Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rocky rocks the pastors

I'm a sucker for the triumph of the underdog and overcoming the odds--heck I've written about it--but I couldn't help smirking when I heard on NPR the other day that the latest Rocky movie "Rocky Balboa" is being shopped to pastors and religious leaders as a tool to teach their parishoners solid christain values and principles, a sort of outreach program. I am not joking. Apparantly Rocky is humble, turns the other cheek, and is an all-round tremendous guy and thus a good example of how to lead one's life--never mind he's mashing up his opponent's face and/or beating the shite out of him and vice versa. There's even a website called that's been set up by Hollywood (well, not all of Hollywood understandably) and/or Stallone--who spoke recently at a teleconference to the pastors about being reborn.

According to the radio piece, the website encourages churches and religious leaders to include references to Rocky in their sermons, to show clips from the movie, and thereby illustrate what a tremendous example of Christianity he is as he goes about his life. Why, they're so helpful, they even suggest themes for the Sunday sermon.

And the amazing things is that many pastors and priests have bought the spiel and done as the website suggested. I joke not. I'm convinced Rocky might be the first fictional character to be canonized if this ball keeps a-rolling.

As always there's a tiny fly in the ointment. Apparantly, Stallone is neither 'talking up' his 'reborn' credentials nor Jesus and the Christian arc of the story when he's interviewed by the mainstream press or other market segments which the studio and/or he has targeted. It's led one cynical wag to suggest they're trying to ride the coat tails of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," by targeting church leaders to drive the buzz and sales.

Of course pastors are in a lather to get people into their pews, but surely they can spot a bit of slick willie marketing, can't they? Maybe not--though it's true some are denouncing the attempt to influence the course of their sermons.

At least the City of Philadelphia had the good sense recently to refuse to designate the statue of Rocky (which they'd erected in some minor park) as a landmark and thus assure its permanent removal to the top of the steps of the venerable Art Museum, as some fans and interested persons desired. As a compromise, it now stands near the bottom of the steps as a piece of interesting artwork.

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