44 / CHRONICLESnexist in our upper-middle-class suburbanncommunities. …” And thenmost fatuous: “I’m glad the law willngive Bernadette Protti a secondnchance. I pray she’ll discover that, asntime goes on, life gets better.”nIt was left to a schoolmate of Kirsten’snto restore some semblance ofnmoral balance. “The reader is led tonbelieve that society ‘made’ Bernadettendo what she did. We are led to believe,nif only for a moment, that Kirstenndeserved what she got, because younportrayed her as being a white suburbannsnob. I think your article skimpednon one very important point … annormal person does not stab a fellownclassmate to death because of highschoolnpressures and low self-esteem.nThe murder was an unfair tragedy fornKirsten Costas, not Bernadette Protti.”nOut of the mouths of children. Unfortunately,nfeature articles in RollingnStone—and acclaimed productions atnthe Kennedy Center—exert far moreninfluence in defining the moral andnintellectual moods of our nationalnleadership than does Kirsten’s teenagendefender. As long as influential thinkersnallow their misguided romanticismnto blur the dividing line between goodnand evil—or permit pop sociology tondeny the importance of individualnresponsibility—for so long wfll thenadvance of barbarism continue. ccnArthur Eckstein is professor of historynat the University of Maryland.nSCREENnRoundhousenMarxismnby Paul GottfriednRocky IV; Written and directed bynSylvester Stallone; United Artists.nThere is danger in reading too muchninto popular entertainment, particularlyninto a film that was obviouslynthrown together to extend SylvesternStallone’s string of money-makingnmovies. The Wall Street Journal maynbe correct in saying that this latestnblockbuster is mostly a tiresome rehashnof its predecessors. All of them, includingnthis one, roll on, throughnslovenly dialogue, to a climacticnbloody contest between Rocky and anpredestined opponent. In a formulanthat goes back to The Odyssey, thengood guy wins (or nearly wins in Roc^ynI) only after enduring a savage beating.nIn Rocky IV Stallone predictablynmoves toward the fated struggle with anSoviet giant who has been pumpednwith steroids.nThere are a few changes, however.nRocky and Adrian have definitelynmoved up in the social scale. ThenAdrian of Rocky IV is not only eightnyears older, but better poised and morenverbal than the one in Roc^y I. Accordingnto my eldest daughter. Rockynand his wife look less “klutzy” in theirnsuburban mansion than they did in thentenements of North Philadelphia.nWealth obviously suits them, evennthough it has not helped Rocky’sndiction.nAlthough my major reason for seeingnthe movie was to relieve my wife’snheadache by taking the children out,ntwo unexpectedly strong scenes caughtnmy attention. One takes place in a LasnVegas hotel, just before the Russiannboxer fights an exhibition bout innwhich he kills Apollo Creed. Thenhotel auditorium teems with highlivers,ngarishly dressed and wavingnAmerican flags. It is the world ofnhedonistic, degenerate capitalism thatnis depicted here. The American boxernenters the ring mockingly selfconfidentnand dressed in red, white,nand blue but woefully unprepared fornhis fight.nThe auditorium in Moscow wherenRocky later fights is strikingly different.nThe plainly dressed spectators looknsevere; all around loom the obligatorynpictures of Marx and Lenin and largenred stars. To emphasize the nationalistnmessage, Stallone places the entirenPresidium among the spectators andnshows Gorbachev responding to thenaction in the ring.nBut these touches seem less significantnthan the effect of having a toweringnposter of the Soviet boxer unrollednabove the crowd. Gazes become in­nnnstantly riveted, and the spectatorsncheer wildly. Looking at the poster andnthe elated spectators singing the Sovietnanthem, the moviegoer can feel somethingnof the power of the Marxist-nLeninist view of reality. I doubt thatnStallone grasped the full import ofnthis. In fact, he moved quickly beyondnthat key scene to the dreary fight and tona tasteless speech by Rocky at the endnof his match about Americans andnRussians both “having to change.”nYet, for one moment Stallone succeedednin portraying the awesomenemptiness of the Marxist vision: thenworship of brute matter without spiritualncontent. The poster of the massivenhuman hulk is not a clumsy or failednapproximation of classical art. Nor is itnthe Soviet counterpart of Americanncommercial drawing. It is a vivid statementnof an entire belief system thatngoes back to the attempt of the youngnMarx to revive the ancient materialistnphilosophy of Epicurus. Marx’s warnagainst the “fraud” of religious beliefnhas produced a far more bizarre mythologynthan anything which he attackednin the ancient or Christiannworld: the artistically sterile, dehumanizingnmyth of matter and physicalnenergy triumphant over spirit. Thisnmyth finds appropriate expression innthe glorified depiction of farm tractorsnand of scientifically trained athletesn— just as Michelangelo expressed hisnChristian Platonism through hisnsculpted biblical and pagan heroes.nUnlike Michelangelo, however, whonspoke of “freeing” the divinely givenniiorm trapped in stone, the Soviet statenteaches the sole reality of the material.nIt may be significant that Rocky’snBlack trainer wears a cross when hengoes to the Soviet Union. Rocky himselfnkneels in prayer before he beginsnhis fight against the robot-like Sovietnboxer. Although Stallone is not tellingnus of any voice proclaiming “In thisnsign you will conquer,” he is droppingna hint. The life of upscale capitalismnmay not be enough to ensure ournsurvival as a culture or world power.nSomething more may be needed, asnT.S. Eliot reminded us, to shore upnagainst the ruins. ccnPaul Gottfried is author of ThenSearch for Historical Meaning: Hegelnand the American Right (NorthernnIllinois University Press).n