I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Rocky

tn_rockyI bet ROCKY is one of these movies that’s become so famous, so iconic – it won best picture, it made a stairway famous, it inspired a statue, it has five sequels, now a spin-off, and catchy theme music that everyone knows, that’s used in a million parodies – that some of the young people figure they can already imagine what it is, they don’t bother to see it. In fact, maybe my bet should be with them over the outcome of the big fight at the end.

It opens with a small fight. “The Italian Stallion” Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) vs. Spider Rico (Pedro Lovell) inside a small church. They beat the pulp out of each other and then they’re laying in back, they get paid about sixty bucks between them, and are told the doctor will be there in about 20 minutes. And they’re not mad about it. That’s their life.

This is part of what makes the character of Rocky so appealing. He lives in a slum in a small apartment with taped up windows, he doesn’t own a car, his three best friends seem to be an asshole named Paulie (Burt Young, THE KILLER ELITE) and his two turtles Cuff and Link, who he bought while hitting on Paulie’s painfully-shy sister Adrian (Talia Shire, RAD), who works at a pet shop. He has to work as a collector for Mr. Gazzo (Joe MANIAC Spinell) but he’s not good at it because he feels sorry for the people. The gym owner Mick (Burgess Meredith, G.I. JOE: THE MOVIE) won’t talk to him and kicked him out of his locker to make room for a fighter he thinks might have a future. Rocky’s life is pretty shitty, but he rarely complains or mopes about it. He talks positively (if self-deprecatingly) and makes up terrible jokes to tell Adrian, to try to get her to say words to him. The people in his life, such as Adrian’s boss Gloria (Jane Marla Robbins, THE WEREWOLF OF WASHINGTON) seem about 25% charmed by him and 75% annoyed. But that doesn’t stop him from talking their ears off, showing them wallet-sized clippings from his matches and telling them they shoulda seen it.

Yes, it’s a sports movie, but first it’s a courtship movie. There’s a long section devoted to his first date with Adrian. When people talk about good dialogue in movies usually it means witty people trading jabs back and forth. This is the opposite. This is good dialogue for a dumb guy blathering on while a woman barely responds. I wonder if anyone has ever counted how many times he says “Y’know?” in this movie. Here’s what he has to say when he introduces her to Cuff and Link:

“Sure, I know you sold ’em to me. You were workin’ at that pet shop. First day you was there, I bought both these animals. Sure, I remember that. I bought this bowl and I bought the animals themselves, the food, the marbles that go on the bottom there. Remember that mountain? I had to get rid of it, cos they kept fallin’ over and flippin’. Yo, why don’t you come on over here and sit down? It’s a nice couch. I don’t know… There’s big bugs in there, you know? It’s safer over here. You wanna sit down?”

These are the kinds of things he talks about.

mp_rockyRocky and Adrian are two awkward people who have been told they’re losers, and they find each other and “fill gaps,” Rocky weirdly explains. At first it’s uncomfortable because Adrian is so timid that you wonder if he is just harassing her and she doesn’t know how to get rid of him. She only ends up on the date with him after Paulie lies to Rocky that she agreed to it, and then Paulie acts like a total asshole (picking up the Thanksgiving turkey she’s cooking and walking around eating it like a caveman) until Rocky begs her to go with him. After their romantic time at the closed ice skating rink with the zamboni driver they paid to let them skate for ten minutes counting down the whole time, Rocky invites her into his apartment. She keeps telling him no and you have to recognize that she’s afraid of the possibility that this guy she barely knows who’s friends with her scumbag brother might rape her.

She’s a big nerd, and Paulie always gives her shit about not being married when she’s “pushing thirty.” (Like that prick will ever even find a girlfriend.) Of course Rocky gives her a makeover by taking off her hat and glasses and telling her she’s pretty (and then she doesn’t have to wear glasses anymore?), but she doesn’t magically turn confident. She has to slowly get comfortable with him and then she is able to finally find the courage to stand up to her brother and tell him off for saying she holds him back and she owes him when she’s the one who fuckin cooks for him and takes care of him like she’s his mom.

Paulie always wants something out of Rocky. He wants a hookup for a job with Mr. Gazzo or he wants to get him an interview so he can be on TV with him or he wants to be his trainer even though he doesn’t know anything about boxing. He wants to be a hanger-on. He does accidentally contribute by pissing Rocky off in his workplace, a meatlocker, enough that he starts punching the hanging cow carcasses, getting his knuckles bloody. I doubt this is actually a good training method, since he doesn’t continue with it, but it sure makes for a good gimmick on his TV interview.

On the negative side, Paulie convinces him to wear the logo for the meat company on his robe, which surprises everybody and sets an unfortunate precedent. (I’m sure sponsorships like that already existed in boxing, but the movie acts like it’s a new invention.)

Some of ROCKY’s underdog appeal is by design of his rival within the movie, heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers, ACTION JACKSON). When his opponent drops out of a big title fight on the Bicentennial, Creed comes up with the marketing gimmick of giving a shot to an unknown club fighter, a tribute to the American Dream and the Land of Opportunity and all that. Rocky gets the shot by the luck of having “Italian” in his nickname and Creed knowing that Columbus was Italian.

Creed is a cool character because he’s kind of an asshole but not a bad guy. Clearly inspired by Muhammad Ali, he’s bragadocious and insulting as a gimmick, but also very smart and usually able to back up his boasts.

There’s a great scene before Rocky gets his shot, where the bartender Andy (Don Sherman) sees Creed on TV and refers to him as a “jig clown.” Rocky doesn’t take the racial bait, but shames him for calling a great champion a “clown.” Even later when they’re opponents doing interviews together and the champ is clowning him, Rocky will only say complimentary things back. I don’t think he knows how to not be honest.

It’s not really explicit, but I think Creed is smart enough as a promoter to know that some white people like Andy want to see a white guy, any white guy, take out Apollo Creed, the proud black man who has a big mouth and takes no shit from nobody. And I think Rocky is just too naive to play into it. He genuinely is a humble “ham and egger” training to respectfully fight against a guy whose training facility is accurately described by the press as “palatial.” There’s no sign of racial or even personal animosity on his part. For what it’s worth, his block is so white that even the a capella group on the corner are all Caucasian (led by Frank Stallone), but when he comes home he puts on a Kool and the Gang record (“Summer Madness,” the song that DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince sampled for “Summertime.”)

Obviously Rocky Balboa is the character Stallone is most identified with besides Rambo. Maybe it was luck that both of those series captured the zeitgeist the way they did, but they probly couldn’t have done it without their first movies being thoughtfully structured and with thorough performances by Stallone. Of course Stallone wrote ROCKY as an acting vehicle for himself, while he only rewrote FIRST BLOOD from a script adapted from a book. But one thing I’ve always loved about that movie is that Rambo is such an interior character, and then at the end he gets his chance to explode outward and tell Trautman everything he’s upset about and blubber and get it all out. Only then is he willing to turn himself in.

Stallone had already done something like that in ROCKY. Rocky is a very talkative character but alot of it is just dumb jibber-jabber, he doesn’t always admit what he’s feeling. So he gets kind of an end-of-FIRST-BLOOD moment in the scene where Mick comes to his apartment and tries to convince him to let him be his manager. Rocky waits for Mick to leave and then goes into an angry tirade, which we have not seen from him up until this point. He gets out all his bitterness about Mick not respecting him and not letting him keep his locker and never coming to his apartment until now that he has this opportunity, and his fears that he’s not up to this and he never got a chance to be in his prime and now he’s gonna get his face pushed in. And Mick hears all this echoing out of the apartment onto the street as he walks away.

Then, when he’s done, Rocky calms down and goes after Mick. We watch it from down the block. He runs up to him and embraces him and shakes his hand. He just had to get all that out, and now he’s willing to take the offer.

Mick is another great character. A yelling, spitting, growling old grouch who talks like Popeye, insults everybody to their face and is impossible not to find adorable. He’s 100% believable as a guy who would push boxers beyond their limits, because they both fear his wrath and want his love.

And so they train hard. ROCKY is also hugely influential as the ultimate training montage movie. The score by Bill Conti (and the song “Gonna Fly Now”) are still powerful today, even after being used in so many comedic contexts. But I think it’s director John G. Avildsen’s grimy-but-admiring view of Philadelphia that really makes those scenes sing. Rocky’s got his grey sweatshirt, running on concrete, under smog-filled skies, and it’s still beautiful. He doesn’t need a palatial facility, he has the city itself, and the city in turn has him as its representative and inspiration.

