How the Stallone Taught Us All to be Men!


(Sorry, Nerd-ettes . . . but this one’s for the dudes.)

One of the true spoils of being a pop culture junkie is having the ability to insulate one’s self from the turmoil that frequently consumes the world we live in. A downward economy, wars on three fronts, and the cost of bread escalating to Mercedes-like prices are easily – if only for a few fleeting moments – escapable by opening a prized comic book or revisiting a beloved film. However, it’s often these real-life issues and hardships that drive us back toward the lessons we once learned via the fictional worlds that comforted us.

Recently, I’ve found myself pondering the lessons that I learned from childhood and into my more formative years. While parents, teachers, priests and others are sure to have dropped a piece of wisdom or two on my skullbone through the decades, I can’t help but think back to the singular action star who, more than anybody else, taught me how to become a solid dude.

Of course, I’m talking about the Italian Stallion himself, Sylvester Stallone.

Growing up in the 80s, some of us dug Saturday morning cartoons or Spiderman books. Others may have had a penchant for Duran Duran or Star Wars, or even all of the above. But for me, for as long as I can remember, it was always the Book of Stallone that fashioned my course through these chapters of life.

Quite frankly, I think that the answers to a lot of our problems rest in the dude’s flicks of yesteryear and maybe if we – as a nation, if not a world in general – revisit his old films we may be able to cut through the bullshit and begin righting the ship.

First Topic: International Relations

Listen, shit’s gotten real on the international stage ever since Stallone brought down the Soviet Union on Christmas Day 1985. Upside – the Bad Guys lost and we persevered; Downside – without a clear-cut Bad Guy, we became the cool kid that everyone hates.

Anytime a country or terrorist faction messes with a democratic country, whether it be the good ol’ U.S.A. or Kate and Will’s homeboys across the pond, send in the Stallone. The Dude crushes people singlehandedly, like when he took on the Vietnamese and Russians to save all those P.O.W.’s left there from the 70’s. Seriously, he was making guys explode with arrows – no joke. Robin Hood himself couldn’t even do that. Not Kevin Costner, not Russell Crowe, and definitely no Cary “I was much cooler in The Princess Bride” Elwes.

And if those freakin’ commies bring the demolition home, look no further than Nighthawks. Rutger Hauer’s international terrorist persona was no match for Sly, Lando Calrissian, and an NYPD shield. A sidenote to this is that our man was sporting the same beard he rocked out prior to bringing down the Politburo in IV. Chuck Norris ain’t got nothin’ on the power of Stallone’s whiskers.

Second Topic: Crime

Crime can’t be eradicated entirely, but it’s a battle worth fighting. Whether it be in 1986 L.A. or 2032 San Angeles, crime was the disease and Stallone was the cure.

There was no procedure, no Miranda rights, and no due process. Just sickos out there wreaking havoc and Sly busting people up from all angles. I understand that every story has two sides and that we need to do all possible to iron things out with civility. But if a guy’s blasting people away in a grocery store, or some bizarro sci-fi museum in the future, they need to get theirs. And there’s only one guy who can give it do him.

Perhaps the greatest travesty in the domestic clash between good and evil rests when our peacekeepers venture onto the wrong side of the law. Sounds like a problem, right? No, not Freddie Heflin, Stallone’s pseudonym in CopLand. A fat, deaf, and somewhat dumb podunk sheriff takes on the Big Apple’s most corrupt in the Wild Wild East and does mad damage. Harvey Keitel, Leo McGarry, and T-1000 were no match for this do-gooder with a badge.

Third Topic: The American Automotive Industry

Yeah, the ‘Big 3’ are on the rebound, but for how long???

1989 was a rough year for our guy as he found himself doing a pair of stints in correctional facilities. One was pretty brief and he had Snake Plissken to keep him company, but the other was straight hard time and Stallone had to do everything possible not to let the hacks get to him.

So what did he do? He rebuilt a fucking Ford Mustang!!! He did this basically single-handedly nonetheless when you consider the three other guys that helped him on this project. One was Tom Sizemore who I’m positive was incapacitated by his steady diet of Quaaludes and bourbon, that First-Base guy was a bona fide meathead, and the big guy surely didn’t have much of the part because he previously fired Stallone from the meat-packing plant in Rocky II.

Put simply, this was old fashioned American workmanship at its finest.

Fourth (and final) Topic: Believing in Ourselves Once Again

Complacency is a savage beast and it consumes us when times get tough. Too often, Life itself is a bully that puts us on the canvas, kicks our teeth in, and impregnates our girlfriend.

But it’s never too late to stand up and take what’s ours.

This is the challenge the world presents us with today, and its the theme of every Rocky film from 1976 to 2006. All kidding aside, whereas the aforementioned films showed us what to do in extreme situations if both courage and Hollywood magic were on our sides, Rocky Balboa taught us how to live day-by-day.

It didn’t matter if you were a smoker or a leg-breaker or a bum. If you were stupid, shy, illiterate, inarticulate, broke, busted, beaten or used up. All that mattered was what you had in that part of your soul that nobody but you could see or feel.

That’s what Rocky was and what we need to become today if we are to reinvent ourselves.

Listen, I don’t want to get preachy or venture to far away from the realm of sci-fi/fantasy/action/comedy/nerdom, but there’s something to be said for these characters and movies that so many of us grew up on.

People aren’t happy anymore and often times they appear hopeless. Not as many people say “excuse me” in the check-out line or wave goodbye. We’re too pre-occupied with our troubles. But things won’t get better if we just continue what we’re doing.

We gotta go back to the classics and remember who we were before we tossed the fecal matter into the ceiling fan. We need to recall what it meant to be a real man, woman, or just human being. We need to reopen the Book of Stallone and dictate our own ending.

Be Well,
John Spartan

(DISCLAIMER: This Op-Ed was in no way influenced by the fact that Sylvester Stallone once portrayed a version of me in a certain 1993 action film.)

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