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Volume 6748

Burroughs and Stallone
By Doug Denby (2020/01/20)

Rocky II is the embodiment of one of the most fundamental dilemmas of mankind. It is the psychological examination of women’s desire to find the best mate possible for reproduction, attendant with the desire, after the mating, to keep that mate safe not for more reproduction but his preservation for his family life as father.

For the first, she seeks a man who stands taller than others; one who exhibits greater capability than others; one who demonstrates, in no uncertain terms, his fitness for reproduction. For the second, she wants one who will be there tomorrow and all the tomorrows to come; one who will no longer face the challenges that proved his worthiness, as this is dangerous. In short, she desires to domesticate him.

To be sure, this is not at a rational level, but rather at the genetic level. When she is successful, she will bear his offspring and he will be there to provide for her and the offspring. Unfortunately, this is the dilemma. The proving of worth is dangerous, and the danger must be removed for the sake of the offspring and her. This worth-proving is dangerous for the man, as it is supposed to be, but it is even more dangerous for the woman. It continually presents him to other women as worthy of mating. He may be tempted to mate with another. This isn’t so bad. What is more dangerous is that it takes him away from his job as protector and provider for her and the offspring, and this might become permanent.

In Rocky II, Rocky is called back to the ring — the place where he proved his worthiness for mating. Adrian, his now wife, cannot abide this, and Rocky is gored by the horns of her dilemma. He doesn’t know what is happening, but his drive to fight is gone. He has no will to compete. He has become more worthless than he was before his first battle with the sun-god Apollo, the god of archery, music and dance, truth and so much more; Apollo the eternally youthful, beardless, athletic beauty, the most masculine child, that he overcame.

Adrian’s brother, the useless depressed clown, Paulie, is the only one who sees it. Like the dwarf jester in the medieval court, he is unafraid to point out the obvious. Paulie confronts his sister, Adrian who does not understand what he is talking about. Confused and frustrated, and pregnant, she collapses, unable to deal with the great dilemma. She gives birth, and drops into a coma, for days.

Rocky does not leave her bedside. In his stumbling way, he reads to her. He reads Edgar Rice Burroughs’ western “The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County”. The copy Rocky reads is a paperback, crumbled and bent, as is he. Rocky needs to find himself, in the same way Burroughs needed to find himself.

Burroughs’ works reek with this dilemma, a dilemma as old as mankind itself. Aspects keep showing up in his writings from A Princess of Mars to the obscure “Uncle Bill”.

From Burroughs perspective his teenage youth was the great defining part of his life. It is the same for almost all men. It is the time, men recall, that exhilarates; the time when they tested themselves against others, and against the world; the time when they proved their worthiness to reproduce, if not to women, or a woman, at least to themselves. It is from this pool of confused strivers, that the women select their mates.

Some men partake in gladiatorial games; some venture into wilderness pursuits; some opt for body-building; some strum guitars; some dress-up in plays. All trying to find themselves and, more often than not unknowingly, impress the women. The American West was Burroughs’ teenage stage; his place of proof.

Not all men are successful. Those that are, enter this mucky, murky world of the mating dilemma. That activity that gained them the woman, becomes the same activity that is forbidden for the rest of their lives. Oh, it permissible for short stints, as long as the woman comes along, with the child. But, that is not the same, as any man can attest.

For both Burroughs and Rocky, it is the wife that neuters him. It is not the bull’s horns but the cow’s bellowing. Burroughs is never able to revive his long lost worth, or so his works show.

Unlike Burroughs, Rocky is granted permission to swing again on the great single horn of the unicorn. When his wife recovers from her coma, she, goddess like, allows him to do so. It appears that she would rather have him roaring than whimpering. This part had to be written by a man.

Burroughs, after years of frustration, divorces his wife and attempts to prove his worth to a newer, younger woman. That doesn’t work out either. Desperate to regain his worthiness, Burroughs becomes a WWII war correspondent, but that isn’t really successful either. Youth is gone, and it cannot be recovered.


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