Also I like the part where a guy throws him an orange. I always wish I had a guy to throw me an orange. Maybe some day.

But the best thing about ROCKY is that it’s a heartwarming underdog story where he doesn’t (SPOILER) become the champ. The most iconic image from the movie – the one on the poster – is a freeze-frame of Rocky holding his arms up in victory… for having had a good workout. In the age of Kanye West it’s easy to find examples of self-actualization ego shit that’s all about claiming to be the Greatest Of All Time. Everybody wants to be Michael Jordan meets Bruce Lee meets Alexander the Great meets Steve Jobs, and if they use The Secret and quote Malcolm Gladwell and talk about Greatness and shit then it will manifest itself, at least in their own minds. One reason I love ROCKY is because it’s not about that, he’s not even trying to be the King of the World. He doesn’t think he can beat the champ and the movie doesn’t tell us that he can if he believes in himself enough. No, but he follows his dream and he works hard and he gets lucky and gets an opportunity and he does his very best and he accomplishes what he wants, which is to make it through the 15 rounds without getting knocked out. Just to show that he’s not a “bum.” And as they announce the decision (split decision against him) he doesn’t even pay attention, he’s just looking for his girlfriend.

This is a good inspirational, aspirational movie for small timers like me who find ourselves still grinding away chasing a dream even though the money’s not coming and the youth’s not staying. We want to make something of ourselves, we want to do something we can be proud of, but we don’t have to be carried out with a team of sexy dancers dressed up as glittery statues of liberty to be happy. I don’t have to be coming to you from a palatial movie reviewing facility. It’s not about rags to riches, it’s about determination and the satisfaction of accomplishment. In the movie we keep hearing that Rocky is not a very skilled fighter, and I’m sure the same was said about Stallone as a writer. I know for sure it has been said about his acting all throughout his career. And he’ll probly never play Hamlet and may or may not (as he’s been wanting to for years) direct a biopic of Edgar Allan Poe, but through single-minded hard work he has crafted himself into a unique, beloved movie personality who every once in a while surprises everybody as a director or writer.

ROCKY won Oscars for best picture, best director and best editing. Most best pictures automatically get best editing, but let’s give it up to Richard Halsey and Scott Conrad for those training montages. (Neither would go on to work on the ROCKY sequels, but Conrad would do Seagal’s URBAN JUSTICE, if that’s any consolation.) ROCKY was also nominated for actor, actress, supporting actor x 2 (both Meredith and Young), original screenplay, sound and original song (“Gonna Fly Now”). Since it beat out ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, NETWORK and TAXI DRIVER for best picture maybe some would say it was the bullshit middlebrow crowdpleaser of the bunch, but shit. All these years later it holds up. Stallone was only the third person ever to be nominated for acting and writing in the same year, after Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles. So take that, whoever at Cracked.com edited that thing I wrote that one time and added some joke about Stallone being dumb. He was the Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles of the ’70s.

By the way, not that it didn’t get enough awards, but it’s kinda bullshit that “Gonna Fly Now” lost to this:

Sorry Whistler, I’m just tellin it like it is. It would’ve been more respectable to lose to this song from THE OMEN which was also nominated:

That’s kinda cool that a song like that would get nominated. I wonder if there was a disco version of that.

On the other hand I gotta be honest and say it’s weird that Avildsen would win best director in the year of TAXI DRIVER. But Scorsese wasn’t even nominated! Anyway, Avildsen did a fantastic job too, he deserves the recognition. Unfortunately none of his movies after that made much of a mark until THE KARATE KID in 1984. I know that’s a beloved movie, but in my opinion it’s not of the same caliber as ROCKY. Avildsen also did KARATE KIDs II and III, but didn’t return to the ROCKY series until part V in 1990. It’s also important to note that he directed the 1999 Jean-Claude Van Damme film DESERT HEAT (aka INFERNO). I do believe that makes Avildsen the only best director winner to helm a Van Damme film. The closest anyone else has come is Franklin J. Schaffner (PATTON) when he directed a movie called LIONHEART, but it wasn’t the Van Damme one. Nice try, Schaffner.

Stallone, however, did write for (and kill) Jean-Claude Van Damme in EXPENDABLES 2. So he’s fulfilled his potential.

Anyway, gotta go. Gonna fly now.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, November 16th, 2015 at 1:00 pm and is filed under Drama, Reviews, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

103 Responses to “Rocky”

  1. “some of the young people figure they can already imagine what it is, they don’t bother to see it. In fact, maybe my bet should be with them over the outcome of the big fight at the end.”

    In the early 2000s I showed ROCKY to a college friend who had somehow never seen it and just assumed it was a cartoony over the top movie like the bits of Rocky 3 and Rocky 4 he had seen on television. About 10 minutes in to the movie, he told me that he was shocked that ROCKY was a small little character movie, and was even more surprised when Rocky didn’t win the fight, and he realized why it was so well regarded for so long.

    Also, Rocky and The Karate Kid make for a fun double-feature.

  2. Absolutely pitch perfect review for a truly phenomenal movie. Well done sir.

  3. This is one of those movies that’s so fucking good on so many levels that you can think you know how fucking good it is, but then every time you watch it you realize that it’s even fucking better than you remembered. Sly fucks up a lot but only someone with the soul of a real artist could make something like this. Those Razzie fuckers can go eat a bag of moldy dicks.

  4. The only thing the review is missing is a mention of Butkus. Considering how important that dog was to both Rocky in this movie and Sly in real life that was the only notable thing I felt wasn’t spoken on. Otherwise once again; great write up.

  5. I kinda wanted to get into that weird scene where he lectures the young girl, but maybe some other time.

  6. Turns out Chaplin wanted to meet Sly after the film came out and was a success.

    Sylvester Stallone on a most "miraculous time"

    In 1976 a small film about an underdog boxer, "Rocky," became a worldwide sensation, winning three Academy Awards. In this web exclusive clip, Sylvester Stal...

  7. This was such a great movie. I really will never understand how it spawned the sequels. They can be enjoyable in a different way, but they’re so far removed from the intent of this one I can only shake my head. The same goes with FIRST BLOOD. I have had more than one argument when someone tries to call Rocky or Rambo dumb action. Not even touching the part about action being a valid movie form, but it really chaps my hide when people take a snooty stance without even remembering, or more likely ever even knowing, jack shit about the first movies in the series.

  8. Crushinator Jones

    November 16th, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    “Rocky’s got his grey sweatshirt, running on concrete, under smog-filled skies, and it’s still beautiful. He doesn’t need a palatial facility, he has the city itself, and the city in turn has him as its representative and inspiration.”

    Vern, you actually put tears in my eyes with this one. I could never figure out why that montage worked so well but you’ve cut right to the core. Right to the core.

  9. Such a beautiful film. Such a wonderful world that Stallone and Co. created. One thing that’s so striking about this film is how much it and the character of Rocky differ from the roles and persona that Stallone cultivated in the 80s. Rocky is pasty and dopey and awkward, goofball. Decidedly not cool. Not until Cop Land did we get to see Stallone play another everyman character. I enjoyed 80s Turbo Rocky, as well, but there’s a reason this bad boy won best picture.

  10. Burt Young was always a stand out for me in this, its an astonishing performance because he makes you love this damaged, bitter man and love Rocky more because he is basically what Rocky could have become if he had lost that essential spark of goodness that speaks to us all. This really is the perfect movie, I don’t think there is a weak link in it, I mean I even got really invested in those goddam turtles!

  11. I rewatched this for the first time since I was like six or so, and it completely holds up. My favorite scene is the night before the fight when Rocky tells Adrian that he just wants to go the distance. In its own way, it’s far more uplifting than any of the sequels, despite the fact that he doesn’t win in the end.

  12. It’s amazing how many of your reviews have me looking back through my DVD collection to grab movies I bought with every intention of watching, but have remained shelved in the face of so many new releases (and so little time). Your recent review had me watch Purple Rain last night (somehow have never seen it) and now I’ll have to watch Rocky tonight. Yes I have seen Rocky numerous times in the VHS era, yet my DVD has not been opened. This is because I often forget the subtle beginnings of this tale, unable to separate it from the over the top spectacle of where the series went. Thank you for a very passionate review and solid reminder to not ignore the movies of yesteryear.

