A disenchanted American nation was ready to vote in a Georgia peanut farmer as president, to put away the hallucinogenics which blurred out most of the late 60s and early 70s, to put away their anti-Vietnam War banners, and start over again. The morale of US of A was lagging by defeat in Asia, humiliation in the White House, and the beginnings of recession and the Energy Crisis.
Enter the Italian Stallion: Rocky Balboa
Rocky, the film of the year, was the story of loser made good. Many people called it the embodiment of the American Dream. How a down and out Philadelphia boxer moves up the ranks to challenge and defeat the heavyweight champion of the world is the kind of rags to riches story which is called "inspirational" and "quintessentially American."
Enter Toma Nikolic.
For his new radical party off-shoot, the Serb Progressive Party (SNS), Toma pulled out all the stops to do his first major rally in Belgrade. And as he walked into the hall, the music started to play. It was music that every middle aged American in Serbia (me, James Lyon, and a couple of embassy guys) immediately felt reverberating in the Great American Nostalgia. The music was at the top of the charts in US music in 1976 through 1977 and is still played whenever Great Feeling needs to be stirred. The theme from Rocky - "Gonna Fly Now."
Now many may wonder how the assuredly nationalist and allegedly ultra-nationalist Toma could ever possibly choose fanfare music which is the personification of the American Dream. One might have expected to hear Государственный гимн Российской Федерации (the Hymn of the Russian Federation) or at least a little of the 1812 Overture of Tchaikovsky. That's a moving piece of non-Western aligned ideological music. Isn't it?
But Toma knows better. Music is a powerful subliminal motivator. And this is not the first time that he has looked across the Atlantic for his inspiration. I still remember listening to Vangelis, the Conquest of Paradise, used in the movie 1492, when Toma was running for president in 2004. I thought the choice was amazingly strong, but I could not exactly place where I heard it before. So I called the Serbian Radical Party to ask.
At first they thought I was joking. But then I was passed from apparatchik to secretary to assistant deputy someone or other who told me that it came from 1492.
"You mean the movie about Colombus discovering America?"
"Are you SURE?" I asked, a little taken aback.
The ostensible and less-than-subtle message seems to be that Toma's "getting strong now" and he's "gonna fly now." The words seem to work with the ambition, but the overall effect - that he and Aca will go ten rounds with the opposition in parliament - seems a little... I don't know... American, if you see what I mean.
But these American movies nearly ALWAYS have a Happy Ending. I guess this could be Toma's point of difference.
Gotta fly now.