The Tragedy of Apollo Creed

In all fairness, I should point out ahead of time that the following entry will interest only me. It is considered bad form for a writer to do that, but the following entry MUST be written.

I’ve always maintained that the first four Rocky movies is just as much about Apollo Creed as it is the titular hero. His story arc follows that of the traditional tragic hero.

He starts as the best in the world, unbeatable, untouchable: a figure who’s almost grown mythical in his prowess. Every other fighter is too scared to face him, at least, in his own humble opinion. He’s cocky, arrogant and deservedly so. He’s very good at what he does. He’s just not as good as he thinks he is. No-one possibly could be.

His own hubris leads him to choose a random fighter, on the assumption that any fighter he picks will not be a threat to him. And Rocky doesn’t beat him. But Rocky embarrasses him and puts his reputation into doubt. Once again, his pride gets the better of him and he rushes blindly into a fight that can only hurt him.

By doing so, he loses the title and he fades to the background.

But his arc has not reached full decline. By the fourth movie, he has fallen completely by the wayside. Forgotten mostly by the public at large, he allows himself to take on one last fight and is killed in the ring.

In days of old, Apollo Creed would have been the hero of any Greek tragedy. The brave warrior whose single flaw is his own ability to recognize his own fallibility. But in our own culture, there is less reverence for the best of the best. If anything, the Best is held up as an example of something to be mocked and derided. They’re shown as insufferable, arrogant and consumed with thoughts of themselves.

Instead, we worship the underdog; the little guy that rises up and topples the number one guy off his throne. The Karate Kid, any Rocky movie, The Bad News Bears, or pretty much any sports movie.

Where once the winners, like Apollo Creed (or Odysseus or Jason or Hercules) would have poems and epics and plays written about them, they’re now relegated to the supporting roles while the loser takes the stage.

Dylan Charles

5 thoughts on “The Tragedy of Apollo Creed

  1. maybe. but you might only be referring to popular culture, media, propagated stories. underdogs have made for a good story since old times. david and goliath?
    but i think if you look at how people actually behave toward those who are “best of the best,” you’d find that there is still overall respect.
    after all, if all the “best” were simply derided in real life, why then do we still have people striving to be better than everyone else? who would be motivated to bite and claw their way to the “top,” if not promised something once they got there?

    1. Someone once pointed out that the David and Goliath story is hardly the tale of an underdog beating up the bigger guy. David hit him in the head with a rock. That’d be like if Rocky went into the ring with a baseball bat.

      And I think, at least with regard to the media and pop culture, it’s always more interesting to see someone struggling than it is to see them succeeding. And we love to root for the guy who starts with zero.
      And that’s true in real life too. We love the person who clawed his way to the top and who’s an “outsider” and is shaking up the establishment.

      And just because we think of the people on top as over-wealthy, undeserving, pompous assholes, that doesn’t mean we don’t want what they’ve got.

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