Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester StalloneAs you may have noticed, I’m not writing as much as usual. It isn’t that I am busy. I just don’t feel well. And it is a strange thing because I’m not sure if it is physical or mental. Of course, there really isn’t much difference. The whole endorphin system in the body is there to help in the management of pain. So when one is depressed, one does necessarily feel physical pain. But I don’t especially feel depressed. I feel more exhausted and uninterested in much of anything. Still, I come here each day and grind out a birthday post and a few more things. And I can’t say the work suffers especially; yesterday I wrote something I think is rather good, Anthony Cumia and How Racism Works. But it feels like a lot of work—like I’m grinding it all out. And then this morning I noticed that last year’s birthday post gave me very few options for what to write about today. Oh well. Do you hear the grinding? Well, that’s because I haven’t started yet.

If the world were fair, I would write many words about and show many pictures of Marc Chagall, because I do love his work. In fact, I think it’s kind of weird that I am a very strong analyst with an unfortunate tendency toward over-intellectualizing, yet I am strongly drawn to the sentimental, silly, and colorful. So maybe next year, I’ll feel up to the task of writing about him. As for this year, I’m just going to rant a bit.

Today Sylvester Stallone is 68. In some ways I admire him. He is a reasonably good writer. And as far as genre writing goes (it’s all he writes), Rocky was great. He developed a number of very interesting and real characters. And there are wonderful scenes. In particular, the scene where Mickey comes to ask Rocky to be his manager. And, of course, pretty much every scene between Rock and Adrian. The whole thing works because Stallone understands structure and he knows how to pander.

But as great as the film is, and I still really enjoy it, it is hard not to think that it was so successful because it gave white American audiences the chance to see something they didn’t much see in boxing: a white guy hold his own against a black guy. This isn’t to suggest that Stallone is some kind of racist. I don’t think that at all. For one thing, Apollo Creed was original supposed to be played by Chuck Norris, who backed out very late to be on some television reality series. (As I recall; I know it was some white guy.) What’s more, the script does a great job of showing that Creed doesn’t take the fight seriously because at this point he’s more interested in managing Apollo Creed, LLC. The later films flirt with racism and of course the fourth film is total nationalistic garbage.

I don’t mind that Stallone panders to audiences. That’s a given. But he’s a stereotypical stupid conservative. He believes a lot of things that just aren’t so. In First Blood, he pushes the ideas that the troops weren’t “allowed” to win and that there are all kinds of soldiers who were left behind. The real story of John Rambo is that of a man who has real psychological trouble. If we were to make an honest movie about him, it should be about his difficult getting help from the under-funded VA.

Of late, he makes watchable action films. He’s certainly aged better than Arnold Schwarzenegger. But Stallone has the luxury of writing his own parts, but still. I’ve never especially seen the appeal of Schwarzenegger. How is it that one of the great American action heroes can’t speak without a strong Austrian accent? Regardless, 16 year old boys want to see the kind of films these guys make, so they make them. Stallone is not the cause of our cultural decline, just a symptom of it. And above all, we must keep his taxes low so he will continue to make formulaic action films. Sadly, had he not have become a star, he might have turned into a fine writer instead of the hack that he is.

Happy birthday Sylvester Stallone!

See Also

Innumeracy in Rocky
Evil Myths
American Myth and Escape Plan

4 thoughts on “Sylvester Stallone

  1. A white guy holding his own against black boxers? I’m not sure I see this. What I think made people identify with Stallone in the Rocky films is that he just wasn’t that big — he wasn’t pumped up a la Conan with muscles on top of muscles, he just seemed to be a fellow in good physical shape. (which makes some sense, since Stallone is about 5’7" he never was going to be a Mr America-type.)

    But on the racial side of things, imagine Rocky had been a normal sized black guy with a black white, and Apollo Creed had been a hefty white guy. There’d have been about six times as much racial tension in those films, and it would have worked in black Rocky’s favor. People would have seen him even more as an underdog and rooted for his success all the more knowing the strikes against black success in this country — and I think even whites would have felt that way.

    Or so I see it.

    Hope you’re feeling better, BTW. Maybe you could take a bit of a break from your current form of blogging and tackle something else from time to time? Spend some time reading Montaigne’s Essays or Gibbon’s Decline and Fall or Karl Popper on Scientific Revolutions and give us your thoughts on their thoughts? Just as a change of pace, to make the world seem new again?

  2. @mike shupp – I think if you had flipped the races, the film would have been seen as preachy or a joke. I think if the film had been about two white boxers, it still would have been successful, just not the top grossing film of 1976. And again, I don’t think the film itself is racist. What distinguishes it from all the others is, despite the ridiculousness of the "giving a club boxer a chance at the title" basis, it is the most real. John Avildsen shot that film like a guerilla. Every scene is filthy; Rocky’s room is disgusting; even the pet store seems like it’s about to go out of business. BTW: I have great respect for Avildsen–he’s a man who really has a vision.

    You really think Gibbon and Popper are going to cheer me up?! Right now I’m reading Terry Eagleton’s [i]Why Marx Was Right[/i], Barbara Ehrenreich’s [i]Living with a Wild God[/i], and Guy Deutscher’s [i]Through the Language Glass[/i]. The fault, dear Mike Shupp, is not in my stars, but in myself.

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