  13. Wonderful review of a wonderful movie. It’s incredibly humane, appreciating a bunch of bruised and/or flawed people without condescension or piety. Most movies would flatten out Rock, Adrian, Mick, Paulie, and even Apollo out of fear that you’ll latch on to a less-than-sterling trait and reject the character if not the film at large. Rocky presents them naturalistically and quietly, imperfections and all, which makes them feel authentic and interesting… and you can feel that the movie doesn’t judge them, it flat-out loves them. It’s unsentimentally tender, and quite special.

    There’s a remastered blu-ray out there that turns up for cheap now and then and looks amazing. And one of its special features confirms that the orange was a spontaneous moment from a local. Sigh. Rocky makes me want to underhand produce to strangers.

  14. Vern, you had me until the second-to-last line:

    “Stallone, however, did write for (and kill) Jean-Claude Van Damme in EXPENDABLES 2. So he’s fulfilled his potential.”

    The guy who did ROCKY… fulfilling his potential in an EXPENDABLES movie? Don’t even joke about this. (And yeah, I’m the guy who said you could make jokes out of rape or 9-11 as long as you didn’t belittle the impact those things had… but c’mon, now, even I think there are lines you shouldn’t cross.)

  15. I think ROCKY II is pretty great too and matches the tone seamlessly. It also addresses the aftermath of going the distance in a really interesting way. Rocky can’t hold a regular job and he can’t even do endorsements so the only thing left is a rematch.

    Of course I hope there’s a complete franchise retrospective in store here. If so I hope there’s some compassion towards ROCKY V ultimately. It’s a miscalculation but its heart is in the right place.

  16. Have you noticed that nobody ever talks about ROCKY II? It’s always Mr T here and Ivan Drago there and part 5 was so awful and part 6 was so great and part 1 is a classic, but for most people, part 2 doesn’t seem to exist!

  17. I actually saw ROCKY II first, and because of that it will always be close to my heart.

  18. Rocky is a classic. and even though part six was pretty good I wish they would leave it at that.

    Also why is there no (twitter) mention of scott adkins having landed a role on marvels dr. Strange! They even confirmed that he has at least one scene where he will be communicating through fists.

  19. Such a great movie. There’s loads of trivia that make it all the more magical, like how they didn’t want the scene where Rocky tells Adrian that he doesn’t think he could win, and they did it all in one take. How the orange guy was just a dude on the street and that was Stallone’s reaction. How about how he sold his dog (the one he gets in the movie)?

    It’s an underdog story both on and off film, and I agree that it isn’t so much as a sports movie, but a love film with some pugilism thrown in on both ends. Like Fist Blood, easily the best of the series.

  20. FIST BLOOD would be the Rocky/Rambo crossover I never knew I desperately needed until now.

  21. Mr. Majestyk – Interesting. I was picturing Stallone’s F.I.S.T. remade with a FIRST BLOOD sensibility myself.

    The making of documentary on this movie is just as captivating and amazing as the classic film itself. Seriously I think everything related to this specific entry in this franchise is just pure magic.

  22. “I think everything related to this specific entry in this franchise is just pure magic.”

    That includes ROCKY II which I always did feel was the best sequel and am glad to see it get some love in this comments section.

  23. Can anybody tell me if the special features on the Blu-ray are any different than the ones on the two-disc DVD special edition that came out years ago? Is it worth the upgrade?

  24. I need to watch II again, but I always felt it was the JAWS 2 of the series, in that it was SO CLOSE to being an actual good movie that could stand side-by-side with the one-of-a-kind original that it’s not as entertaining as later sequels that just went for silly fun. It goes for all the drama of the first one, but without as relatable a story to tell. It feels like the second half of a rise-and-fall biopic, the slow, depressing decline after the meteoric rise. Which is a valid story to tell but not one that really interests me personally. [I usually get bored halfway into Scorsese’s mob movies, for instance.]

    The end fight might be the best in the series, though. I should just rewatch it and see how I feel now that I’m a few years past my peak myself.

  25. Are there multiple cuts/versions of this movie? I ask because in the version I watched a couple months ago rocky most definitely does rape Adrian, which makes it awfully hard to like that character and makes it even harder to like Paulie, who essentially pimps Adrian out to his friend. That combined with the scene where he singles out the teenage girl and tells her not to hang out with the corner boys because, essentially, it’s unladylike, makes him seem like a real asshole. Plus, you know, he breaks people’s bones for a living.

  26. There is no version of Rocky where Rocky rapes Adrian, that’s absurd.

  27. Of all the Rocky’s this one is the most pure and affecting to me. The fact that he doesn’t win the fight at the end, or even seem to care about winning, is a big big reason it still moves me like a tectonic plate shifting in my soul. Most of life has fuck-all to do with winning or losing. Like the song goes – Sometimes you win sometimes you lose, sometimes the blues get a hold of you..just when you thought you had made it (C. King).

    Sometimes it’s just survival. Getting through a challenging day, dealing with people and problems. Wondering about the future. Being ignored and getting angry about it. Putting yourself on the line for the woman you love. I love how on their first date, he gently draws Adrian out of her room after she shuts herself in, and I love that when she opens the door she’s completely ready and dressed to go. To me, ROCKY is about becoming a man. Not fucking superman, or the Turbo Rocky he became as someone already mentioned. He’s more like Turtle Rocky in this movie – unsure of himself, insecure and wounded, moving slowly toward…something.

    I still get goosebumps during the Gonna Fly Now sequence. I still cry at the ending. This is a man’s movie. I love it.

  28. I+m more of a KARATE KID guy.

  29. I’m the kind of guy who can dig a slush Kristofferson/Streisand ballad, but man, I challenge anyone to hum that song.

    CJ Holden- I do think some people do retroactively remember some parts of ROCKY II and being part of the first movie though, for example the chicken scene.

  30. I think the only time I ever really liked THE WAY WE WERE (song not movie) was during the shower scene in THE NAKED GUN 2 1/2: THE SMELL OF FEAR. No offense to Whistler and Yentl over there but I really think Robert Goulet’s henchman had the superior interpretation.

  31. Oh and Gladys Knight’s version too because without it we wouldn’t have one of the greatest Wu-Tang songs of all time.

  32. I think it’s safe to say that if Gladys Knight has a version of something, that’s the best version.

  33. “I bet ROCKY is one of these movies that’s become so famous, so iconic…that some of the young people figure they can already imagine what it is, they don’t bother to see it.”

    Ditto, “Saturday Night Fever” and “American Graffiti,” two 70s masterpieces that have also been reduced to punchlines and assumptions in many circles.

    Oh and that Streisand song is “Evergreen”, not “The Way We Were”. While it’s not my favorite song, it was written by Paul Williams, aka the man behind the music of “Phantom of the Paradise”, “The Muppet Movie”, “Bugsy Malone” and so many other 70s classic ballads, so everybody show some respect. Oh, and “The Way We Were” is a great song.

  34. IHeartSequels – Yeah my bad I just get A STAR IS BORN and THE WAY WE WERE always mixed up and I just read the review and not click the video so I wasn’t sure which song was really nominated. My stepmom was actually a huge Streisand fan. The type that if I got her tickets for Babs here in NY at any time would do anything in the world for me. So I did grow up on a lot of that shit involuntarily and just confuse which ever generic romance she did with one of my favorite 70’s movie actors. I never paid too much attention when she played those Streisand movie soundtracks or watched the Barbara movies a lot of them looked the same to me except for the one where Nick Nolte was a depressed patient with Streisand as his shrink.

  35. Wait, so literally no one here understands or acknowledges that rocky rapes Adrian? I find that very disturbing.

    After their date, he walks her to his house. She says (repeatedly) that she doesn’t want to come in. He cajoles her, and eventually just goes inside, so that her two choices are to walk home alone or go inside. This is especially fucked up because there’s already been a scene where rocky has explicitly told Adrian how dangerous it is to walk through that neighborhood at night. So he coerces her into coming inside. Once inside, he won’t let her leave. He literally puts his hand on the door when she tries to escape. He ignores all of her protests. She tells him that she’s not comfortable even being in his apartment, because she barely knows him. He doesn’t care. He corners her in the kitchen and forces himself on her, pushing her to the ground almost as soon as he’s kissed her.

    It’s probably worth noting, as well, that Adrian never even wanted to go on the date in the first place. Paulie essentially forced her. And it’s especially worth pointing out that rocky breaks people’s bones for a living in addition to being a boxer. He’s a very intimidating guy.

