Running head: ROLLERBALL Violence Analysis of Rollerball Nikki Fiedler Barry University 1. In the film Rollerball, the ideas of violence will be related to Coakley’s views and theories. Historically violence was an accepted idea and large part of sport. From the blood-sports of ancient Greece to the cock and dog fighting in Folk games, these sports were built around brutal violence and lack of rules until the modernization of sports where violence decreased dramatically and organized rules took over the game.
In Rollerball both historical violence as well modern can be evaluated Rollerball although a futuristic sport and society, was based on a combination of rules and some violence. In the start of the movie there is obvious violence with bodies flying around and medics carrying off the injured, but this was a controlled violence as Coakley describes it as brutal body contact or borderline violence (Coakley 2001).
On several occasions the main character Johnathen made references of this control by saying “don’t fight when you ” re supposed to be somewhere else” and even teaching other teammates how to take out a biker in a clean way, comparable to a clean take out in baseball. As the movie progressed I believe this is where the futuristic sport turned into a blood-sport of ancient times.
With rule changes or even lack of rules the officials made in the Rollerball playoffs, this mimicked the lack of rules and emphasis of violence in the historical blood-sports (Coakley 2001).
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These were the characteristics of historical violence described by Coakley: increased violence, bloodshed, lack of rules, and lack of self-control. Defined as verbal or physical actions grounded in an intent to dominate, control, or do harm to another person, aggression will now be discussed (Coakley 2001).
I felt the entire game of Rollerball was played in an aggressive manor. At no time did I witness finesse in the sport, only hitting and taking out players. There were also several verbal references such as: “drive their jaw into their head”, “hit the little fellas”, “bash in their faces”, and “feelin’ mean”, to name a few.
Furthermore, there were aggressive acts outside of the game. For example, Johnathen choking Dapheny and even Johanthen and Swoop wrestling for fun. Rollerball also demonstrated deviant behavior as defined by Coakley, specifically deviant over conformity. In the Rollerball semi-finals and finals I felt this was the best example of Coakley’s deviant over conformity. In these two games many players were killed playing Rollerball. These intentional acts were plotted out and then carried out by these athletes, which falls under unquestionable un acceptance (Coakley 2001).
These acts also demonstrated criminal violence. A different view of deviant behavior was the fact that corporate was trying to force Johnathen to retire with not really telling him first and with no reason, more importantly though, how corporate talked of Rollerball. “It (Rollerball) wasn’t meant to be a game, ever.” Corporate purposefully and deviant ly planned the death game it became without ever telling the athletes or coaches which essentially led to the blatant deaths of some Rollerballers. Coakley discusses commercialization in sport and how it relates to promoting these athletes. The Rollerball athlete, especially Johnathen, were looked at by the public as Gods. With the popularity of Rollerball and the violence it contained, this is what drove the fans to love and adore the sport seeing nothing wrong with the violence.
Almost like our beloved hockey of today, the fans dying to see and good fight and bloodshed. It is very easy for the fans of Rollerball to blame commercialization for their crazed passion and possibly their own violent acts of their culture. This theory can be compared to Coakley’s discussion of the NFL and WWF (Coakley 2001).
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These sports glorified violence which could make it an easy cop out for a fans behavior. As stated by Coakley violence is not limited to men and if we want to understand violence in sports we must understand gender ideology and issues of masculinity in culture (Coakley 2001).
Many times violence by women in sport may not be thought of because typically women do not participate in contact sports.
Most violence is glorified because of the interest in men contact sports such as football and hockey. This does not mean women do not par take in violent acts. Today contact sports for women are becoming more popular such as women’s professional football and boxing. Coakley goes even further saying masculinity is defined by being tough to participate in violent confrontations and avoiding social label (Coakley 2001).
One example of masculinity in Rollerball is once again Johanthen choking Dapheny. This was portrayed as a powerful masculine position that seemed accepted by both man and women. Another example of masculinity was at the tree burning party where men traded off their women for others almost turning into a swinger party. But the most obvious idea of violence and masculinity was when (although I thought it was drug induced) the women shooting down enormous trees with large flame throwing guns, turning the trees to ashes. The film Rollerball was made in the 70’s when women were not thought of committing violent acts, but staying at home cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children, not shooting trees. In Rollerball this was perceived as an accepted practice by both men and women.
As the trees were burning to the ground both men and women were laughing, clapping, and cheering and even passing the gun from man to women to participate in this disturbing activity. Could Rollerball this highly popular film started the women’s movement of violent acts and women leaving the kitchen? Who knows? As discussed before Rollerball also demonstrated off-the-field violence. Coakley’s views on off-the-field violence is described as a carryover by the athletes (Coakley 2001).
