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).
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