Rocky Balboa and the myth of Sisyphus

Because Rocky, in reality, has nothing new to tell us, he always is, was and will be more of the same, eternal in his idea, and that is why I think he survives and continues to be valid, because he touches on the same topics that we are passionate about or mobilize us. and moving, those issues that never leave anyone indifferent because success or failure, the passage of time and love as a defense of life are basic and unavoidable issues. More or less as Master Sabato used to say: avant-garde art is nothing but rearguard. Truths in capital letters survive emptiness because they present us with the human being in his nakedness, in his contingency, they push us into the void in company to feel less alone in that terrible transit towards nothingness.

But, as you will understand, I did not deal with these types of issues in my childhood. And, fortunately, childhood was not taken away from me by any mobile device. I am one of those who grew up playing in the street, watching Mister Ed, Chavo del ocho, Cantinflas, Heidi, or we read Tom Sawyer, The Little Prince, Jules Verne… the list is endless. We also prayed before going to sleep (I never did it again), and we thought with dread of the Heaven and Hell… Finally, what to tell them.

In those years, in addition to soccer and tennis (thanks to Guillermo Vilas and a promising middle class that was approaching, in habits, those who could afford all kinds of activities outside the working day), the most popular sport in Argentina, without doubt, it was boxing. In those years we had great figures of boxing, clay heroes, probably, but necessary in the ever-shaky democracy. I grew up watching boxing alongside my father, and it seemed like one of the noblest sports in the world to me because of the way it was approached. Although the objective was to knock down and leave the opponent lying semi-conscious, there were and are norms, rules, agreed principles. It always seemed that way to me and I still think so, especially now with the rise of the UFC and the violent battles with almost no rules that give me goosebumps. That’s when I realize that I come from another generation, from another world, yes. A man from another time arguably. And for example, a memory: I was four or five years old, and one fine day a Ladybug from San Antonio landed on my arm. Everyone knew that, when this happened, a wish should be made quickly, as a reflex action, before the insect took flight, and in a few days the wish would be fulfilled. That easy. I ordered some boxing gloves. I’m still waiting for them.

Just like me, there were many of us who grew up with boxing, with the heroes of that time, wrapped up and asleep in Pop culture, so unreal but close to human relations even if it was only the scab, and with references that, seeing it from the increasingly abysmal distance, they are almost school examples if we try to approximate them (you can’t, by God) with the insipid current panorama, hysterical and susceptible to everyone’s gaze, to the scrutiny and hierarchy of the platform empire associateyes

One of those eighties heroes, of course, was Rocky Balboa. Naturally, I have a dim image of the first two films, even of the third, but I do remember perfectly the premiere of the fourth, the one in which the Cold War entered the cinema under the figure of Drago. For the young Argentine democracy and much of America or Spain and half the world, the idea of ​​an American, a guy from the street, an outcast, fighting against the dictatorship of the proletariat, was quite an event. Decades of de facto governments put that stupid and simple idea into our heads, and it germinated. The idea germinated. It seemed that the fight would really take place, that it was really going to happen. It was like good versus evil in a ring. With that I grew up and with that I lived. In these times when kids, mobile in hand, argue with you to the color of the sky, it’s almost comforting to remember all that. I even feel a kind of longing that borders on melancholy.

Years passed and I returned to Rocky again and again, to reminisce, to relive, to daydream, perhaps. At eighteen he was already accumulating some of the great reading of my life and this somewhat changed the way I viewed the colt from Philadelphia. I loved that character very much, and the metamorphosis that he had suffered in the six films that showed his pugilistic tribulations bothered me. But he wasn’t my me from then nor the forty-year-old who writes this the only one who perceived that change. I recently read a study that was done at a prestigious-American-university, in which people of different ages who had seen Rocky at some point in their lives were asked how they remembered that the movie had finished: almost all of them thought they remembered that he had defeated Apollo when, in reality, he had lost the match on points. In fact, the greatness of that film was the end of it. The antihero had not won as in all the films of the time, and this, probably, was the reason why he won three statuettes from the Academy and the approval of a society doomed since then to sheepishness.

