Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia’

Selfie with Stalone at the top of the steps

Daily, people come from all over the world to visit Philadelphia and run up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. When you google, ‘Rocky Philadelphia”, the first link that appears is to the the museums website. On January 17, three friends (pictured above) ran up the steps only to be greeted by Sylvester Stallone, the actor who plays Rocky Balboa, who was there in preparation for the latest Rocky movie. That moment had to be magical for those guys, but what about the rest of the visitors? Why do people view running the steps as a worthwhile moment?

As we discussed in class, Rocky is iconic. In its simplest description, it the story of an underdog. Philadelphia is recognizable in it, and it came out at a point in American history where people were searching for optimism. On a deeper level, there are certainly racial and gendered overtones but that doesn’t seem to be the pieces that stick with and resonate with Rocky’s viewers. People who haven’t even seen the movie, know the rocky run and even often participate. It has become something much bigger than the movie itself. It’s funny, iconic, and silly which adds to its appeal.  We as Americans, and as people want to feel triumphant even if its in a small way. The steps seem to provide that to people, along with a laugh, and maybe a selfie with Sylvester Stallone.

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When thinking about Rocky in relation to the American Dream, it is easy to see why so many can relate to his story. Not only are we able to see him luckily have the chance to fight and win against the undisputed champion, but also are we able to tag along on his journey to this win. I believe it is his journey that speaks of the American dream and what the movie is all about, the opportunity to succeed, not the success itself.  That is what the American Dream boils down to: having the chance to run the race (or up the art museum’s steps), not the actual act of finishing the race. If Rocky had already had the skills, discipline, and had fought his way up the ranks to beat Creed, it is doubtful that the movie would have been as popular. Just as if a person was rich and successful in another country then came to America and became more wealthy would not be a tale of the American Dream. The American Dream requires a steep progression and a hard journey, the exact elements shown in the movie through Rocky’s journey. We meet Rocky when he’s poor, single, and without a real purpose; we then follow him through all his struggles and disappointments to which everyone can relate in some way to the point where finally he succeeds. It was Rocky running the race, both figuratively and literally, that allowed him to encapsulate the American Dream of having the opportunity to succeed against the odds.

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rocky 1

Rocky Balboa has become an iconic American figure since the release of the 1976 film. The film itself is representative of the uncertainty of America in the seventies. In a time when people were watching their world change dramatically, due to various events like the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Women’s Rights Movement, Rocky portrayed a more conservative and simple narrative. The movie reflects much of the racism and sexism present in the country at the time. However, the representation of America during the 1970s is not what has brought Rocky to an iconic status. Instead, Americans remember and idolize the film because of the main character himself and his story. Rocky Balboa is a kind, relatable blue collar American who works hard and achieves the American Dream. He has become remarkably popular because he asserts the stereotypical image of the American that all citizens want to believe is real and that they aspire to be like. The character Rocky Balboa is the personification of the American Dream, and his image has inspired a certain level of devotion.

Rocky has qualities that are strongly associated with and admired by Americans. He is a member of the working class, and he faces class struggles every day, which is evident from his neighborhood and his work. But, as Daniel Leab points out in “The Blue Collar Ethnic in Bicentennial America: Rocky”, Rocky “is a bum with heart” (265). Rocky is friendly and kind to everyone, and he puts an enormous amount of effort into training. Rocky is relatable to the majority of people, as everyone has faced struggles, and Americans value those who work hard to achieve their goals. This film “is a celebration of the American Dream” (Leab 265). Rocky embodies the assertion that good, kind-hearted people can succeed in America if they work hard and persevere. People idolize him because they want to live the American Dream just like Rocky.

The image of Rocky now receives a great deal of devotion among American citizens. People love and admire him, and his image is used as something to aspire to. One of the main reasons people go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art is to run up the steps just as Rocky does in the film. The “Rocky steps”, as they are often referred to as, are a way for people to mimic Rocky. This act of mimicking shows a level of faith and loyalty that would not be seen if the character did not have an influence on American culture. People also come to the art museum to see the statue of Rocky. The fact that Rocky inspires this much love and devotion among Americans reveals that the character reflects the beliefs and values of citizens of the country.

