That was my question for Deacon Greydanus over at Catholic World Report. He wrote a review of the latest Rocky based movie. I've lost track of how many Rocky movies there are. Anyway, I read through the review out of curiosity since I didn't realize the series was still going. Suddenly, I came to a paragraph that really jumped out at me. This was the part that got me:
Rocky was a small-time, working-class palooka whose rags-to-riches story is part grit and part dumb luck. His antagonists include the polished showman Apollo, the Soviet golden boy Drago, and Mr. T’s “Clubber” Lang, who is mainly different from Rocky, alas, in being Black. “Clubber” is also the franchise’s nastiest villain, a fact highlighting an uncomfortable, much-noted racial dynamic running through all six films named for Rocky, every one of which depicts a Black champion humbled, beaten, or killed in the ring by a White challenger
How in the world was Rocky racist just because Rocky is white and wins against two black opponents (because that's what 'uncomfortable, much-noted racial dynamic' means)? How is Drago - a one dimensional cardboard cutout figure if there ever was one - not important win it comes to Rocky's victories? And how is skin color the 'main' difference between Clubber Lang and Rocky? I told him I wondered if he actually watched the third movie.
Now, he did respond to me and was overall fine in terms of behavior. He responded and tried to point out why I was wrong. Why white privilege and systemic racism and racist narratives and sociological frameworks and social sin and cabbages and kings and whatnot. He responded that nobody is saying Stallone was racist or motivated by racism. Which, to me, wouldn't be as bad as what he was suggesting. If he's not saying Stallone was being racist, he's saying the problem is simply that Stallone was white. The part Stallone wrote for himself was filled by a white man, and that's the issue. Which, by my lights, is far worse. After all, it's one thing to falsely say a black man is guilty of something he's not guilty of. It's another to say he's guilty simply because he's black. Or Jewish. Or Muslim. Or Indian. Or any group.
I tried to wrap my head around Deacon Greydanus's responses, and I can't figure out what he's trying to say if not that. It especially gets tough when he leaves that nebulous world of academic abstract thinking and says one possible solution for mitigating the racist narrative of the first Rocky movie would be making Mickey, Rocky's coach and mentor, black by scrubbing Burgess Meredith. That seems pretty concrete, rather than abstract sociological, to me. He's saying the problem with Mickey was the actor's skin color, and the skin colors involved, and a different skin color would solve the problem.
Which, per my upbringing in liberal post-WW2 America, is racist. I don't care how sociological you insist you're being. Saying the problem with someone or something is the skin color - no other accusations intended - is a big 'Where's the swastika?' warning sign. Again, that's from decades of having it pounded into my skull that it is ever and always evil to judge someone by their skin color.
Perhaps I'm missing what he said, but that's the best I could come up with. Whatever it was, he obviously embraces the very racist White Privilege narrative, as well as the assumption of America as foundationally racist, thus anything produced can be fit into the 'America as racist' narrative; that "uncomfortable, much-noted racial dynamic". If I'm wrong about that, I wish someone would explain what he was actually trying to say.