I thought the review was well-written, but I had the same reaction that Christopher does. What’s specifically “working class” about the idea that “Life has a mission, stable and knowable, and simply pursuing that mission will eventually result in victory. Or, put another way, hard work leads to success”?
This just sounds like your basic American protestant work ethic, or something like that. The nominally “working class” aspects of the earlier Rambos (I haven’t seen this one) seemed to have much more to do with the fact that Rambo’s overt class signifiers — his accent, his diction, his hair, his clothes — were stereotypically working class. And also, perhaps, that the mix of alienation from the institutions of middle class American life (government, church, community, etc.) with a kind of sentimental hyper-nationalism seems like a post-Vietnam working class vibe.
It seems like the late 70s and early 80s were the last gasp of a lot of white working-class cultural signifiers. Think about it, the late 70s and early 80s had musicians like Eddie Money, Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen on the charts (yeah, I realize those guys aren’t all the same, but bear with me), movies like The Deer Hunter and the Rambo films, and TV shows like Hill Street Blues all being seriously popular.
The decline, or transformation, depending on how you want to look at it, of white working-class culture to whatever has replaced it today (status-insecure suburban white Red-state culture, like Toby Keith and Larry the Cable Guy?) is a cultural phenomenon worth analyzing.
Also, by the way, I’m focusing on white working-class culture not to diminish that of blacks, Latinos or other minorities, or to imply their culture isn’t (at least in some ways) part of American working-class culture. Indeed, at this point in history, such groups may be the primary working-class culture in America, not the culture of guys named Bubba or Grabowski. I’m just trying to illustrate how a particular type of popular culture iconography seems to have disappeared, for reasons worth exploring.