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            Privatized Philadelphia is a dystopian amusement park created with the intention of satirically revealing the pitfalls of the privatization of public education in the city. Each aspect of the park plays on notions of how privilege affects students’ experiences in the school system, the pervasiveness of capitalist ideology and competition, and the corruption of school privatization. From the highlighting of several Philadelphia’s best public schools, to the spotlight on charters, and graveyard of public education, omnipresent criticism of charter schools and the privatization of education permeates each aspect of the park. This park’s goal is to critically explore how the championing of free market as a means of reforming education has created a crisis in the Philadelphia School System.

            The park—run by laid-off Philadelphia Public School teachers—is only accessible by public transportation. After walking throuh metal detectors, the visitors are given one of two ticket levels. For every 100 visitors, 82 receive a Renaissance ticket (mirroring the official percentage of economically disadvantaged students in the Philadelphia School District) and 18 visitors receive a Magnet ticket (representing the experience of more privileged students navigating the school system). Throughout the park, these tickets will provide different levels of access and different experiences to the visitors. Renaissance visitors will walk a long path and Magnet visitors will take a train to Privilege Row. In Privilege Row, there are six different competition based activities revolving around a different theme for each school. Both types of visitors can go into the only non-Magnet attraction, Penn Alexander to play a lottery. The other attractions are only available to Magnet ticket holders. After Privilege Row is the Cafeteria eating area that sells traditional school lunches. Between the Cafeteria and next section of the park is the Declaration of Distress high striker game, in which Renaissance visitors must win the game in order to proceed while Magnet visitors get to go after one turn regardless of the result. Visitors can then enter Charter Circle or Standard Land. In Standard Land, there is a PSSA Rollercoaster, where visitors must go on the ride until they are able to answer irrelevant questions while hanging upside-down. Once they are able to answer these questions, they meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and exit allowed off the ride. There are two parts of Charter Circle: Privatization Park and the Blueprint River. There are several amusement park rides in Privatization Park, each run by different charter companies. Blueprint Boating, is a lazy river ride that takes its name from the School Reform Commission’s financial plan. Visitors will be stuck in their boats, unable to do anything while they watch as the charter schools entirely privatize the Philadelphia Public School System. At the end of Charter Circle, there is a helipad and a gate to enter Cemetery of Closings. Magnet ticket level visitors will board a helicopter to take them over the Cemetery. When they land, they will exist on the Path to College. Renaissance ticket holders must walk through the cemetery. Along the path, visitors will see tombstones marked with the names of the Philadelphia Public Schools recently closed. Towards the end of the path, visitors will also encounter the graves of public education and equity. After they walk out of the graveyard, Renaissance visitors will reach a fork in the road. On one side is the Path to College blocked by a gate with a huge padlock. The other path, which all Renaissance visitors must take, leads them back to the beginning of the park. At this point, they can choose to drop out and leave the park or go through again.

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Rocky & Philly

This was actually my first time watching Rocky! It is exactly as I expected it to be and more. Rocky is an American icon, no doubt about it. Rocky represents the American “good guy” who just wanted to make it. The man tried his hardest to just get by and struggled constantly. Everyday when Rocky looks in the mirror he sees his face getting harder by the day. Life is depressing. We lost the war. We are in a recession. Nixon betrayed us with the Watergate scandal. Now we have to deal with the Cold War. There is no way this horrible time is going to end. BUT there is hope. Rocky got his shot at the big leagues and everyone else can too. He worked out every day and even practiced boxing on actual meat! In the end, he may not have actually won, but he won in the hearts of Americans and people all over the world.