    The fact that Adrian eventually “gives in,” so to speak, and kisses rocky back, doesn’t make it any less of a rape. He put her in an uncomfortable, powerless position; denied her every attempt to leave; ignored every protest; never received any kind of consent; and forced himself on her. It is definitely rape.

  36. I suppose that makes sense if you completely ignore the specific psychology and motivations of both characters and just look at the events in the surface level and at a great distance and also ignore everything that comes afterward.

  37. I don’t want to make light of your willingness to question the validity of the ethics on display in movies that are considered sacred cows. But in the end, you have to take the characters’ word for it. Adrian did not feel that she was raped. Rocky was aggressive, yes, but that was considered normal male behavior at the time. That was the dance men and women were taught, right or wrong. Had she been adamant, we know he would have desisted, because Rocky is a good person. We know this from not watching this one scene in a vacuum. You have to view these “problematic” scenes in context, both of their era and of the logic and psychology of their own individual stories. Claiming that somehow, despite everything we know about the characters, that Rocky is a rapist and Adrian married him anyway is a willful misreading of the text. Your intentions are admirable, but your conclusions are flawed.

  38. As somebody who HAS dated a very mousy and extra introverted girl in the past I did not view Rocky and Adrian’s date as rape at all. Sometimes in order to truly court somebody who is super duper shy you have to take a bit more initiative. You basically need to let them know that it’s ok if they feel they want to go with their instincts and not in a “yes means no” type of manner but sometime you gotta be the aggressor.

    I can’t even tell you how relieved and comfortable her body language used to get when I would randomly embrace her. Especially that first time. She was dying to be touched for the longest and was just too awkward to express it. I saw through her and made my move and after that ironically she ended up being comfortable enough to dominate. I always viewed Adrian and Rocky as a very similar scenario psychologically speaking.

  39. Majestyk, how do you know rocky is a good person? What does he do that’s good? I can think of some bad things he does, like working as a bookie’s enforcer and coercing a woman into sex, but I cannot think of any good things he does. Are you referring to the scene where he walks the teenage girl home? As I mentioned before, he comes off as a complete asshole in that scene, and in my opinion she’s perfectly justified in referring to him as a “creepo.” His heart may have been in the right place, more or less, but lecturing her about how she’ll never get a boyfriend if she keeps hanging out on the corner is just sexist and condescending.

    Furthermore, Adrian *was* adamant, and rocky did not desist. She literally put her hand on the door to leave, even though it meant walking home alone through a dangerous neighborhood, such was her discomfort with being with him. He literally barred the door and positioned his arms/body so that she was trapped in a corner. A woman shouldn’t have to be adamant in order to be respected, of course, but in this particular case she certainly was adamant. She said no and I don’t want to and I’m uncomfortable and I should leave numerous times, and even physically tried to leave. That should be plenty adamant enough for any man.

    If you want to get into the psychology of it, you are simply wrong in thinking that women never marry their abusers. It’s especially common for women who are abused by their family (as Adrian was by Paulie) to end up with an abusive partner (maybe especially when the abusive family member sort of hands off the victim to an abusive partner). And if we’re talking about normal behavior at the time, it’s not unrealistic to think that a mousy young woman would be ashamed and feel like she sort of has to be with the guy who took her virginity.

    Of course, the more likely scenario is that Stallone just doesn’t understand what rape is and made a shitty movie where some of the characters’ decisions seem pretty bizarre.

    I assume you realize that the norms of yesteryear don’t have any implications for the ethical reality. It was morally reprehensible that Jefferson owned slaves, even if slave-owning was relatively normal for men of his race, class, and era. rape is absolutely wrong, no matter when it happens or how deeply it’s engrained in the culture. Dismissing it as “the dance men and women were taught” is atrocious.

    Broddie, it’s simply not a man’s place to tell a woman he knows what’s best for her. That is a very sexist idea, even if it comes from a good place as it may have with you and/or rocky. I don’t know your exact situation, so I won’t comment on that, but rocky shouldn’t be psychoanalyzing Adrian and determining what she needs based on his intuition; he should be listening to what she literally says and respecting that.

  40. I mean, if you want to tell the characters what to think of the events of their own lives, that’s up to you. But I have evidence from the text and you have conjecture. If you want to believe that Adrian spent her life with a man who abused her, that’s your choice. It’s just not based on anything shown onscreen.

  41. Dude, it’s based on the abuse itself being shown onscreen.

  42. I think the problem here is that you’re seeing a treatise on “How Men and Women Should Behave In Intimate Circumstances” and I’m seeing a scene between two individuals. Would I behave the way Rocky did? No. Would I recommend it to anyone? Fuck no. But people are weird. They don’t always do the right thing or want the right thing or know what they want. Rocky and Adrian both. Rocky loved this girl and he did what he did out of that emotion. It very easily could have backfired on him. Luckily for him, it didn’t. She loved him back, but was too repressed and full of self-hatred to express it. That’s why she fought him, not because she didn’t want him, but because she couldn’t believe that anyone could possibly want her, so he must be using her somehow. That turned out to be incorrect, and she overcame her doubts. What I think you’re overlooking is that this scene is not just a male fantasy. This was considered extremely romantic to both men and women in the audience. You can say that they were wrong and they should all be ashamed of themselves here and now from your high horse of historical perspective, or you can look at the sociological implications of why they felt this way. Just saying “Rocky is a rapist end of story” is an extremely short-sighted and unproductive interpretation of the text and I’m sorry you’re unable to see past it.

    also I think you’re missing the point that Rocky specifically DOESN’T break anyone’s legs, even though that’s his job, because he’s too nice. He’s a man who’s been told his whole life that he’s just a thug, and so that’s the role he has assumed, even though it doesn’t fit him. Your reading of his character is incredibly shallow, I’m sorry to say.

  43. Did Adrian tell rocky that she didn’t want to be there? Yes. Did rocky have sex with her anyway? Yes.

    rocky is a rapist end of story.

    That’s important to say because we live in a culture where people like you (who, based on your comment history, seems like a fundamentally decent guy) simply do not understand or acknowledge rape and sexual assault. That is a toxic culture, and pointing it out is definitely important. Dismissing it with rhetoric and veiled insults is a problem.

    It’s nice that you feel sorry for how shallow and short-sighted I am, though. Thanks.

  44. Buddy, I get it. If this was real life, I would be on your side. But it’s not. It’s a movie. Everything we need to know, we are told by the film. This is an extremely iffy incident that nonetheless worked out okay for both parties. There is no secret history of abuse in this relationship. That’s something YOU are bringing to it.

  45. Do I think the way this incident is portrayed says something about the filmmakers and the society they lived in? Yes, and it’s not all flattering. That is a more productive avenue of criticism than what you’re doing, which is to say that you know something about what’s going on in the character’s heads that they don’t.

  46. No, majestyk, you are completely missing my point. I am saying the exact opposite of what you are accusing me of saying. I am saying explicitly that because we cannot know what is going on in someone else’s head, whether they be human being or movie character, we must evaluate and respect what they explicitly do. In this case, what was explicitly done is that one character said repeatedly that she didn’t want to be in the situation and the other person ignored her and kept her in that situation, escalating it until he eventually had sex with her. That is not iffy at all. That’s textbook, legal rape.

    Again, this isn’t some niggling point I’m making. I think it’s pretty crucial that we all understand to respect each other, and that means acknowledging when people commit nonconsensual sex acts.

  47. And I never said you were shallow or short-sighted. I used those terms to critique your interpretation of this film. That is the point of debate, in my opinion, to point out flaws in arguments with which we disagree.

  48. But they’re not people. They’re fictional characters. Fictional characters are knowable in ways that real people are not. Through the use of cinematic language and through the context of the rest of the story, we are told how we are supposed to feel about them and how they feel about each other. If you feel differently than what was intended, then the fault is with the filmmakers who did not convey it properly to you. But it doesn’t change that in the reality of this completely fabricated story, these people fell in love and came together in a way that you or I might not approve of–I would have left her at the door and would expect anyone else to do likewise–but is nonetheless their reality.

    I think you’d have more luck with getting people to see your point of view if you took the tack that, by modern terms, this would be considered a rape scene, while by the standards of the time, it was not. Instead, you’re declaring Rocky a bad person and an abuser, which not even the person you claim he abused would agree with, and we would know, because this is a very straightforward movie and very straighforward movies don’t hide their characters’ motivations from the audience.

