Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rocky IV, Anti-Intellectualism, Sarah Palin

While on the treadmill some time ago, the screen flashed "put your hands on the heart rate handle monitor or use a telemetry strap!".

I quickly put my hands on the the handles, as I always do what a screen tells me to do. I then pictured whatever the fuck a telemetry strap is, and I automatically thought of Rocky IV, and Ivan Drago training to give Rocky a Russkie-beat down.

This is an actual telemetry strap:

Anyway, I started thinking of how Rocky trained - carrying logs up a mountain, pulling an oxen sled, and I thought - wow, uh, did we run out of treadmills here in the US? Were Rocky's knees so shot that he couldn't run on a treadmill?

I posit this: Rocky's rejection of modern training methods combined with metaphors of defeating the Evil Empire is a nascent acorn in the rise of anti-intellectualism in the US. The movie evokes images of Rocky "getting back to what got him there in the first place" namely, "conventional" training methods, a la Rocky I.

He doesn't need telemetry straps; he doesn't his BMI, he doesn't need to measure the size, girth and weight of his BMs; he just needs some meat to hit and Paulie on a sled. I interpret this creative move on the part of Mr. Stallone (who wrote Rocky - remember that) as an evocation of the protestant work ethic - just work hard knowing what you know, and you're reward is in Heaven (or Adrian). This ethic plays out in Rocky IV as well., and is contrasted by the Olympic/Equinox gym that Ivan Drago trains in.

In his preference for the old style training methods, he is rejecting advances in sport science. Since he is not a scientist at all (save whatever he is taking now, I guess, to keep him youthful), you can infer that he is rejecting science, and exterior logical thought altogether in the context of the movie. Further, if you also accept the portrayal of scientific thought as cold and rational, Rocky's actions also paint him as impulsive - he knows what he needs to do to win and survive in the ring. Boxing is gladatorial and fast - and he is relying on old timey methods to make sure he will triumph in the ring. Science and computers are fast, but not when it comes to the training of the human spirit. If you accept all that, you are left with the derivative metaphors of:

preference for old training methods (rejection of science) + Ivan drago with a telemetry strap (science) = the rise of anti-intellectualism and cult of Sarah Palin.

Read this blog post by Matt Taibbi for the Sarah Palin reference that I am bringing up here. He really brings the anti-intellectualism thing home to roost. He actually recognizes (rightfully) that Sarah Palin is an incredibly gifted politician who knows what gets her base going.

I hope a producer in Russia makes a movie about a russian boxer who beats up an american soon - that country is in dire need of some positive metaphors.


  1. This is a good post I'm glad I didn't read until now, I couldn't have handled it. The truth is hard on my youf-ful brain.