Creed II and What were we thinking?

I think I have about 40 minutes before the cannabis I’ve just ingested kicks in but I wanted to write a blog post before then.

The thing that’s been on my mind most today is this amazing article by Adam Serwer in The Atlantic about Creed II, which I just saw on Sunday night.

I loved Creed II, despite a handful of plot problems and the fact that I don’t quite feel that the filmmakers nailed the world of professional boxing as it exists in 2018, where tens of millions of dollars change hands for every high profile fight, and somehow this movie has both the current and former heavyweight champions of the world still living in small row houses in Philadelphia.  But what felt right to me was that it centered a black protagonist, and his family, in a sports movie, and it really felt like that was an important break from the past.  Serwer’s piece really outlines the depth of the racial problems with the previous Rocky movies, which were made to fit in with the sensibilities and prejudices of an exclusively white audience, which was assumed by Hollywood to be the only audience that would ever matter.  The reality that African-American athletes excelled in sports like boxing  or basketball was psychologically threatening enough to white people that they turned movies like Rocky or Hoosiers, which presented a white “underdog” story that flipped this dynamic around in their favor, into huge hits.  Sports movies in America almost always centered whiteness this way, as a way to re-affirm the racial hierarchy the audience wanted to see.

The racial undertones of so many of these cultural touchstones which center whiteness in incredibly implausible ways should have been obvious to white people (like me) at the time, but they were not.  I remember being super moved by Dances With Wolves when I saw it at the time, (I think I was 17), and the fact that one of the only Hollywood movies ever to grapple with the genocide of America’s indigenous people had to feature a well-meaning white dude seems completely insane to me now.  At the time, not so much.

Anyway, my weed is kicking in, but just to sum up:  The thing that I’ve been thinking about most today is my own complicity in the collective inability of white America to recognize the racist falsehoods being fed to us by our own culture, even though they are now incredibly obvious, so much so that they should make us feel incredibly ashamed for being ignorant of them at the time.

So one reason I think I walked out of Creed II on Sunday night feeling good was later pointed out by Serwer’s piece a few days later, which is that the Creed movies offer a corrective to the ridiculous racial politics of the earlier Rocky movies, and that this correction was wholly endorsed by the series’s creator, Sylvester Stallone, who (either consciously or subconsciously) must have realized he had been feeding people a kind of racial propaganda that was not going to stand up to historical scrutiny.   That, for me, engendered a ton of goodwill towards the whole enterprise that let me enjoy the hell out of Creed II despite it’s incredibly formulaic nature and shaky plot.

Okay, I will probably find more to say later on about the way the cultural conversation has changed so much around topics like these in the past decade, but I’m high now and it’s not going to come out the way I want.

Thanks for reading!

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