What a fantastic piece of writing - really like the (co) synaesthetic nature of your response and the way bodies are seen to love and hate in intimate detail. The film is haunted by absent bodies and the bodies that have aged - these are bodies that are mortal and (symbolically) immortal, which the film prophesizes will live on in memory and feeling. I write this on the morning of hearing about Prince’s death, feeling it deeply, and remembering how he connected to blacklivesmatter, a point picked up in Rebecca’s excellent post. Thank you.
What a beautifully poignant piece, Rebecca! So many wonderful points. I’d love to hear you say more about Donny’s complex class identity (and Bianca’s as well). Adopted into class privilege, he enters back into a world where men box because they don’t have another choice, he’s consistently told. What do you think of this in terms of the notion of “legitimacy” — class, cultural, and familial?
Beautifully put, Glen! He learns to fight from his dad in a way by watching the videos, but then takes on his dad as his opponent when he boxes against him. So smart of you to say he must become Rocky to become Creed while still being Johnson. I just love the complexity of this film and its very complicated understanding of shared experience across lines of age, race, and class. But then it manages to allow for the soecificities of age, race, and class to remain in each character as well. And honestly, I think Coogler just kind of takes Philly back as a site of black resistance and perseverance. In that way, it’s a lot like Oakland…
Thank you Amelie,
Yes, I am struck by the manner in which Coogler presents these ‘familial’ relationships - as Hannah and Rebecca will examine in more detail - including the maternal one with his adoptive mother. I like the way in which Donnie initially adopts Rocky’s position as he shadow boxes over footage of Rocky’s first fight with Apollo, but how he must again ‘become’ Rocky in his own final fight (also against a more experienced champion with a height and reach advantage) in order to become a Creed - and remain a Johnson.
The way the film reimagines Philadelphia is also fascinating. Rocky’s ascension is so idenitifed with the city, and his struggles equally figured in run-down, blighted neighbourhoods, but Coogler breathes new life into these same sites as (also) African American spaces while simultaneously highlighting their persistent (shared?) struggles and disadvantages.
Thank you Sean, especially for the reminder about ‘Do The Right Thing’.
Negra’s notion of Stallone/Rocky as ‘off-white’ is also valuable because it appropriately complicates Stallone/Rocky/Rambo as American-but-Other. Each is ‘American’ ideologically and aspirationally, but their heritage and place in society is invariably Other, Stallone/Rocky as ‘underdog’ Italian-Americans and Rambo as Native American/German.
As far as Stallone’s star image is concerned, I particularly like the way in which reinvigorating his star image (rather than merely extending it, as ‘The Expendables’ films arguably do) required a kind of submission at the same time as his character must reactivate his famed stubborn resistance.
wonderful reading Hannah, with such a rich understanding of how these films work within contemporary discourses around black masculinity and the wider history of the cultural representation of black fatherhood. I think the film has a really interesting through line in terms of matriarchy, motherhood, and a particular version of absenteeism - mothers in the film are also not entirely there or their presence is ‘late’ in some way, contributing to the crisis around maturation and belonging. Lovely work.
Hannah, this is such a terrific focus (and I especially appreciate the link to *Fruitvale* and Oscar’s role as dad). I’d love to hear what you’d have to say about the thread of father-son duos across the film — the “padman” and his son Amir, the Sporinos, and Little Duke Burton (son of Apollo’s trainer). It’s another set of legacies, as Glen (and Mary Ann Creed) put it.
Thanks, Jennifer. I think you’re spot on with how these posters could be considered to have more in common with fan fiction. There’s also a connection to trailers such as Titanic Super 3D (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJxj1mou03M), which changes the director to parody the anticipatory appeals of film promotion. But whereas that trailer revels in the terrible outcome of its what ifs…, the What If posters instead promote a kind of joyful, brief parallel world.
What a wonderfully taut and dense post, Glen! You’ve managed to attend to so many rich ideas in this very rich film. I’m particularly drawn to your claim that “in relinquishing authorial control over his star image – *Creed* is the first of the series Stallone neither writes nor directs – he extends and enshrines its legacy.” I agree, too, that the collaboration, both tacit and overt, doesn’t suggest a re-placing of the original figure/author (Rocky/Stallone) with the new character/author, but rather shows an interdependence between them, one that both builds on and redesigns a legacy (a notion that Donny’s mom comments on with the gift of the Johnson/Creed shorts). And indeed, *Creed* builds on other legacies, too, as Sean suggests; I also thought about the “pictures on the wall” scene from Lee’s *Do the Right Thing* when I first saw “Adrian’s” restaurant. This is a film that enlarges not just the Rocky franchise or Stallone’s legacy; it also reveals both the expansiveness of black filmmaking/authorship and the sites that *Creed* reimagines (like the city of Philadelphia).
Lovely piece Glen, beautifully explored. I like the way you draw attention to the binaries and fusions here, and how the complexities of Stallone’s star image are replenished and moved forward. I wonder if you have thought about Stallone/Rocky as ‘off-white’ (Diane Negra) and Italian-American, which might complicate/confuse the way he signifies as a star-actor, and the way his role works in dialogue and tension with Donnie? The scene in his restaurant reminds me of the scene in Sal’s pizzeria from Do The Right Thing, and what heroes are allowed to be on the wall…whose fight is being countenanced here?