  49. I want to be clear that I respect your right to feel however you feel about this scene and this character. This scene offends you and that’s valid. I would love to never have to see another scene like it ever again. It’s just your conclusions about the reality of the story that I take umbrage with.

  50. Important correction: Rocky does not pin her down. After he kisses her they slowly go down on the floor together. I agree that the scene is uncomfortable, which is why I brought it up. But it’s disingenuous to say the intent of the scene is that he forces her to do anything. From the scene itself and the context of the entire movie and entire series, the idea is that she is too shy and too brainwashed that she’s a loser to allow herself this. In reality what he’s doing would be coercion, for the reasons we have mentioned, but this is not the intent of the scene. She’s not giving in to him out of fear, it’s actually the exact opposite. She’s doing what we know from the beginning of the scene (when she gets dressed to go out with him despite saying she doesn’t want to) she wants to do but has been, up to this point, too afraid to do.

    I think your complaint is a completely legitimate and understandable reason not to like the movie, but is not a fair interpretation of what’s meant to be going on in the scene.

  51. Well put, Vern. That’s what I was getting at.

  52. After having spent so long having conservatives tell women how they should feel about their sex lives, it much be a nice change to have liberals tell them how they should feel about their sex lives.

    I think it’s obvious that the kind of coercing we see Rocky doing here has led to a lot of real bad places in real life, and I think it’s absolutely worth reminding people of that. It’s also, on occasion, probably led to some happy relationships. I’m sorry if that complicates a rigid black-and-white reading of how relationships should play out, but humans are complicated, and putting two complicated humans in an intense situation with each other can produce complicated results which resist easy prescriptive moralizing. I strongly resist anyone telling two people how they’re supposed to behave within the confines of their own relationship, if both of them are demonstrably content. If Adrian is happy, and Rocky is happy, and the movie lets us know in no uncertain terms that they’re happy… why tell them they’re not?

    Please don’t get the idea that I’m simply brushing off the notion of rape culture, or discounting the very real problems associated with behavior that looks just like Rocky’s behavior does her. I don’t want to do that. But taking the fictional story being presented here and claiming that Rocky is a monster (and that Adrian is basically a passive victim with too little agency to even articulate that she doesn’t want to be with someone who’s constantly abusing her) requires a re-writing of what the movie is actually telling us so extreme that it becomes a bit ridiculous, and, I think, dangerously undermines the seriousness of the issues you’re actually discussing. It’s obvious to anyone watching the movie that although this is a scenario which could go very, very wrong… in this case it doesn’t. It actually turns out great for everyone involved. This is exactly the way Adrian expects and wants Rocky to behave, and if he hadn’t been as assertive (or, some might say, aggressive) as he is, they’d both probably have been a lot worse off. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to think that it’s a realistic scenario (it is a movie, after all), and you don’t have to think Rocky’s a good role model in this regard (and on that last point, I’d be inclined to agree with you). But it’s still what the movie is telling us, and telling us very clearly. And claiming anything else –in defiance of the evidence we’re presented in this fictional context– does a great disservice to the very valid and necessary issue you’re raising.

  53. I hasten to add, I think this is definitely something worth discussing, and I know that because it immediately gets uncomfortable. If I heard anyone besides Vern say “She’s doing what we know from the beginning of the scene … she wants to do but has been, up to this point, too afraid to do,” I’d get pretty defensive about it. If I heard someone besides me insinuate “Well, sometimes women want to be coerced a little,” I’d get creeped out real fast. I think these things are both true, but they’re also so easily used as a justification or rationalization by people who simply want to excuse away heinous behavior. So it’s tough to talk about.

    And on further reflection I’d like to soften my language a little. I don’t think Eric’s rape hypothesis is a “ridiculous” interpretation, since we never 100% know what’s in the characters’ heads. We know that Adrian is more interested in Rocky than she’s willing or able to let on… but we don’t know that she’s comfortable having sex with this weirdo on the first date, and we also know she doesn’t know him very well and may well be afraid that if she resists he’ll get violent. I think it does require some creative interpretation to get there, especially considering that they both seem happy together afterwords. It’s definitely not the direction the movie’s text leads us in, you have to make a lot of assumptions about what’s not being said… but without hearing Adrian talk directly to the camera, we can’t really know for sure. It really is kind of a gray area, which is really problematic because it can have such black and white consequences. It’s hard to say “gray area” without diminishing the seriousness of rape and the painful consequences for victims of people who talked themselves into doing something unbelievably awful. But it’s also hard to make definitive statements about right and wrong, because of complicated emotional exactly situations like this. I don’t think it’s inconceivable to imagine a real-life situation exactly like this one turning out the way the movie says it does, with everyone happy. But then again, it’s just as possible –and maybe even more likely on average– to see this exchange the way Eric does, with Rocky somewhat unwittingly perpetuating the cycle of abuse on poor Adrian, who just shuts up and takes it because all she’s known is taking abuse from the whole world and doesn’t even have enough experience to imagine a better way for herself.

    It’s been awhile since I watched ROCKY, but I do think it’s a good thing, on average, that society has moved far enough since 1976 that we’re wrestling with this stuff. I highly doubt at the time anyone would have thought twice about that scene. Today, we’re actually trying to deal with the nuances here — painful as they may be.

  54. I love that this is a place where these discussions take place. I hesitated to chime in because I was having trouble putting my thoughts into words, but I’ll give it a try.

    I do not think Rocky raped Adrian. I do not think there was anything wrong about the way he was with her. Subtlety is right – people are complicated, emotions aren’t black and white. Not every person or situation can be forced to conform to what we think society should be.

    It’s a good thing that this kind of thing is complicated and confusing. It’s okay for a woman to be timid. It’s okay for a man to be aggressive. It’s the nuances that take this from normal, human interaction to violence. We struggle with those nuances and we should. We should be concerned with behaving in a way that is acceptable to the person we’re trying to connect with, more than what society is telling us is acceptable.

    At the time this movie was made there wasn’t so much concern about these things and I think it’s better that we are now, but it’s also confusing. It makes me think of the latest episode of Walking Dead/Talking Dead. In the Walking Dead there was a scene where a man was coming onto a woman. She said something like, “What makes you think I’m interested?” He said, “A man can tell.” In the Talking Dead (which, if you don’t know, is a talk show where people from the show and other guests talk about the latest episode), the men were saying they thought this was out of line. The woman on the panel said, “No, it was hot.” And again, there’s nothing wrong with thinking it was hot and it’s a good thing the guys were questioning it. Nuance and confusion.

  55. >”We should be concerned with behaving in a way that is acceptable to the person we’re trying to connect with, more than what society is telling us is acceptable.”

    I actually think that’s a beautiful way of putting it.

  56. Subtlety I spent so long trying to post something similar to you and the damn anti spam wouldn’t let me but thank you sir.

    Human beings we’re a complex bunch. When we’re in love even more so. Love is beautiful and confusing in that way. Which is why we can’t deal in absolutes when discussing it. It’s never black and white and always gray.

    It’s something highly dependent on speaking without speaking and reading body language. Fact is people in real life act like that. Majestyk kinda got at something that applies to my relationship I mentioned here. Said mousy girl I was with had major self esteem issues. While I had kinda of a rep that was beyond my reality.

    I intimidated her but I also tapped kissed her and know that it was her body language cues that led to embracing me and later dominating the moment by mutating it into a full blown kiss and even taking control of the situation herself.

    She was initially a bit apprehensive because it was kinda a defense mechanism. Not because she wasn’t into what was implied she just couldn’t believe that i was too because she stupidly believed she was beneath me or some shit.

    When the truth is I genuinely dug her for her cause I always gravitated towards more modest people who were never given breaks as opposed to more boastful show offs but she assumed otherwise.

    The minute she saw my real intent was genuine affection in my eyes she went from defense to offense and we were beautiful together for a long time.

    I look at Adrian the same way. Afraid to embrace the truth because of her own mental poisoning self esteem wise. Then when she realized there was no guile there she finally owned and embraced the moment for the first time ever and it led to one of the greatest unions ever.

    My point is people in real life DO act like that some times cause we’re all individual and wired differently. So to try to limit someone’s reactions to black and white platitudes is unfair in itself and presumptuous because clearly not every woman would read that situation the same.

