Posts Tagged ‘Ali’

This photo was taken after Ali had fought in his first professional fight in 1960. After this fight, he returned home with this pink Cadillac to give to his mother. This is only fitting as his mother was one of his biggest supporters in his boxing career ever since Ali happened to meet his trainer after his bicycle was stolen. In 1960, the world still did not know much about Ali, as this was still 9 years before his famous draft dodge. Public opinion was relatively neutral.

This image was recently released, and shows Ali in a different light then how America in years after this photo was taken saw him. This shows him as a loving, respectful son who, after finally has money, buy his mother a brand new car, not an anti-american who refuses to serve and protect his country. This photo also allows us to see him at what he really is: a person. A person who is undeniably one of the greatest boxers of all time, but a person nonetheless. America has a way of creating a false person out of its icons. We fail to keep a person’s flaws in view unless they better the tale. Although Ali is only known for his wins and controversies, he, like the average American, loves his mom and wanted to buy her a car.

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Ali in the Media

ali image

Muhammad Ali has become a powerful American icon. His achievements in the boxing ring distinguished him as a successful American athlete admired by many. However, Ali’s politics ostracized many people during the sixties. His views were seen as radical, and he lost the support of much of white America. But, as discussed in class, Ali was eventually de-politicized, thus allowing Americans to accept and praise the figure. Through this erasing of Ali’s history people are able to use the boxer’s image in selective ways.

The media plays an important role in Ali’s story. As Oriard points out, multiple variations of Ali exist, and these representations of him mean different things to different people. The icon’s image is manipulated to serve certain purposes, and certain aspects of his character are ignored. An example of this reimagining of Ali can be seen in the above advertisement. This picture was taken from Beyond Morale, a company that works with other companies to improve employee engagement and customer relations. The advertisement is a part of the corporation’s “leadership quotes.” The image contains a photograph of Ali with a quote from the athlete: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” The ad sends the company’s message, but it actually reveals very little of Ali’s character and actions. The image is simply using Ali because he is iconic enough that anyone will recognize him and associate him with America. This advertisement does not reflect any of Ali’s opinions on race or the Vietnam War, two subjects that garnered Ali a great deal of negative attention at one point. None of Ali’s political beliefs are referenced, nor is he depicted as an athlete. This lack of historical substance in the image reflects the way that Ali has become an admired icon through the erasing of his story. By looking at this ad, people are reminded that Ali is an influential person, and, although most people generally know what Ali’s beliefs were, the image does not conjure up these thoughts. Most people just think of Ali as someone who fought for what he believed in, but they do not necessarily consider what he was fighting for precisely. In this way, this use of Ali is a very passive reference to the icon. People see his image and are reminded of his influence, but they are not asked to think about him on a deeper level. The company is able to associate their message with a widely respected American without alienating anyone. Ignoring history is something that occurs with many American icons. When people look at Ali, they filter out what they do not agree with until they are left with just the image of someone who became very successful and stood up for what he believed in.

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Ali in France

Ali in France

This was imagine from a radical student group in France. What “work” is Ali and his image doing here? What Ali is represented? (Can anyone translate?)

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Both Mohammad Ali and Malcolm X had been both inspirational figures
whilst also being vilified at some point in their lives. Once upon a time both
of these icons had been friends, with Malcolm X mentoring who was then known as
Cassius clay. Cassius had joined the Nation of Islam which Malcolm X was also a
part of. Malcolm X gave Cassius the title of Cassius X which he then changed to
Mohammed Ali. He received this title from Elijah Mohammed, the head of the
Nation of Islam. This resulted in the demise of Ali and Malcolm x’s relationship
which Ali believes was one of the biggest regrets in his life. Malcolm X had
been viewed as a racist and a black supremacist. Ali believed that all white
people hated black people. Both icons had strong views and were not shy to
express them. The fought for what they believed in and stood up against
controversy. Ali had received controversy from the public when he refused to
fight at Vietnam. He felt he shouldn’t have to fight against the war in Vietnam
when there was a war against his race in his own home of Louisiana. He was
stripped of his boxing title and found guilty on draft evasion charges. This
bravery eventually led to the assassination of Malcolm X. Both figures are
similar in their religious beliefs and had not been strangers to the public
eye. They both fought for black rights. Malcolm X had been assassinated by
three members of the nation of Islam a year after leaving. Mohammed Ali
changing his name away from Cassius X is seen as a betrayal against Malcolm X
to this day.

