Podcast Review: The Statue

The Statue is about the Rocky Balboa statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The host is Paul Farber who is the director and co-founder of the Monument Lab that is located in Philadelphia. Farber talks about the millions of visitors that come to Philadelphia to see the statue. He describes how people relate to Rocky Balboa underdog story. For certain refugees, they immigrated to Philadelphia because of seeing Rocky. Farber examines the boxer Joe Frazier who some feel is underrepresented in the city. This is an interesting podcast that explores the Rocky Balboa statue from different angles.   

In The Statue, listeners learn about the history of the Rocky Balboa statue. It was created for a scene in Rocky III where the mayor honors Rocky Balboa. Following the production of the movie, Sylvester Stallone presented the city with the statue and it was debated whether if it should be installed. It was finally accepted and placed outside the Specturm (a sports complex) and then moved in 2006 to its current location outside the Museum of Art. Whether art purists like it or not, four million visitors annually come to see it and run up the museum steps in Rocky fashion. 

Rocky is celebrated in many ways in Philadelphia besides the displaying of the statue. These include Rocky the Musical and Rocky tours given by Rocky impersonator Michael Kunda. Kunda has dedicated his life to celebrating the movie and has a podcast about him besides giving Rocky tours. He participated in a Rocky Balboa impersonation competition that he of course won. It is entertaining to listen to all the ways that the movie is celebrated.     

Farber tells the incredible story of an Afghan family that fled the Taliban and moved to west Philadelphia. Of all the cities in the U.S. that they could emigrate to, they choose Philadelphia partially due to the Rocky movies. For the father of the family, Rocky Balboa symbolized an underdog battling through obstacles. He felt the story represented hope in creating a new home for his family in the United States. This story shows the significance of the statue in ways that are unexpected.

Farber devotes an episode to Philadelphia boxer Joe Frazier. Frazier is a Hall of Fame boxer who had three epic fights with Muhammad and is famous for his dangerous left hook. Frazier moved to Philadelphia from South Carolina. In many ways, he was the real life Rocky. He really did run up the steps of the Museum of Art and hit hanging meat while working at a meat packing plant. People interviewed for this podcast believe Frazier is not given his proper recognition in the city. It took until 2015 for a statue to created of him and the boxing gym he established was occupied by a used furniture store and is currently vacated. They feel the story of a fictional white boxer is more celebrated than a real life African-American boxer that is in the Boxing Hall of Fame. The latter part of Frazier’s career is somewhat tragic and hopefully he becomes more acknowledged than he is now.

The Statue does an thorough examination of the Rocky Balboa statue with all its pros and cons. The statue has more to it than meets the eye with Rocky’s underdog symbolism to those who are down on their luck. One of the negative effects of this is overlooking actual boxing legends such as Joe Frazier. Farber does an excellent job of providing a balanced view on a controversial topic.

You can listen to The Statue on the NPR website or apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify or other podcast apps.

Michael Walsh

Adult Services-Will Branch