Table of contents

Rocky 4

Citizen & men

Sylvester Stallone shows us America in Rocky & the many sequels he made. He seems to flatter Americans, but the struggle of this boxer by itself belies this facile image. War evokes one half of fame, its beauty, or immortality. Rocky shows the other half, which is more obviously connected with moderation: doing well, minding one’s own business. But I promise you justice ultimately depends on God unless we can predict the future. I remember this joke: at a fight, one of the boxers is praying before the match; in the audience, some guy asks a priest what that’s worth; the priest says: nothing, if he can’t fight.

The movies show making money was bad for Rocky; he was only happy fighting; when he got too old to fight, he tried to teach fighting. Such are the men of war, but if people contemn the army, this man has no options. You must wonder how many men like Rocky there are, given all the violent sports. Could not they be tamed, protected from brutality, & allowed to serve their country?

Knowledge here is knowledge of war. Part of it is awareness of anger, part of it is an art of war. One way of putting Anger & knowledge together is the basis of political prudence. The fighting spirit must be moderated – because art & endurance together usually trump manly courage. But manly courage with martial art is unbeatable by any human power. So we are shown Rocky, whose courage is not great, but whose endurance, together with art, becomes formidable. & also his adversary, whose courage is great & astounds all onlookers, which makes him utterly imprudent.

The strong easily become arrogant & despise prudence; those who have endurance & those who mastered an art tend to underestimate natural differences. (The sequels, which show Rocky beating stronger men, men scientifically improved, & younger men showcase this latter fault – it is a fault of democracy, which stresses our common humanity & ignores the crucial differences.) The odd circumstances of the first fight & its ironic proclamations of American patriotism showcase the problem of arrogance in both a fighter & the people. This is a necessary lesson about the difference between knowledge & prophecy.

Christian virtue can help here as well, the poet prudently teaches. Christianity discounts pleasure somewhat & it aspires to the common good, thus broadening a man’s perspective & loosening the grip of the passions. Christianity also teaches men to suffer injustice, which is not a weakness in the case of warriors, but only patience, always necessary, never predictable or susceptible to planning. Family does that usually, so American warriors, including Rocky, need to have a family.