There is an important montage in Rocky IV that tells you all you need to know about the Rocky movies, namely: they are not about boxing. I mean, yes: Rocky is a boxer and literally every Rocky film ends in a boxing match, which Rocky either wins ( II, III, IV) or valiantly just-barely loses ( I, Balboa), and he is then presented with a microphone, his face just a large pink piece of meat now, with red and Vaseline on it, and sweat all down him, and someone decides now is the best time to talk to him, and so he sort of gags something into the mic – "If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!" or something like that, sounding a lot like you do after you've just thrown up at a party and you're desperately asking your mate to fetch you some water – and the crowd all cheer and his wife sniffs once and cries. This is every Rocky film. So you would be forgiven for thinking the Rocky films are about boxing. They're not.
So I could go on some sort of saccharine naval-gazing bit about how Rocky films are about heart, and family, and overcoming adversary, and that hard work can trump natural athleticism, and that getting punched really hard and repeatedly in the head is superbly heroic, or the importance of running up steps, but as the Rocky montage from Rocky IV tells you: no, the Rocky films are about one thing, and one thing only: being insane and strong in a field is a better training technique than actually working out in a gym, always.
Consider: Rocky I, he fought to a draw by punching meat in factories, being raced by children and chasing a chicken around a yard. Rocky II: okay, he worked out in a gym and he won. Discount that. Rocky III: Rocky got cocky, got beaten by a much younger and fiercer fighter, and to regain his old form had to go do homoerotic shuttle sprints on a beach with Apollo Creed and go swimming for a bit. Rocky IV: just fucking run through snow a lot. Balboa: be really old and strong in a dimly lit gym, extended saxophone solo soundtrack.
So the lesson to be learned from the Rocky films is this: not everything, on the surface, is exactly what it seems. Not everything is about what you think it is about. Sometimes you have to peel back a flap of skin to see the true, red, raw beating heart within: what's on the surface won't tell you everything you need to know about something. Let's take an example: you might think Sylvester Stallone's Instagram account is just an Instagram account. But you are wrong. It is actually art.
I think to truly appreciate Sylvester Stallone's Instagram account for what it is we have to consider it from the point of view of what it isn't. Namely: this is not an Instagram account in any sense of the word. Go look at your Instagram, now: a carefully curated colour palette of warm homeware shots, pictures of single cocktails you ordered at bars, a plate of brunch, a photo where you look cute. This is Instagram: a self-curated feed of what you eat, drink, look like and where you live. How many dogs you have met this week. A sign you saw, once, or some graffiti. Decent sunsets. That's it. There is that overriding idea – spawned from a Thought Catalog piece about two years ago, if we want to apportion blame – an idea that social media is "just the highlights reel", a focus on the good and a careful sidestepping of the bad, and no more is that so than on Instagram: we never cry on Instagram; we are rarely melancholy. We are never hungry and we have never eaten "just toast" for dinner. Our hair is always perfectly coiffed and never wet from the rain. Say you sit in a small pool of cum in the back of a taxi – and we've all done it! – that will not make it to Instagram. Instagram is about the light, not the shade. Is it the best of us all with no flaws.
So Sylvester Stallone's Instagram feed is not like that. Because Sylvester Stallone's Instagram feed, roughly:
— Short videos where Sylvester Stallone is harassing his brother, Frank (*1), who looks like what Elvis's inevitable endgame would have been had he lived long enough to get to that point. You Either Die as Elvis Or Live Long Enough to See Yourself Become Frank Stallone;
— Short videos where Sylvester Stallone tells impenetrable dad jokes to his model daughters, who are tired of this but trying not to show it;
— 30-year-old behind-the-scenes Rocky stills, because as discussed the Rocky films are the greatest &c. &c. &c.;
And I find this consistency soothing, like a pill. I feel this is important. So let's take a look through a few of Sylvester Stallone's greatest Instagram hits, and then all at the end agree that I am right and that this is the most perfect art currently available in the world, amen.
ART #1: 'SYLVESTER LOCKS THE DOOR'
So I mean at first you are watching this and thinking, 'This is not art. This is two ancient, strong, smooth-faced men quarrelling with half-banter like 12-year-olds. This is not art at all.' Wrong! Watch the video again, for it is a mess: Frank's talking over Sly; Sly's saying shit like, "Hey Frank, can you swim? Why–why don't you do a backflip, into that puddle?" Like, I mean, these jokes are awful, and also Frank is dressed like some insane dude they just pulled out of a jungle to tell him the Vietnam War ended 42 years ago and can you please stop fighting now. And then it comes to a close: perfect-focused rain drops on glass; Frank, gauzy in the background, immaculate golf swing; and then the words, "The Idiot". I'm pretty sure that's the end of every French arthouse film ever made.
