We have been too early acquainted with the poetical heroes, to expect any pleasure from their revival; to show them as they have already been shown, is to disgust by repetition; to give them new qualities, or new adventures, is to offend by violating received notions.
Johnson’s remarks regarding the limited adaptability of mythological figures were once applicable to the figure of King Arthur and the Matter of Britain, but not anymore. There has not been a prominent feature film or television adaptation of the “canonical” legend of Arthur (i.e. based off of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae (1137) or Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur (1470) since Jerry Zucker's First Knight (1995). The “canonical” Arthur is fading out of popular consciousness. A new Arthurian film faithful to the narratives of Geoffrey of Monmouth or Sir Thomas Malory would not “disgust by repetition”. Why have we not seen one? My presentation will point to some political, social, ethnic, ethical and religious dimensions of the “canonical” figure that are out of step with today's mainstream popular culture. I will tentatively suggest that King Arthur, if recollected at all, has come to be understood as emblematic of the patriarchy, classism, and Western imperialism.