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Professor Simon asked a few questions on the previous posts, so I decided my post would be sort of a response to some of those questions.

>>What does the film say about HOW you achieve the American Dream?

Rocky is an underdog – a hard worker, who cares about people and animals, and generally “does the right thing” – and he’s

How? Be a good person, treat other people with kindness and respect (all of Rocky’s community interactions). Go the distance. Push yourself hard (Rocky’s training montage), and take advantage of opportunity when it comes (once-in-a-lifetime chance to fight the world champ heavyweight).

This fits with what we were discussing in class, pertaining to the situation in the US in 1975: working-class people were getting hit hard by the recession – this film does an excellent job of convincing viewers that with a bit of hard work, anything is possible. It even seems to make itself more realistic in that the underdog doesn’t win, but he “goes the distance.” And it’s certainly a common American value: we might play to win, but as long as we did our best, that’s a victory in itself.

Another big part of this film is Rocky’s relationship with Adrian, and considering the last lines and the last images (Rocky and Adrian embracing and exchanging “I love you”s), I think it applies to the discussion of the American Dream. Rocky’s relationship is with a white woman of the same age (“She’s 30!”…”I’m 30 too!”). Adrian is shy (demure) and tones down her sexuality (large coats, no cleavage… although the whole film does take place from November to January, perhaps she was just cold?), and she’s sexually inexperienced (evident during her first kiss with Rocky – come on what was that? and on their first date, she said she didn’t know Rocky well enough to be in his apartment) – which is apparently extremely important (Pauly says, “She’s busted! You’re not a virgin! You let him get into your pants!”)

I think all of these factors are involved in the American Dream scenario – Rocky ends up in a steady relationship with this seemingly appropriate woman (compared with the girl he lectures about cussing and smoking, he says people will call her a whore, and then she won’t get any guys), and I think the audience is led to believe that he’ll probably marry her and start a family, which is certainly the American Dream (nuclear family, daddy works and mommy cleans the house, just as Adrian was doing for her brother Pauly. Although Adrian did have a job as well – this was the 70’s, not the 50’s, I guess.)
What I find most interesting about the movie is one of Apollo Creed’s first lines: “Stay in school and use your brain. Be a doctor, be a lawyer, carry a leather briefcase. Forget about sports as a profession. Sports make ya grunt and smell. See, be a thinker, not a stinker.”
Now, why would a very successful athlete encourage academic success and rejection of physical work? Especially considering that the American Dream scenario played out in the film is that of the uneducated white man that works with his hands. Perhaps this was meant as to contrast with Rocky’s situation in the same way that Apollo himself contrasts with Rocky? Is it a message that success truly lies with academic endeavor, or is it meant to sort of rub it in that Rocky is “dumb” (he says so himself, multiple times)?

>>So here is the question — we talked about work in class. What work does this story do the die hard Americans?

The main work that it does is it reinforces the die hard American belief that with hard work, anyone can be successful in America. The question of what that success is seems a bit vague: Rocky didn’t win the match, but he still got a nice payout. He also got the girl, so to speak. But I think the biggest victory the film was pushing was that of personal pride – Rocky said his goal was to go the distance, and he did just that. He didn’t want a rematch, he didn’t need to win heavyweight champion – he already succeeded by doing what he had set out to do.

I think it reinforces “traditional” values such as what “being a proper woman” entails, and what an appropriate romantic relationship is, and even how a ‘gentleman’ acts (protect the young and the weak, for example.)

I think it also reinforces a certain perspective on excess and vanity: Apollo Creed’s lifestyle (surrounded by assistants at his beck and call) and his ‘image’ are shown in a negative light. When Creed enters the match in a boat, dressed as george washington, it seems silly and over-the-top, and when Creed is wearing the stars and stripes getup, Rocky says, “He looks like a big flag” (which could be poking fun at America’s image of itself as well – America puts out this image as the pinnacle of awesomeness, but it’s really pretty crappy – recession, vietnam, watergate – this is probably something the viewers in 1976 could relate to, a disappointed feeling that America had let them down). When Creed’s outfit is removed, one of the announcers says, “I’ve never seen a fighter that concerned about his hair.” – again, vanity. Creed is painted as somewhat of a spoiled brat – someone who’s had so much success, he forgot what hard work was (Creed says “I’ll drop him in three” about Rocky).


-Emma Napolitano

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