    I was raised by my mama and never had brothers just sisters. So I’m very sensitive to females emotions through sheer life experience. I get and sympathize with the fairer sex better than your average bear.

    Trust me when I see resistance I retreat, I surrender. I’m no bully. However sometimes as brutish as this may sound we need to initiate and take action because our ladies are subconsciously egging it on even after initial vocal doubts their body language clearly states otherwise. So you proceed accordingly. I see rock and adrians awkward embrace through that notion especially since I could relate.

  57. MaggieMayPie – “We should be concerned with behaving in a way that is acceptable to the person we’re trying to connect with, more than what society is telling us is acceptable.”

    Amen.

    That is absolutely beautifully on point and far more concise than I could ever hope to be. Kudos.

  58. I also would like to soften my response to Eric. Eric, I may not agree with your interpretation but it’s a bit harsh and frankly dishonest of me to label it “absurd”. I can only apologise and put it down to a knee-jerk desire to defend a movie I love. It’s also beneath the level of discourse this of this site.

  59. It’s been a very long time (20 years or so I think) since I watched this credits to credits, but in my memory I’ve always assumed both Rocky and Adrienne were virgins going in to this date?

    Two, on the surface, very different, deeply internalised, people with very little in common besides only having pets as constant companions making an absolute hash of finally making a connection with another person who might just understand lonlieness like they do.

    Inexperience can be problematic too.

    Or am I just remebering this movie really poorly and Rocky is a ‘player’ type who might know what he is doing?

  60. Big Sonny I think your interpretation is right on. I always read it that way myself. Rocky is presented as what (pardon my upcoming quackiness I’m hitting a joint while typing this lol) people in the 3rd dimension would call a “loser”. In reality he’s just a guy getting buy with what he has. It’s not much and he could make due with it but he’s also in his heart a good man of the people type.

    People like that tend to hold off from more intimate encounters for a long time cause most other people completely misread them. I say that as someone who was like that for a long time in his life myself. I was a movie nerd who also loved and played music. I mingled with LITERALLY every sub group in school you could think of but belonged to none. Pure lone wolf but at the same time with a huge empathy for others. In this movie “The Italian Stallion” is not synonymous with cool like it is by ROCKY III. He’s just “the invisible guy” who makes his mark at the moment and is quickly later forgotten about cause he keeps flowing and going like Caine from KUNG-FU.

    So for him to finally have someone to bond with on that level because there is a similar soul out there and he finally found it and his persistence won’t let him give up on connecting with it is pretty much right on. In many ways Rocky is just as timid and awkward as Adrian the only difference is he embraced it a lot earlier on than she did he just never managed to find that kindred spirit until he started going to that pet shop.

  61. Meant to type *getting by not “getting buy”.

    sorry for the lame side effect of being high killing the flow there.

  62. I hate getting into discussions like this, especially on the internet, because I tend to get really emotional and it effects my whole day negatively and so on. I do it on occasion only when I think something is pretty important, and I’m really glad to find upon coming home from work that the whole discussion has been thoughtful and respectful, so thank you all for that.

    That said, I don’t understand why we can’t agree that this was rape. Adrian said no and rocky fucked her anyway. That is the textbook definition of rape. It really, really upsets me to see so many decent humans deny that fact. I’ve already explained why this is important, but it bears repeating: we live in a culture that normalizes sexual aggression and violence against women. One of the things we can do to combat that is to acknowledge sexual violence when we see it or hear about it. This is one of those cases.

    It’s possible that I haven’t been as clear as I should have about this. I am not saying that the movie wants us to understand this as rape. I am in agreement with all of you in thinking that the movie wants us to understand this as a romantic encounter that is unimaginably fulfilling for Adrian. What I’m saying is that despite the movie’s intentions, it has depicted a rape. Again, it’s a very straightforward scene in which Adrian does not give consent and yet rocky fucks her anyway. It’s rape. I’m glad that Adrian is ultimately cool with it, but that doesn’t change what it is.

    It seems that some of you want to suggest that because she’s ultimately cool with it we should be too. Mr. S even suggests that failing to be cool with it amounts to the very type of disrespect of a person’s wishes that I’m accusing rocky of (i.e., I’m telling Adrian how to feel about her sex life). The problem I have with that interpretation is that Adrian is not a real woman, but rather a fictional character written by a man in a film directed by a man. Adrian from the start has been a victim of men telling her how she should feel about her sex life. Men created her out of thin air so that she could exist as someone who’s totally cool with getting raped. I’m not disrespecting her feelings here; I’m criticizing the men who wrote and directed those feelings into her. We don’t need to be cool with it just because the guys who made the film suggested, in the film, that we should be cool with it.

    It’s certainly true that some people want to be approached aggressively in certain situations, but the critical issue is consent. Neither in real life nor in “rocky” should anyone ignore explicit refusals on the basis of some intuitive sense about what a person “really” wants. I don’t find this as difficult a point as the rest of you seem to. It doesn’t strike me as hard to talk about or negotiate. You guys keep saying it’s not a black/white issue, but it absolutely is. If you don’t have consent, you shouldn’t be fucking a person. If you sense that they want to be handled aggressively, talk it out with them. There will be plenty of time for being aggressive once you’ve explicitly determined that that’s what your partner wants.

    I also want to point out that too many of the justifications of this rape scene are the same justifications that misogynists use in real life to dismiss actual rape claims: the notion that even though she said no she actually wanted it; the notion that because she consented to subsequent sexual encounters the first one must have been consensual too; the idea that rocky couldn’t have raped her because he’s an otherwise good person. This is a big part of why this discussion feels so urgent to me. It’s painfully obvious how entrenched these excuses are in our culture and it’s really disappointing to hear them echoed here.

    I also want to make clear that I’m not calling anyone a monster or whatever. I don’t see any evidence that rocky is a good or nice guy, but I also don’t believe that one wrong deed makes a person evil. Plenty of guys have behaved like rocky does because they’re too stupid and steeped in rape culture to understand that they’re disrespecting and taking advantage of a girl. But being a stupid member of a toxic culture doesn’t make a person evil. I don’t think rocky’s evil. I just think he raped someone. I think that’s an important point because a lot of times people get defensive about this stuff and won’t admit basic facts because they’re too worried about what those basic facts say about them as individuals.

  63. Well, I agree with almost everything you said, and I was you in this argument when we had it about CRANK years ago. But what you’re describing is not what happens in ROCKY. There’s no refusal or force, the sex is never discussed and only implied to have happened after the scene. I think because you already were not enjoying the movie you are filling in the blanks in a much more unpleasant way than anyone else is. But other than that I think we’re all on the same page here so I don’t think we have much to argue.

    And I’m proud of everyone for being so polite.

  64. Vern, first of all, If I’m wrong I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s fair for you to ascribe motives to me in order to dismiss my argument. It’s maybe not coincidental that dismissing what someone is actually saying because of a perception about what that person is feeling is the very root of what I’m so troubled about here, and lends all the more import to the whole discussion. My feelings going into the scene in question have absolutely no relevance to the argument I’m making. I could accuse you of being too in love with the character of rocky to admit the obvious, and I would be just as correct as you are (in that the level of correctness would be: irrelevant), so let’s just leave that bullshit out of it.

    More importantly, you are very wrong about what happens in that scene and what it means. You say there is no refusal or force, but you are wrong on both counts. Adrian never explicitly refuses sex, but she refuses every step of the process that leads up to the physical encounter. She says she doesn’t want to be in the apartment. Once there, she says she wants to leave. She refuses to be physically close to him inside the apartment (though she never explicitly says she doesn’t want to be physically close to him), and she physically attempts to leave. Those are all refusals to have sex because if rocky had respected any one of them the result would have been no sex. In that scene, there are a solid two minutes of Adrian refusing the entire thing and trying to escape.

    And rocky does use force. When Adrian tries to leave, he physically blocks the door and then positions his arms and body such that she’s trapped in a corner.

    I’m not certain what point you think it serves to note that the actual sex is offscreen, so if I’m wrong in the following assumption forgive me, but we don’t need to see rocky being rough with her during sex to know that it’s rape. Her lack of consent is enough. And in this case, it’s not just lack of consent but downright refusal.

    Since everyone seems to be so confused about what’s going on in this scene, maybe you could just answer a couple questions:

    1) Does Adrian repeatedly request to leave the situation?
    2) Does Adrian ever consent to a sexual encounter?
    3) Does rocky have sex with Adrian?

