ROLLERBALL was a futuristic movie made in 1975 that had multiple layers of deep meaning far beyond the brutal sport it portrayed. It depicted a future, supposedly the year 2018 AD, in which global corporations rule the world.
Countries no longer exist and the sport of Rollerball was designed by the corporations to defeat individuality.
James Caan played the lead role as a Rollerball player who becomes the sport’s leading star. The corporate executives don’t like him because he is becoming bigger than the game itself, which was created to numb the masses into a corporate mindset of teamwork and cooperation.
To make matters worse, the Rollerball star begins to question his role in the grand scheme of life. He even visits a facility that houses the world computer system in an attempt to learn how the corporations had come to power.
According to the man in charge of the computer, they're having a problem with history because they can’t find the 13th century. He doesn’t seem too concerned though, as he claims the only important things about that century were Dante and a couple of corrupt Popes.
Unable to get any coherent answers from the computer, the Rollerball star wonders why so many people prefer creature comforts to freedom. Even though the corporations provide things everyone seems to need, very few people appear to be contented with their existence.
When the corporate executives attempt to get the Rollerball star to retire from the sport, he refuses. He realizes they have controlled his entire life and he isn’t about to give in to them.
He stands alone, an individual in a society of human robots, defying the very authority that helped make him rich and famous.
While the game of Rollerball had some exciting scenes of excessive sports mayhem, it only served as a metaphor for the larger issue of the human tragedy of choosing comfort and security over freedom and individuality.
We are engaged in a great internal struggle for freedom in America, as we continue on a slow descent into becoming a police state in the name of national security.
Those in power continue to consolidate more control by manipulating the masses into the false belief that additional government involvement and intervention is the solution rather than the problem.
One of the next steps will be National ID Cards. And when those in power discover that the ID cards don’t work well, we will all be required to have a “mark” placed in our right hand or forehead. And those who refuse the mark will be outcasts, unable to participate in society, with only their dignity intact.
Ironically, the Energy Corporation of Houston was the Rollerball team James Caan played for in the 1975 movie. That bit of movie magic has a familiar ring to it as Enron Corporation of Houston went through the largest corporate bankruptcy in history a couple of decades later.
By the way, another version of ROLLERBALL hit the movie screens in 2002. Larry Ferguson, one of the writers on the project, is an old friend of mine from my days in Los Angeles as a fellow struggling screenwriter, back in the early 80s.
Larry won a Golden Globe for the screenplay adaptation of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. He is also the screenwriter of such movies as THE PRESIDIO, BEVERLY HILLS COP II, ALIEN III, HIGHLANDER, MASTER AND COMMANDER, and many others. Needless to say, he is no longer struggling.
Global corporations are not the problem. They exist merely to serve the appetite of the masses. If they have enslaved us, we have enslaved ourselves.
Human complacency in the face of declining individual liberty will be the downfall of civilization. Too many people prefer to be treated like farm animals, safely corralled, processed and well fed, than to be free.
Quote for the Day – "Anyone who would give up some of their freedom in the name of security is entitled to neither." Benjamin Franklin
NOTE: I wrote the above piece in 2008. Presently, a dozen years later, we are dealing with the Corona virus which is compelling governments to curtail freedoms in the pretence of the common good. I suspect many of the repressive governmental measures will remain in place in the future. Just as in the literary Orwellian world of 1984, the Rollerball movie was once again reminding (warning) us that freedom is precious and must be preserved for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where freedom isn't for wimps.