Perceiving the Cold War through the Rocky IV Movie

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Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky IV is physically charged and captivating movie yet it represents a carefully plotted political propaganda genre that captured the psychological side of the Cold war between the United States and its allies on one side and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and its allies on the other during the 1980s. The suspenseful film premiered in 1985 at a time when there were heightened Cold War tensions between the United States and the USSR. The movie was well received by the public in the United States and beyond owing to its appealing sophistication in technical representations on terms of graphics, picture quality, clear plot chronology and superior sound qualities. Rock IV represents a reflection of the political and social turbulence that characterized the international system during the peak of the cold war during the 1980s. The film particularly depicts the frosty political and military relations between the United States and the Soviet Union but in reflecting the intricacies of the cold war, the film most importantly exposes the extents to which the international ideological rivalries had permeated into the deepest ends of the societal social, economic and political fabric. The public in the US and Soviet Union had completely been dragged into the supremacy rivalries between the two countries and had individuals had developed mutual disdain for citizens from the rival countries (Goldstein, 73).

The Cold War was a manifestation of the post World War II political conflicts, tensions and supremacy rivalries that emerged between the Western Block led by the US on one side and the Eastern Block led by the Soviet Union on the other (Goldstein, 33). Despite the end of the armed conflict that characterized Second World War, the major political powers in the world were unable to dissipate the underlying the ideological crises that defined their respective economic, political and social systems, with the US having emerged as a darling of capitalism and the Soviet Union subscribing to communism. Capitalism and communism are two extremely contradicting ideologies that are expressly and directly opposite of each other and in constant competition with each other. Capitalism is founded on democratic governance structures where the state is technically prevented from dominating or even interfering with economic activities in a country while communism is based on autocratic and dictatorial governance structures where the state owns, permeates and dictates all the economic activities in a country. Therefore, endless propaganda, political deceits, high profile espionages, arms race, nuclear armaments and pursuit of space technology became order of the day. It is in this respect that films and literary stuff such as book publications and newspapers became very powerful propaganda tools (Goldstein, 29). The Rocky IV movie best illustrates the extent to which films are effective tools for spreading propaganda. Indeed, the movie registered huge sales and popularity for its biased depiction of the US boxer, Rocky Balboa, as the more artful and creative in his winning ways than the Russian boxer Ivan Drago, who is depicted as being lazy, inexperienced and uncreative. These remain but evident illustrations of the psychological war path the ideological rivalries between the US and the Soviet Union had taken.

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The United States observed a capitalistic market economy in which the government allowed economic activities to flourish on market driven forces with minimal government interventions and controls while the Soviet Union observed the socialistic market economy in which the state controlled all the economic activities, including nationalizing almost all the key sectors of the economy (Goldstein, 29). Having emerged as the ultimate victor of World War II, the United States sought to assert itself as the undisputable global pariah, by spreading its preferred democratic and capitalistic systems to the entire world. However, this ambitious target of the United States was subjected to constant threats by the Soviet Union which had already asserted communism in countries such as China, Korea and Germany (Goldstein, 31). The insistence of the United States to rid the world of the socialistic system is what heightened the ideological tensions leading to the emergence of proxy wars in Korea and Germany that ended in the splitting up of Korea into South Korea occupied by the Western Block and North Korea sponsored by the Eastern Block. Germany was also split into two, East Germany occupied by the Eastern Block and West Germany sponsored by the Western Block. Germany has since reunified and destroyed the Berlin wall that separated the eastern and western sides.

Apart from limiting the collective freedom of states, the Cold War was also responsible for the detrimental state of individual human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens everywhere in the globe. In targeted countries such as the United States and the Soviet Union citizens have often become victims of indiscriminate disdain. In allied countries within the Eastern Block, the Cold War further aggravated internal tensions, ethnic rivalries and intricate social problems that led to the eventual collapse of the USSR into different sovereign countries. Such outcomes clearly interfered with the sovereignty of respective allied countries, and the Rocky IV film clearly illustrates that the Western Block was more than fascinated to see the unprecedented disintegration of the Soviet Union.

The proxy wars that resulted from the Cold War are of particular concern because the US and the Soviet Union should have adopted alternative approaches to spreading their political propagandas without necessarily trampling upon the sovereignty of other states. What was urgently required – if any one of the rival countries seriously needed to develop comprehensive strategies against their opposition to either capitalism or communism – was precise legally consistent definition of sovereignty, one that allows distinction between from acts of legitimate resistance from countries, in conformity with rules of international laws(Goldstein, 34). The enthusiasm that surrounds the Rocky IV movie is clear evidence that the ideological rivalries between the US and the Soviet Union on the economic and political progress on should have respected the sovereignty of other states and the basic rights of citizens everywhere, such that it should have be complimented by a “war on injustice” within the framework of global development strategy. To this end, this essay recommends that any ideological differences should always be based on clearly defined concept of globalization and should be conducted in such a way that it does not itself result to war mongering and discriminations. In other words, they must be integrated into comprehensive socio-economic policies in different countries and oriented towards just and balanced economic order in the different countries, one that will make the incidences of terrorist acts less likely and will finally erode the social basis of support for such acts. Moreover, the wars resulting from ideological rivalries must be based on the framework of collective security as defined in chapter VII of the United Nations Organization(Goldstein, 39).


Although military operations have dominated media coverage of propaganda wars, a much broader array of policy options may hold the key to reducing the appeal of global ideological struggles, particularly in military superpowers. The Rocky 1V film is synonymous to strategies that involve the use of soft power, a term first coined by political scientist Joseph Nye in a 1990 article on foreign policy to describe nonmilitary strategies to shape international relations and behaviors (Goldstein, 29). The Rocky IV movie exposes how various aspects of soft power such as propaganda were used in the United States to influence the opinions of the public against rival states. Indeed, the Cold War exposed the aspect failed or failing states as safe havens for transnational proxy wars for settling ideological disputes(Goldstein, 39). The film also explores the issue of post-conflict reconstruction, including in-depth examination of security, justice and reconciliation, opportunities for achieving economic well-being and increased reconciliation between rival parties. In the movie, Rocky Balboa offers king words to his rival, Ivan Brago, by acknowledging how much they had mutual disdain for each other. Rocky goes further to appreciate the fact that the mutual disdain that existed before the boxing match was transformed into a mutual respect after the fight. The final parts of the movie provide a critical analysis of public perception while evaluating whether the United States needs and the Soviet Union nee to re-invent their foreign and ideological policies or simply adapt new images that will increase its appeal to the citizens across the global spectrum. The theme of this film provides some of the most vivid accounts on how nonmilitary options can effectively be used to either increase or decrease inherent ideological tensions between different countries or regional blocks.

Works Cited

Bodenner, Chris. Cold War Containment Policy: Issues and Controversies in American

      History. Facts On File News Services. 21 May 2009

      <> 2007.

Goldstein, J. S. International Relations. Pearson Education, Inc., 2003.

Holmlund, Christine, A. Rocky IV: New Cold War Sequels and Remakes.

            A Review of Contemporary Media, 2006.

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