Though yard-beaten this evening (file under Satan, proof of: Johnson grass), I did have a look at the last, we are told, Rocky movie last night.
Okay, sure, the Rocky movies are guilty pleasures that college-educated people are supposed to disdain, and besides, they celebrate primitive male antler-butting rituals. And, to make matters worse, they don’t require sophisticated intellectual decoding to understand, so the big movie critics usually slam them.
Some critics would rather sit through two hours of what Joe Bob Briggs once called “spam-in-a-cabin” slasher movies than listen to Stallone dese-and-dem-and yo-Adrian- his way through Rocky 17. (Never mind that highbrow novelist Joyce Carol Oates wrote a whole book on boxing, and Norman Mailer, last of the heavyweight novelist-pugilists, has used the sport as metaphor and symbol.)
On the Rocky series, a few thoughts:
1. What movie has ever had a more stirring theme song? If those opening trumpets don’t get your heart going, you may have six feet of dirt on your face.
2. Stallone’s own story is a Rocky story. He was a nobody/small time porn movie knockaround when he wrote the first Rocky script. He had a hundred doors slammed in his face but stayed with his dream and made it happen in the lives of millions. That’s laudable.
3. The Rocky movies stand against the prevailing climate of our time, which is Irony. So many people live with quote marks around what they do and supposedly “care” about. Nobody’s fully commited. Everyone’s always ready to stomp on anything that’s heartfelt, vulnerable, and, God forbid, serious. Hence the mania for entertainers like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who make a living showing us how to ridicule anyone who cares for capital-letter virtues like Duty and Honor.
Rocky is not ironic. He’s not detached. He doesn’t know how to stop believing in what he’s doing and just collect the paychecks. He’s always saying things like this, from one of the early movies:
No, maybe I can’t win. Maybe the only thing I can do is just take everything he’s got. But to beat me, he’s going to have to kill me. And to kill me, he’s gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that, he’s got to be willing to die himself. I don’t know if he’s ready to do that. I don’t know.
And this, from Rocky Balboa:
Life’s not about how many punches you can throw at it, it’s about how many times you can get hit and continue to punch back.