We always cover ourselves with the shame of the loser, with his skin, in the circumstance that touches, even (or precisely) passing the law through the lining. We need the daily defeat, the frustration of surviving instead of living fully, to at least be rewarded in the fantasy of cinema, in an illusory victory, volatile, ephemeral like life itself, which today, now, as I write this, abandons us, It harms us by default, by inertia, for the love of life, oh! Although our breath goes away in this: a fence, a fence, a limit, a mastiff of time.

However (I take a breath) Rocky wasn’t always the same. Those of us who have followed and seen his films, those stories close to the neighborhood that Stallone-backpack-dog abandoned for neon, know to what extent this is the case. That goofy guy with the heart of an ox, that insufferable, primal good-natured guy who was trying to take Adrian to the cot, underwent the transfiguration of bully into yuppie. The Italian colt, emulating an unknown Chuck Wenner (that torpedo boxer who endured fifteen rounds against Muhamed Ali) in whom Stallone was inspired to draw the traits of his fighter fighting with his heart and resisting until the end, was losing steam as box office success made a dent in the protagonist, in the man of flesh and blood, skilled to rage for the commercial film business.

The second part (already stubborn in the show) follows the thread of the story and the character still does not suffer since he continues under the wing of the creator. But, in the middle of the eighties, with action movies at their peak, with the Schwarzeneggers and Norris kicking left and right in the popular imagination about the Vietnam War, Rocky also transfigured into a character from action and zero contemplation. He no longer fights with the heart but with the muscle. Just like your alter ego, both become brilliant entrepreneurs. The character takes a turn that leaves him unrecognizable. It is not Balboa who steps into the ring, but sly, which is already quite a character. The Italian colt also fades in the following; by the way, the highest grossing of all, and it disappears, disintegrates into a different cinema, bastard son of the seventies.

Five years later, in the fifth part, Silvester, anchored to better times, but in the midst of shipwreck, retakes the initial character and Rocky once again has a soul and a past. He returns, after years of oblivion, but the public is no longer the same and turns its back on an almost unsustainable story. Even the protagonist himself is uncomfortable in these forced scenes and, at times, ridiculous or pathetic. The sixth of the saga arrives nothing more and nothing less than sixteen years later, and sly He still has a hand to not let the character fall, already at an advanced age. He introduces us to a Rocky who doesn’t think to lower his arms, but not because of stubbornness, or because he believes in eternal youth.

As in the Myth of Sisyphus, in which good old Camus tries to explain the nonsense of life using the idea of ​​the stone that slips from his hands again and again when he reaches the summit, Rocky, already worn , defeated and oblique by the same contingencies that uproot our lives or take it away from those who accompany us, decides to fight, one last time, as if the meaning of life were lost in that effort, in that stone that houses the supreme truth of the absurd. Like Sisyphus, Rocky believes he has achieved what we could call freedom, precisely at that moment, fleeting, eternal, in which one, blind and exhausted, feels the breeze from the top, and the other, exhausted and full, raises his arms , victorious in quotes big as an abandoned cathedral.

Because the stone falls inexorably. And time passes and the arms already weigh too much, and the sense of the absurd settles in as a bitter truth that is so hard to accept, as in that scene (which is repeated in at least three of the last films), when he goes to the cemetery to talk to the land that houses his deceased wife. Also Rocky is blind in his descent into nothingness. We can perceive it perfectly in Creed, the penultimate of the saga, with a colt already retired from everything that life gave him at some point, sick with cancer, explaining (pleading, apologizing) to a young Adonis, that he does not need to undergo treatment some: that it is no longer worth it, that all is said and done. However, the will to live prevails and Rocky agrees to the requirements of the new hero, since life, even with all its hardships, goes on. Whether or not we are willing to continue the journey. It is almost impossible not to love this man.

Those of my generation have a hard time accepting the definitive withdrawal of Rocky. Rather, we want to see him over and over again climbing the rock, stubborn and firm like almost all of us, shouting, Adrian!, to see which of the rocks will be the definitive one. The one that installs forever the bitterest of certainties, the rock that ends up crumbling old dreams and pushes us to accept the humble and small daily victories.

Seconds out.

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Rocky Balboa and the myth of Sisyphus


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