Like many of you, I started off 2012 with a new year’s resolution to work out. And, hopefully unlike many of you, two weeks into the new year … I’ve yet to do a single push-up. (sigh)
“Where to find a little workout inspiration?,” I wondered. “Ah, yes, Rocky IV.” Watching it for the 5,849,948th time, I am compelled to share with you my thoughts on… the greatest film ever made. Yes, that is not mere opinion but fact. Rate it on a sheer entertainment, emotions-evoking, never-goes-stale standard and surely you’ll agree.
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To be fair, “Rocky IV” is not an overly political film, nor was it intended to be. But it nonetheless encapsulates several key conservative points, so much so that it was, and still is, slammed by leftist critics as right-wing propaganda. Behold, the top 10 conservative lessons of “Rocky IV”:
1) Communism… (let me be succinct and find the right word here…) sucks.
a) It allows no hint of individualism. Not only is Drago forbidden from speaking and behaves as a robot but, in a moment of raw honesty during the final fight, fed up with the commands of his superiors, he finally breaks free emotionally, looks up at the Politburo in attendance, and shouts: “I fight for me! For ME!!!” (which, based on my repeated viewings, I can tell you sounds like “Ya-te-beeah!” in Russian, without evening cueing the DVD)
b) Who wants to live in that system? Does any one of us envy Drago? Uh, no. Need we even ruminate what happened to him after he lost and publicly humiliated Mother Russia? Shipped off to a Siberian labor camp.
c) It keeps people in order through violence. During a (rare) sober moment, Pauly says it best when addressing the Soviet rep at the press conference: “Hey, WE don’t keep our people behind a wall with machine guns!” (I’d love to ask Stallone how he ever got a Hollywood studio to green-light that line.)
d) They cheat (doped-up Drago) and manipulate public opinion (really? They honestly felt ‘unsafe’ in the U.S. and the fight had to be in Moscow? On Christmas Day, no less?).
e) Loyalty to the State takes precedence over all else. Although not explicitly stated, you know cold-as-ice, calmly-smoking-a cigarette-while-her-husband-boxes Brigitte Nielsen’s character would spy on and sell out Drago in a heartbeat.
f) There is no, and I mean NO, freedom. Rocky is assigned steely-eyed “official chaperones” (a.k.a., spies) during his stay.
To be sure, Rocky understands the majority of the Soviet people themselves are victims. He doesn’t put down the individuals in the Moscow audience and instead appeals to the idea that they “can change.”
2) There are wealthy people who are also (gasp!) perfectly good people. Rocky’s a filthy rich guy – yes, he’s got the smokin’ hot black Lamborghini, the gaudy mansion, and can buy his wife fancy, albeit tacky, jewelry (a gold snake bracelet? That’s what “the guy at the store” recommended, Roc?). But he earned it. And, as we saw in “Rocky III”, he’s generous and does his part for charity, too (including having his as* whooped by the scary-Viking-chief-looking Hulk Hogan). Yet Rocky’s in the 1 percent the Occupy movement would have us resent – I ask you, who could hate on a guy like Rocky?
3) Traditional family values are beautiful. As annoying a buzz-kill as Adrian can be sometimes, Rocky has stood by her and seems just as in love with his wife as he was the day of their wedding. Sure, he could’ve dumped her and married a younger, hotter, glass-heels-wearing stripper, but Rocky’s no fool – he’s a traditional guy who stays true, knowing he’s got a good woman at his side. The series also emphasizes the emotional support and value a spouse can provide in one’s life – who else could’ve motivated him the way Adrian did in “Rocky II”? (“There’s something I want you do for me… Win. Win!”) Indeed, while we’re on the subject – notice there are no gratuitous, unnecessary sex scenes in the “Rocky” franchise. Hollywood, take note: it is possible to have a wildly entertaining, appealing film without the need to show our leads gettin’ it on.
4) Patriotism. Three words: APOLLO ‘effing CREED. One of cinematic history’s greatest characters, period. Apollo’s unbridled enthusiasm for his country never gets old, no matter how many times I watch this masterpiece, and it’s particularly touching that the fiercely patriotic, no-apologies-for-American-exceptionalism-found-here / “if you’re looking for someone to put this country down, look elsewhere” character … is a black male. What’s not to love? He-llo, the man is wearing an Abe-Lincoln-style red-white-and-blue hat and matching boxing trunks. Liberals recoil in horror. And James Brown’s “Living in America”? Goosebumps. Best of all, we get to watch the Godfather of Soul himself (who, incidentally, was an outspoken conservative!) perform it, with American flags waving all around. (As if a patriotic black male weren’t offensive enough, liberals’ heads must explode in this scene – in fact, I reckon one would be hard-pressed to find a true leftist who’s able to sit through the whole film, sans spontaneous combustion “Spinal Tap”-drummer style).