He goes on to say that these high profile athletes in contact sports may have difficulty in controlling their rages and possibly their reputations which eventually lead to off-the-field violence of assault or sexual abuse (Coakley 2001).
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Once again the prime example in Rollerball is Johanthen choking Dapheny in a fit of rage when he became upset with corporate and Rollerball. Spectators attending contact sports tend to be vocal and emotional and can lead to fan violence (Coakley 2001).
Coakley describes this fan violence as a manly and tough expression, especially when the fans are watching these violent contact sports which are telling people violence is ok and condemned. A hockey player can be in a brutal fight and only receive a major penalty, but when a fan gets in a fight they will be sent to jail. The fan perception of sport and violence is a big part of these violent acts. Throughout not only the United States but they world there are instances of fan violence. How many times do we see riots after games, even if the team won? In Scotland soccer games between rival Scottish cities break out into street fights, and interestingly enough these teams have religious affiliations, one Catholic, one Protestant. Coakley says this is one of the factors for fan violence, history and ethnic mix (Coakley 2001).
In Rollerball, fan behavior and violence followed the how the sport developed throughout the film. In the beginning when Rollerball had controlled violence and rules, the fans would yell at the athletes and opposing fans with no physical violence. But as Rollerball moved into the lack of rules and criminal violence, which the fans perceived as normal to the sport, the fans the turned to physical violence themselves, fighting each other and even running on to the Rollerball track in an attempt to attack the athletes. 2. After reviewing chapter three on history I feel Rollerball most resembles the games of ancient Greece 1000 B. C.
to 100 B. C. Some comparisons of Rollerball to ancient Greece are: only young males participated, violence / injury were common, women prohibited from sport, political significance of sport, prize money (comparable to salary for Rollerballers), and perceived power of athletes (Coakley 2001).
All of these characteristics coincide with Rollerball.
Most interestingly to myself was the political influence of the ancient Greeks. There was obvious political influence by corporate in Rollerball which really helped me decide in choosing this time period. 3. I felt the overall message of Rollerball was the obvious violence, but to enjoy sport for sport not the outside influences.
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Our hero Johnathen continually played the game for the love of the game, not money or political power. This message showed that people in general should play sport for love not outside reasons which could be compared today with large salaries, power, and of course politics. The film in my mind both glorified and condemned violence. Violence was part of the game, no doubt.
But beside our beloved Johnathen who was the fan favorite? That’s right Swoop the goon. He glorified the violence with this powerful hits and love of his swoop technique to take out players. The fans loved it as well as his teammates. Another glorification and condemnation was at the tree burning party. Replay after replay was shown the entire night with the crowd watching these brutal hits and then congratulating the athletes at the party. I felt the only realization of the violence came at the end when the championship game became a death match, with of course Johnathen winning.
4. The first theory I will discuss is the critical theory. This theory is based on cultural ideologies such as race, class, and gender (Coakley 2001).
There was a social construction by Rollerball that I viewed.
At the end of the movie the teams in the championship were the big bad Americans and the Japanese team. There were several references by the American Rollerballers of “little fellas” and “they ” re too small.” I believe this was meant to be an idea the United States is big and powerful compared to the small powerless Japanese team. I sure this idea came from dropping nuclear bombs on Japan. The next theory I chose was the critical-feminist theory.
Coakley states this theory is based on male values and traits, such as aggression and strength (Coakley 2001).
This whole sport and society was based on male values which we saw not only in the sport of Rollerball but outside of sport, male aggression on women and swinger like actions at the party. This was a futuristic male world they were living in. My final theory is figuration al. This is described as where the sport is in history and it’s significance (Coakley 2001).
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Figuratioanlists researched and found sports over history became more rule organized and formal which prohibited violence (Coakley 2001).
This is where Rollerball started in the beginning of the movie. But once again as time went on it developed into blood-sport, not because of historical time, but because of perception. Different groups of people give different meaning to sport and culture. Maybe the Rollerballers perception was sport but on the other hand corporate’s perception was power and violence. I think historically speaking Rollerball wanted the rules of normal sport with the lesser accepted sport violence, brutal body contact, borderline violence, and quasi-criminal but the perception of different people led to the demise of the sport. On a side note you asked if Rollerball is close to behavior of today’s sport.
I think some of the behavior is similar. We have fan violence (try going to a Steeler/Brown game in Pittsburgh).
There are similarities in violence in sport especially football and more so hockey where players cross the line of possible criminal violence although I don’t think they should be jailed. I think Rollerball though went further than sport will go today. There is too much money and involved to kill off sport. Oh and don’t forget love of the game by the athletes, right? REFERENCES Coakley, J.
Sport in society: Issues and controversies (7 th ed. ).
New York: McGraw-Hill.