Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Rocky Myth: Dethrowning the Champ

For over 30 years, Americans, particularly those in the Philadelphia region in which I live, have had an infatuation with Rocky Balboa. We tout the 6-part movie series as a triumph of the American and underdog spirit.

But in reality, Balboa was a disrespectful bum, a common thug, borderline stalker and an overall underachiever.

He caught a lucky break, was deemed a paper champion by his own trainer, got his best friend killed, was a dead beat dad and was a suicidal megalomaniac.

He was a quitter, a whiner and a sham.

In Rocky I, we find our "hero" breaking thumbs on the docks for a low-life gingaloon (Gazzo). Before we go any further, right there...BANG. Rocky should have been sweeped up in a RICO sting and saved us all from Rockys IV-VI.

Mick wants nothing to do with him when he wants to train, and acknowledges that the Rock is a big, fat, lazy bum. When not drinking and shaking down deadbeats for the mob, he spends his time harassing a pet shop clerk (who may be mentally impaired), who makes it clear she wants nothing to do with him.

He gets his "shot" for no other reason than Creed thought he could exploit his ethnic nickname. So, Rocky finally - FINALLY - does something with his life and starts working hard. And good for him. He wins the "special" gal and goes the distance with the champ.

Big whoop. Know why? Rocky II.

As soon as the going gets tough, he quits again. Rocky II would be my favorite if not for Balboa spending half the flick moping around, pleading "whoa is me."

Adrien should have followed "Win Rocky Win" with "...and act like a man instead of a whiny bitch."

But then...Hey and here comes our bipolar friend! Working hard once again.

He wins the strap!

And what does he do?

Rocky III.

James Brown. Living in America.

Mr. South Philly goes Mr. Hollywood. Mickey sets him up after he beat Apollo with matches consisting of patsies who, as if this were even possible, were worse than him. Yet, his ego has him training in casinos, while Clubber T prepares to show Adrien what a real man is.

And he does. Crushes him.

Here comes the 'tude again. This scene sums up Rocky III and Rocky himself better than any...

This guy is not a hero but a damn train wreck.

I mentioned Rocky's on again, off again hard work. But rarely ever mentioned is his obvious abuse of performance enhancing drugs at this time. Or, more accurately, image enhancing. Rocky goes from a dumpy slugger who could take a punch in Rockies I & II to a chiseled ginker in Rocky III.

Fast forward to Rocky IV. The Rocky when he aledgedly thaws (just a wee bit) the USA-USSR Cold War tension. Oh yeah, and his years of brain damage prevent him from not killing his old buddy Apollo. Rocky does what any hero would do. Travels thousands of miles to avenge his own mistake instead of staying home and raising his impressionable kid.

Negligence that, coincidentally, ended up being a major theme in Rocky V.

Another major theme was Rocky being such a moron that he squandered his millions and drove his family back into the ghetto he "fought" so "hard" to escape. Yet, he was so blinded by his own way of doing things, a way that put him in that very situation, that he failed to bend or compromise when his protege showed every sign of needing to be handled with flexibility. So he blew that one. And his kid should have just left town for good.

Instead everything comes out smelling like roses. Just like the audience's reverence for this guy. I'd go into "Rocky Balboa/IV" but I never felt the need to see it.

Rocky was only an underdog because he was lazy and made himself one. And whenever he found success, he was still a zebra couldn't shed his stripes.

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