    Anyone watching that scene would have to go through some serious mental gymnastics to answer anything other than “yes,” “no,” and “yes,” respectively, to those questions.

    So then here’s the fourth question: if Adrian does not consent and rocky fucks her anyway, how is that not rape? There are no justifications for nonconsensual sex, so I’m really befuddled and disturbed that everyone keeps making excuses for it.

  65. How do you know she doesn’t consent to sex? Like Vern says, they kiss, they descend to the floor together, fade to black. In the interim, he could have asked her for permission any number of times. She could have said any number of things to indicate consent. She could have ripped his clothes off and pounced on him for all we know. The point is, what we only know what the movie has told us, which is this encounter ended well for everyone. Yet you seem intent on inventing offscreen incidents.

    I understand why. People deny the existence of rape culture every day in a million ways, and the fact that a scene like this is intended as romantic is a symptom of it. But why do you think that a blue-collar lug in the mid-seventies would or should stand outside that culture? Is he not part of it? Is the way he behaved not consistent with how a character of his time and place would behave? What are you arguing here, that it would be better if Rocky had followed our modern code of ethics instead of being true to his time and place? How would that improve the movie?

    I truly fear for the future of storytelling when every character has to behave morally upright at all times or the entire movie gets tossed out. This is not some “PC culture is ruining everything” stuff I’m talking about, because I think we should all try to listen to each other and not do things that alienate huge chunks of our fellow humans. But real people fuck up. Real people do bad things. Hopefully, they try to make up for it. If not, they can still be interesting and worth getting to know. I’m not interested in a version of Rocky who knows exactly how to act around women. That’s not who this character is and that’s not good storytelling. It’s the old “depiction does not equal endorsement” thing. This gets tricky in this case, because you could argue that the movie is not critical of Rocky’s actions, but do you think the scene would have been as engaging if Rocky had just gone home? Or if Adrian had said, “Please come into my apartment for consensual intercourse.” That’s not true to either character, the time period, or the setting. That’s something you would like to see happen, but drama’s job is not to give you what you want. I’ll take truth over correctness any day.

  66. But I’m overstepping. You’re not asking for that. You’re merely asking that we acknowledge that what is happening onscreen is rape. We can’t do that, though, because that’s not what we are shown. We can agree that in real life this scene is just as likely if not more to go the way you’re saying, but in context of the other scenes and what we know about the characters themselves, we do not draw the same conclusions you do. as an example of a sociological phenomenon, this scene is troubling. as a scene between these two individuals, it is not.

  67. Majestyk, in that first paragraph you posit that consent takes place offscreen and then accuse me of inventing offscreen incidents. Surely you realize how hypocritical that is. As you are insistent on pointing out, all we have is what actually happens, and I ask again: did Adrian consent?

    Incidentally, let’s just assume that at some point after the camera cuts out Adrian does “consent.” Does that “consent,” at that late point in the situation, justify rocky or make it any less of a rape? I would (and will!) argue strenuously that it does not. You can’t coerce consent, and in this hypothetical case Adrian has “consented” only after being physically locked in the apartment and cornered, and after hearing rocky tell her explicitly, “I’m going to kiss you. You don’t have to kiss me back.” If at that point she decides to go with it she’s nonetheless being raped. She’s been put in a position where she can’t do much but go with it.

    As for your last two paragraphs, you misunderstand my argument. I am not saying that rocky, in the film, should have acted differently. It’s just a film, and what happens in it is what happens. I agree that attributing “oughts” to fictional characters is dumb. I’m fine with rocky being an idiot who rapes a woman. What I’m not fine with is that the good-hearted people watching the movie can’t or won’t acknowledge that that’s what he does.

  68. Majestyk, I wonder if you could answer the questions I asked Vern and then tell me what context you think justifies nonconsensual sex in this instance?

  69. Vern, great review but I think that at this point the story behind this film and what it meant for Sly’s is just as iconic if not as iconic as the film it self. So much so it is hard for me to even talk about ROCKY without acknowledging the parallels to Sly’s own career at that point.

    Eric, it has been to long since I last watched ROCKY to try and speak to the scene you are describing but that I have never picked up on what you are talking about on any of my numerous viewings of ROCKY and you are the first person I have ever heard interpret that scene in that way. I think that it is a good that you are sensitive to the sexual aggression toward women in cinema and I thank you for sharing your thoughts. I can see how you could read that scene that way, but just because you are reading it that way does not mean that is what is actually transpiring in the scene. I think everybody here agrees with you that rape and sexual aggression toward anyone is unacceptable, they are just calling into question your interpretation of the scene, not your stance on the issue of sexual aggression and rape.

    This conversation reminds me of the SKYFALL thread where it turned into a debate about if Bond raped the girl in the shower sex scene.

  70. Eric: No, I’m saying WE DON’T KNOW what happens offscreen, but we can infer from what happens in the following scenes that everyone was pretty psyched about it.

  71. Hey guys. I’m about to leave for work and I can’t have this discussion hanging over my head all day, so I’m out. I won’t be back to check the thread anymore. I doubt I could make my position any clearer anyway, so I hope I’ve left you all with something to think about at least. One love.

  72. On a more lighter note I swear there is a line of dialog in this film or the second ROCKY film where Adrian asks Rocky to go to the zoo and Rocky responds by telling her that “the zoo is for retards”. However, in a later film after Rocky is told by the doctor that he should quit fighting due to he extensive head trauma Rocky wants to go to the zoo. If this is true is the Rocky franchise intentionally or unintentionally acknowledging that Rocky is mentally retarded?

  73. Good talk, Eric. I think we were coming at it from different perspectives–me from a pure storytelling, authorial intent POV, you from a more extratextual POV–but I think we agree on the issues, if not on how they were expressed in this particular film.

  74. Rewatched it last night on Blu Ray ($18 for the entire series at Best Buy – and in a slim case that doesn’t take up the entire shelf!). Tons of little details and nuggets I’ve never noticed, like the knife sticking out of the couch-thing in Rocky’s apartment. Or the overturned KFC Bucket he uses to boost a lamp in his kitchen. Or weird great dialogue like “you lost your hat!” at the end, or Paulie creepily yelling, “You’re busted! You ain’t a virgin no more!” to Adrienne. Also really surprised at how many aspects of this seminal movie are NOT ripped off – any other movie he’d be chasing Mickey and begging him for help (like the typical wise old mentor), but I love that Mickey comes begging to him, and Rocky knows it’s shitty but still wants his help. I also like how even though Rocky is literally a “chosen one” hero, he’s one of the few heroes who “accepts the call” right off the bat. Sure, he refuses the fight for about 2 minutes and is justifiably nervous and scared, but he doesn’t spend the next 40 minutes waffling and refusing his calling like almost every single hero today.

    It’s a great movie, but I guess I have a few nitpicks (and these really make me feel Un-American): I guess I’ve always heard the last fight is “Rocky loses the fight, but gets the girl”, but he kinda already got the girl at about the halfway point. They didn’t break up or have a misunderstanding or some bullshit (thank God) so if the movie was really a love story first and sports movie second, like alot of people say, the love story was basically already resolved! The last fight is good but the round-skipping montage is too quick; they learned a better way to do it in the sequels. And I also always thought (and still feel) the split decision to Apollo is so muddled in the sound mix (and barely seen on screen) that I wouldn’t be surprised if some people thought Rocky won or it was left ambiguous. Yeah I know his loss is besides the point, but the way they handled the same ending in Rocky Balboa worked alot better for me.

    And even though the sequels were different types of movies, I actually think they’re necessary to the series – alot of the stuff we love about Apollo comes from the sequels because I was shocked to see how little he is in this one (and especially how little interaction he has with Rocky before the match). So even though I feel like First Blood should have been it’s own thing and Rambo II-IV could have been it’s own Commando-style series, I for one am definitely glad the Rocky sequels exist even though they’re so different from the first Rocky.

    And thanks again for these great retrospectives Vern. I hope you have enough time to squeeze in Grudge Match before Creed. I honestly have no idea why people didn’t like it – it’s an inoffensive, pretty-funny crowd-pleaser with some good dramatic stuff and some great supporting performances from Jon Bernthal and Kim Basinger. I’m boggled by the hatred for it.