5) Color-blind race relations are the way to go. No affirmative action style ‘token’ minority characters but rather an authentic lead in Apollo – a strong role model who simply happens to be African-American. A true patriot who shuns Leftist mentality, Apollo has no counter-productive resentment towards whites – in fact, in “Rocky III” he trains Rocky against a fellow black boxer (perfectly played by Mr. T). We grow so fond of Apollo that, when (***spoiler alert to any and all FOOLS out there who haven’t already seen this gem***) he dies, I dare you not to weep. If only Rocky had thrown “the damn towel”… In a flashback to “Rocky III”‘s beach-training sequence, we are treated to the beautiful visual of Rocky and Apollo, embracing in exaltation on the sand: a black man and a white man — neither of whom sees color, just his buddy. (Indeed, a comment on a YouTube clip of this scene rightly notes: “When white people and black people work together, they can accomplish anything.” Hear, hear.)
6) There is no room for moral relativism. Apollo, stressing to Rocky the importance of his fight against Soviet Drago: “This is not just an exhibition fight that doesn’t mean anything. This is us against THEM!” Bam — clear lines of good and evil. (Could I love Apollo any more? I think not.)
7) Faith in God is paramount. Rocky kneels in prayer twice before his fight (in an earlier franchise installment, he even stops by church for his priest’s blessing and, upon beating Apollo in “Rocky II”, he thanks God “most of all” – a Tebow forerunner, if you will). Nowadays, this would naturally be edited out of the film so as to not offend anyone. Rocky, Apollo, and Duke always have their crosses hanging from their neck, throughout the films. And there’s an ode to Judaism in Rocky’s lovable trainer, Mickey Goldmill, whose faith is highlighted via Mickey’s synagogue burial and the Star of David on his mausoleum plaque. The message? Judeo-Christian beliefs are as American as apple pie.
8 ) Manliness personified. No liberal, hand-holding wimpy ideals here. Rocky knows there’s a job that has to be done and sets out to do it. “I just gotta doooo what I gotta dooooo,” he matter-of-factly tells Adrian. It’s all about duty and honor. Rocky is exactly like our soldiers – just in the boxing world instead of the military. 100 percent alpha and not a hint of beta.
9) Think for yourself rather than going with the tides. Adrian to Rocky: “Why can’t you change your thinking?! Everybody else does!” But does Rocky? Nope. The opposite of robotic Drago, he is offended by the mere suggestion and sticks to his guns (cue the roar of the Lamborghini’s engine and the chills-inducing, best-motivational-song-ever: Robert Tepper’s “There’s No Easy Way Out”). You think Rocky would’ve been caught up in the 2008 wave of Obama-mania? Wrong.
10) If you apply yourself and work hard, success is attainable: i.e., the very essence of capitalism. Rocky shows us that, even with the odds stacked against you, a person can succeed. Duke’s pep-talk to Rocky when they arrive in Russia: “I know you’re gonna have to do almost everything alone. . . . Now you’re gonna have to go through hell, worse than any nightmare that you ever dreamed. But in the end, I know you’ll be the one standing.” (a lesson the ‘gimme, gimme’ entitlement-crowd laying about at an Occupy rally would do well to learn… )
So there you have it – “Rocky IV”, the greatest unintentionally-conservative film ever made and, not coincidentally, a cultural masterpiece.
*Sidebar lessons: A) The Soviet anthem is a stunning musical composition and, were it not a Communist sing-song… hey, I’d like it! B) Drago demonstrates it’s possible to take a needle in the arm without flinching or even blinking. Channel him during your next flu shot – it works.
(Drago, taking the needle at the 1:57 mark, in the greatest film-montage ever. If you ever need to show someone ‘juxtaposition’ done right, here it is!)
What do you all think? Is “Rocky IV” indeed a masterpiece? Any conservative points I missed? And, should I follow through on my urge to show up at an Occupy rally decked out as Apollo and blastin’ “Living in America” from a boombox? I say ‘yes.’