After the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series, several of the players mentioned how they watched the Rocky movies in order to get pumped for their games. Although I knew the basic storyline and had watched the training montage from the original film, I had not seen any of the films. Based on the Cubs’ recommendation and the fact that the American Film Institute ranks Rocky the 2nd best sports movie of all time, I decided to watch it. It’s rated PG; how bad could it be?
I’m writing about Rocky’s relationship with Adrian. I know the story that the movie’s creators want us to see is a shy girl who, with the support of Rocky, is able to break away from her abusive brother and become an independent woman. They want us to see Rocky as, not just a fighter and a thug, but a guy with a tender side who builds people up as well as punches them down.
But that’s not what I saw.
Rocky and Adrian’s first date is sweetly awkward until they get to Rocky’s apartment complex. That’s where Rocky goes drastically wrong (both the movie and the character). Adrian does not want to go inside, but Rocky cajoles and lies to her until she finally does. Once inside Rocky’s apartment, Adrian is clearly uncomfortable. She wants to leave. Rocky has another opportunity to treat her with respect. But no, instead, he tells her he is going to kiss her, but she doesn’t have to kiss him back.
This set of scenes concerns me because Rocky’s sexually abusive actions “worked.” His “success” sends the wrong message to guys. It tells them that they are doing girls a favor by ignoring the girl’s wishes and pursuing the relationship on their terms. It tells them that by not accepting a “no” they can get what they want and everything will be ok. That is absolutely not how romantic relationships work.
Obviously, if Adrian didn’t like Rocky, she would not have gone out with him. But that fact does not excuse his behavior. It does not give him the right to touch her in any way. He was still wrong, offensive, and a jerk. Fellas, if you ever try to pull a “Rocky kiss” you should expect to be punched into next week.
I don’t consider myself a feminist. I don’t think women are perfect and I don’t hate men. I’m not looking for opportunities to bash the male order or to create insult when there isn’t one. But I’m not about to ignore a problem either. Women live in a dangerous world. Movies like Rocky make it worse by promoting false notions that women ought to be (and benefit by being) subjugated to male desires.