  75. Eric: In case you do come back to the thread for some reason I just want you to know I didn’t mean to ascribe motives to you, I was just saying that we’re arguing about things that are only implied by the scene. We’re receiving the story differently so we’re imagining what happens differently. Nothing malicious about that, it’s just how storytelling works. Anyway, I think our agreement on the overall issue you’re concerned about is more important than our disagreement about how to interpret the scene. Sorry to have caused you stress over an argument, I know how that is.

    Charles: It was a little different from how you remember it. Gazzo’s driver who doesn’t like Rocky tells him to take Adrian to the zoo because he thinks she’s a “retard.” Then in part 2 Rocky proposes to her at the zoo.

  76. 1) Does Adrian repeatedly request to leave the situation? – Yes. See the lyrics to “Baby, it’s cold outside” (1944) for an earlier example of scenes like this in popular culture.
    2) Does Adrian ever consent to a sexual encounter? – No idea. If I recall correctly the scene fades to black before the situation gets to this point.
    3) Does rocky have sex with Adrian? – I think so. It is certainly implied that they have had full sex at some point during the evening.

    Just giving you the courtesy of giving my own answers to your questions. It’s certainly an adult and complex scene for a PG rated movie, and one which merits discussion.

    How would you answer your own questions?

  77. I read “Scenes like this in popular culture” and realise it makes me sound like an asshole. Just kind of meant it’s a (by 1979 low rent Philidelphia standards) rehash of a by then familiar exchange. I hear that tune every Christmas and marvel at how it somehow became a ’tis the season to be jolly’ mainstay.

  78. “What’s in this drink?” definitely reads differently in a post-Cosby world.

  79. Big Sonny and Eric – both of you refer to Stallone’s character as ‘rocky’, not Rocky, while giving Talia Shire the privilege of a capital for her name ‘Adrian’. It sounds like you guys have already pre-judged Rocky and/or Stallone (which I respect, and is your right to do so), but are simply taking all this way too personally. I’m glad the movie had an impact on you though. This is what good movies are for, and I love that we all respond in our own unique ways.

  80. Thanks for the clarification Vern. That is different then how I remember it, but still odd. I am curious if that was an intentional choice calling back to the dialog from the first film or just an unintentional coincidence. I am also going to watch all these films again before seeing CREED so I will check it out for myself, but correct me if I am wrong, doesn’t Rocky want to go to the zoo right after being diagnosed with brain damage?

  81. Poeface – Capitalisation not my own. Just copied and pasted from Erics post. It’s an interesting view. Certainly something I hadn’t considered and will be bearing in mind next time I watch the movie.

  82. Charles – I don’t remember that, I’d have to check. If so it is a funny/weird joke, but also it makes sense that he would want to go to a place that’s special to him, like the place where he proposed to his wife and saw a tiger that maybe influenced his eye of the tiger.

  83. “like the place where he proposed to his wife and saw a tiger that maybe influenced his eye of the tiger.”

    As well as the purchase of his tiger jacket.

  84. Good point Vern, that would thematically tie everything together. I am really looking forward to watching these films again.

  85. “I hope you have enough time to squeeze in GRUDGE MATCH before CREED.” Yes, and may I suggest FRUITVALE STATION also (since we blew the load early)?

  86. Saw Coogler for the first time tonight in a Q&A feature on the FS disc – a quiet, thoughtful, humble guy with a stutter, and surprisingly young (he was 27)! Man, I was excited about CREED before, now I’m like a little kid on Christmas Eve! The underdog spirit of ROCKY looks alive and kicking in CREED.

  87. neal2zod- Critic tore GRUDGE MATCH a new one, but in my experience the general public either ignored it, put it to the bottom of their “to watch” pile, or kind of liked it. I’m in the latter category. Critics, as a species, largely went off Stallone 30 years prior, and add in a subtext of [SPOILER?] Stallone’s classic ROCKY sentimentalism beating out RAGING BULL New Hollywood, and you’re not looking at many critic festival prize nominations. There is some really lousy stuff in GRUDGE MATCH (a lot of stuff involving DeNiro’s grandson, why is the fight sometimes a big deal to the public, and at others something no one cares about), but some good stuff too and, as usual, you can tell Stallone really cared about the film too.

  88. Couldn’t finish Grudge Match. To bring together such a cast and concept and then have it be so formulaic and unfunny is a real shame. As with so many films, it’s like the studio thinks that all they need is an intriguing premise and good casting, and then it will just write and direct itself. And don’t get me started on how Deniro is just totally in it for the paycheck these days. At least with the Expendables I feel like Stallone has a vision that he is working to realize, and that is consistent with how much thought and care he put into the last Rocky and Rambo. Mid-aughts-to-present Stallone actually has stories he wants to tell (What boggles my mind is how solid Stallone’s instincts were w/ Rambo IV and Rocky VI but so off-based with the Expendables). With Deniro, he is pretty much dividing all his time between uninspired theatrically released comedies and equally mind-numbing DTV action-dramas (not that I’m watching any of them, but I’m tracking the reviews). There was a time with Meet the Parents and Analyze This where it was still novel and funny to see a dramatic heavy like Deniro poking fun at this own persona. And it is totally his choice if that’s where he’s at in his life, if he needs the money or just doesn’t have the emotional energy to really try something bold and challenging, but it’s a real loss for film, especially when you see a guy like Stallone still pursuing things that have the potential to move someone or be different or memorable.

  89. Also, the CGI’d young Stallone and Deniro were just horrible. Gollum and Jar Jar Binks looked more realistic than that young Stallone at the press conference in Grudge Match.

  90. I think I have seen Vern shout out THE CANNON podcast in his twitter feed before, but latest edition is ROCKY vs RAMBO FIRST BLOOD, and it makes a nice companion piece to this review. They even discuss the sex scene in question we discussed here at length and the odd joke I mentioned about Rocky wanting to go to the zoo after getting diagnosed with brain damage.

    PS: This is not the first time Devin has brought up something I mentioned on this site during the course of an episode of THE CANNON (There is an episode where he echos a point I made about Eli Roth and how he has promoted THE GREEN INFERNO that sounds almost exactly like what I wrote on this site). I am in no way trying to imply that Devin is reading this site and plagiarizing my words, but if I were more paranoid there is enough evidence to warrant suspicion.

  91. Shit…

    RIP John G. Avildsen

  92. “http://www.avclub.com/article/rip-john-g-avildsen-director-rocky-and-karate-kid-256948?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=feeds”

  93. The number of comments of people saying KARATE KID is better than ROCKY is making me even more sad.

  94. It’s not better but if both were on at the same time and I had to watch one I would watch Karate Kid.

  95. Just reading geoffrey’s post is kind of a buzzkill. How can anybody ever think that? I like watching THE KARATE KID trilogy to laugh at how lame Daniel Larusso really is but he really does suck as a character. While Rocky is one of the best in all of cinema thanks largely in part to that original movie. What kinda a world are we living in? Is it the nostalgia factor? Have these people actually watched ROCKY and THE KARATE KID after all these years? Cause outside of sharing a director and narrative structure they are worlds apart.

  96. I think both are pretty great. ROCKY is definitely in a whole other world of gritty, earthy, indie-ish filmatism. It’s a deservedly Oscar-calibre film, and KARATE KID just isn’t. Nevertheless, you’ve got: Miyagi, paint the fence, wax on wax off, crane kick, Johnny, Krease, shower curtain dance costume, sweep the leg, put him in a body bag, Miyagi’s car collection. It’s some pretty fun, iconic shit. What would make me sad is people started celebrating the Jaden Smith KARATE KID more than either of these films.

  97. Best part of THE KARATE KID to me was the music. Cruel Summer, Young Hearts (Beat Fast), You’re The Best. Yeah, that’s the stuff!

  98. I like KARATE KID better.

  99. I will say this about both series. Their respective part III’s both feature some of my most favorite antagonists ever. Terry Silver rules and along with EXCESSIVE FORCE is the most awesone thing Thomas Ian Griffith ever did.

  100. Speaking of I remember seeing a pic of Cobra Kai cuff links. One with a pic of Krease on it the other with an image of Terry Silver. I don’t know if that was just photoshop but if they really do exist I must have them.

  101. ROCKY might be a better movie, but I simply don´t care for that knucklehead Balboa. LaRussos predicament is more relatable to me.

    But Thomas Ian Griffith is a sadly forgotten action star. He had the charisma but never the vehicles.

  102. Hollow Point is a pretty great comedic performance from Thomas Ian Griffith.

  103. Shoot YOU’RE TEARING ME APAAAART!!

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