Thursday, December 31, 2015

The movies Concussion, Rollerball, and the myth of the solo inventor

With the movie "Concussion," derived from work by Dr. Bennet Omalu on football injuries, getting some
play in the year 2015, one thinks back 40 years to the 1975 movie Rollerball (which was set in the year 2018), wherein the character
MoonPie got the ultimate concussion. Although MoonPie is turned into a vegetable, the movie
protagonist Jonathan E. (James Caan) refuses to sign to terminate his life.

In 1975, Vincent Canby made a connection between Rollerball and football:

The only way science-fiction of this sort makes sense is as a comment on the society for which it's intended, and the only way "Rollerball" would have made sense is a satire of our national preoccupation with televised professional sports, particularly weekend football.

Although the film could be seen as a poster child for growing concern over violence in sports [see ], in particular football, it also illustrated the enjoyment of fans on seeing the violence.

Rollerball was based on a story by William Neal Harrison,a professor at the University of Arkansas and supposedly was inspired by Harrison seeing a fight break out on the court during a college basketball game.
As one piece of trivia, when Rollerball was filmed, the crowd scenes used the recorded sounds of fans at a Razorback basketball game.

But Rollberball is not simply about violence. As Wikipedia points out: Rollerball was conceived not merely to satisfy man's bloodlust, but to demonstrate the futility of individualism. Jonathan's singular talent and longevity in the sport defeats the intended purpose of Rollerball. In the movie, this message is conveyed by Energy Corporation chairman Mr. Bartholomew (John Houseman). In the world of patents, Mark Lemley, writing on the myth of the solo inventor, could be viewed as a Mr. Bartholomew.

Related to Lemley's "myth of the solo inventor"

In the scene in which Jonathan views the now-vegetable MoonPie, there was mention that Moonpie has no dreams. This is an allusion to an earlier line by Mr. Bartholomew:

Sweet Dreams, Moonpie. That's a bad habit you've got there. You know what that habit will make you dream, Moonpie? You'll dream you're an executive. You'll have your hands on all the controls, and you will wear a gray suit, and you will make decisions.


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