As Rocky transformed throughout the movie, so did Philadelphia. In the movie, Rocky represents an average Philadelphian. Rocky was really poor and so were a lot of Philadelphians. Apollo Creed represented the rich and the commercial. He also represented “the man.” Rocky was not going to let “the man” get to him, and neither did the people of Philadelphia. Even though people are constantly trying to push you down, if you fight each day, you can make. It is the American dream.

– Alex Tung

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Philadelphia is a place wrought with history, culture and modernization.  Disneyland is a fantastical, idealized land where dreams come true. So what happens when the two merge? Philaland.

Philaland is located in Berks County, Pennsylvania, a small, suburban area.  Not far from the real deal, Philaland is strategically placed about an hour away from Philadelphia.  Although Philadelphia is wrought with history, there are minimal historical aspects in Philaland.  The park is a modern, idealized version of the city of brotherly love.

There are many strategic twists, turns and placements in Philaland, but I’ll save those surprises for later. For now, you should know a bit about my three main “lands”:

1)  Restaurant Week: will showcase what Philadelphians are most proud of: their food.  There will be a variety of small shops lining criss-crossing streets with the Philadelphia classics, like cheese steaks, hoagies, soft pretzels and tasty kakes.  Alternately, if visitors would like a fine-dining option, famous Philly chefs will have knock-off versions of their famous dining spots, like Stephen Starr and Morimoto.

2) Avenue of the Arts: speaks to Philly’s artistic culture and will feature mock versions of Philadelphia’s greatest art venues.  The Kimmel Center, the Pennsylvania ballet and a variety of theaters will be showcased.  Performances will occur at every single venue each day. Additionally, Avenue of the Arts will feature an artistic vision unique to Philly: murals.

3) Sports Central: focuses on another aspect of Philly’s culture: sports.  This area will feature a mid-sized stadium where daily sporting events will occur.  There will also be a mini-museum for each of Philly’s biggest sports teams, such as the Phillies, Flyers, Eagles and 76ers.

Intrigued? You should be…stay tuned!

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Return to Rocky

Sorry to backtrack to the Rocky discussion from that awesome Philly meme, but I haven’t yet posted my blog.

In the class discussion and in many blog posts, we pointed out the notion of Rocky as representative of Philadelphia. Stallone obviously worked to make his film  gritty and authentic, painting a picture of the underside of Philadelphia outside of the wealthy Center City neighborhoods (though Canby argues he totally failed in his task… but I digress). My grandfather was born and raised in Germantown, which we all know is a fairly seedy neighborhood now. However, when he grew up there, it was much like Rocky’s neighborhood- white ethnic,very blue-collar. I brought up our class discussion to my mom, whose first reaction was “Your grandfather couldn’t stand that movie.” Now, my grandfather was a bus driver until after he married my grandmother, at which point he opened up a string of bars that he owned for the rest of his life. But until his mid-twenties, he was a lot like the viewers that Leab thought would relate to the film. Instead, he hated the portrayal of the city he loved so much. Leab described the setting by saying: “The filmmakers had a feel for ethnic America. Somber authenticity marks the film’s settings indoors and out” (271). This notion of “somber authenticity” is what my grandfather resented. Life in Philadelphia in neighborhood’s like Rocky’s were not, he would argue, somber. His descriptions of his time growing up in Germantown, despite his family’s relatively low SES, sound content: the grayness of Rocky’s social strata was not, my grandfather would say, what represented Philly.Yes, his family wanted to make more money- but that was not what defined them as Philadelphians.

Kensington, a neighborhood that is featured quite a bit in the film, is a great example of this. Before this year, Kensington scared me: its poverty, high crime rates, and that whole “serial killer” thing were pretty intimidating. This year, however, I began teaching ESL there and my entire perception of the neighborhood has changed: yes, its people are poor, but they are not “somber”.The sense of community and neighborhood investment are obvious. Obviously this is a Kensington 30 years after the film, but I think Stallone’s struggle to make his film seem real missed the mark of the essence of Philly.

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