were projections of the self; of the romantic self, that is. It brings you characters such as “the captive,” “the warrior”, “the executioner”, and, of course, “the pirate”.
The Pirate’s song is the exaltation of the absolute romantic hero. This is a pirate whose sole purpose is to be free. He represents an individual hero, righteous, generous, who rejects the values of the world and lives in the sea because there’s no law there. This is a very recurring character in European romanticism. In fact, authors such as Lord Byron often included it in their poems.
The pirate who yearns to live in freedom is a reflection of the fight against establishments, of the romantic hero. Much of Money Heist‘s success is due to the fact that you, the same as the fictional spectators of the news in the series, praise these characters as heroes who are worthy of admiration. Heroes who fight for their freedom.
The true message of Money Heist
What Money Heist proposes, beyond theft, is to question what’s established. The choice of the “Bella Ciao” song as the motto of the series isn’t accidental. In fact, the verses belong to a partisan song of resistance against fascism in Italy. There’s been much discussion about whether the song is now mainstream due to the series. Partly so, perhaps. The interesting part is many people sing it without realizing what it’s about.
The truth is that thanks to the series and the mass media, the message of the song seems to resurrect. That is, from the large and powerful media, one can recover certain values of the past that seemed numb. Such is the case with the Guy Fawkes mask in V for Vendetta.
Even Dalí’s mask seems to have acquired a new meaning in part. These types of manifestations fit the format of the series quite well. They penetrate society very deeply and make a strong impact. And it’s that people have a need to believe in heroes who can rescue humanity in a world controlled and dominated by money. Not the heroes with a cape and a sword, but revolutionaries who invite you to think and recover the struggle for freedom.
Money Heist has all sorts of heroes, although some may be of dubious morality. The series is a bit slow at times and its frames too sweet for the asphyxiating climate they present. In any case, the audience can forgive them thanks to their plea for freedom.