ART #2: 'A PORTRAIT OF A MAN AT PEACE'
Think about Sylvester Stallone in the quiet moments of his life. Sylvester Stallone, old and strong and with a hairline like iron, just puttering about his palatial LA home. He eases onto a sofa and makes a creaking sound. He puts on a small pair of glasses to look at an iPad. Maybe Sylvester Stallone makes a pasta sauce, carefully chopping an onion with his gigantic hands. When do you think Sylvester Stallone last cried in the shower? I bet it's been decades. When do you think he last got mad about a parking fine? There's no need to. I like to think of him as a man of peace, as he is here: so calm he has forgotten a word, so zen he can zig-zag through traffic while simultaneously delivering an Instagram sizzler about Expendables 4. And this one's really fun because he has to do a whole move at the end to turn the recording bit off and looks for a second like a strong but ancient Honey Bun Baby:
So that's art.
ART #3: 'SYLVESTER STALLONE IS THE STRONGEST DAD IN THE WORLD'
When I was a kid, at primary school, we always used to settle fights like this: we would brag about how hard our dads were. You know how it goes: someone throws your cheese sandwich on the floor, or stomps on your Babybel, or calls you a poo-head or something, and you lock them square in the eyes and say: "My dad could beat your dad up." Or: "Oh yeah? Well my dad's harder than your dad." I mean, I never actually did this because, even at seven, I sort of suspected my dad was a pussy and would last a flimsy four to seven seconds in any sort of violent situation with anyone else's dad. "Car Park Pagga Called Off," the headlines would say, "After Joel's Dad Got So Scared He Pissed His Jeans." Or: "Tony Golby's Thick Nerd Glasses Split Perfectly in Two By Single Dad-Punch, Also He Is Still Unconscious Somehow." That sort of thing.
The hardest dad in the world, though – the dad who could beat all other dads – is Sylvester Stallone. But it is important that you know he is still a dad. This is why he reminds us by filming these videos with his gazelle-like daughters. I don't know how many daughters he has, because they are all identical, but I think it's somewhere between three and 40, and they all get a sort of fleeting look of panic in their eyes when he turns the front-facing camera around on them – the subtext, I think, of Sylvester Stallone's Instagram, is that he videos a good eight, ten hours of his day, but the ones we see are just the ones he deigns to put online – an "Ah, no, not this shit again" eye-roll. And this is a perfect example of that: a simple, pure, family moment (daughter dancing foolishly) hijacked by 20 consistent seconds of daddery ("No, come on… you're going to pull something") for absolutely no reason at all, then topped with the cherry of a joke that makes absolutely no sense at all and isn't by any traditional metrics a joke, but is delivered like a joke so I guess it is a joke?, and that joke is: "Yeah. DANCING WITH THE BARS."
Sometimes art doesn't have to make sense.
ART #4: STRENGTH
At one point you just get so strong you can only do this pose in photos, as per the written rules of the law, and just look how flawless this is. Look. It's like Sylvester Stallone is so strong his own spine is struggling to contain the strength of him. How many thousands, hundreds of thousands, of photos are there of Sylvester Stallone doing a single fist to the camera? Scientists cannot calculate that number. Art.
ART #5: 'THIS IS HOW YOU KILL FRANK STALLONE'
Have you ever thought what it might be like to murder Frank Stallone? No, me… me neither. What about murdering Frank Stallone while uttering a semi-weak Elton John joke, sort of like in 80s cop-buddy movies where you have to say something smart after you shoot or arrest someone? No, I–… I have never done that, either. But if you ever wanted to envision what that would be like, then it would be like this. This is what strangling Frank Stallone looks like. It would be art.
I just like it, you know? Every celebrity – and, indeed, every person alive; you don't necessarily need to be famous to only post the good selfies on Instagram – curates, retouches, polishes their online presence, runs it through a team, tweets their initials on the rare times they actually say what's been attributed to them, lives a distant life, far removed from the rest of us. But not Sylvester Stallone. Sylvester Stallone is really fucking about on Instagram. He basically just spends his time mildly irritating the people closest to him and then does a big fist about it at the camera.
We all need a bit of an escape, sometimes, don't we, in this cold, cold world, and that's where art comes in. Art can be expensive and it can be challenging; it can be obtuse and it can be provocative. It can be difficult to decipher. But it could just be Sylvester Stallone looking sad about Drake in the back of a taxi. Hard to know.
More on VICE:
1* Frank Stallone, side-note, is a keen collector of Trump merchandise so niche I can't even believe it exists. Does he own a red MAGA cap? He does not. He owns a camo-print MAGA hat, because that is more American. On the day of the election, Frank Stallone donned an eerie rubber full-head Trump mask (a thing?) then made a video of himself, as Trump, thanking himself, Frank Stallone, for his vote. He put a tiny cardboard MAGA hat decorative on his Christmas tree. He owns a boxed vinyl toy of Hillary Clinton in prison, which… I mean, I don't even know where you would even go about buying that thing. Anyway, yes: my 9,000-word article, "A Deep Dive Into Frank Stallone's Trump Merch Collection, and the Lessons We Can Learn Within" is due to come out next week.