In the 1975 film, Rollerball, power is defined by the amount of knowledge one has, and restricting others from obtaining knowledge is used as a means of control. Knowledge in Rollerball is essentially a form of empowerment: by keeping the audience distracted with the violent sport, the corporations are able to suppress any knowledge of their own ambitions of control while promoting a collectivist society that aims to eradicate any semblance of individualism. The corporations therefore seek to remove Jonathon from the spotlight as his massive fame is a threat to the establishment.

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Within the film, political and social power is held primarily through global corporations that have control of the world’s governments, media, transportation, housing, and every resource people require. The way they are able to maintain this power is by controlling the amount of knowledge people have accessible to them. The main plot of the film focuses on the corporations trying to convince Jonathon to retire, although the true knowledge of why he is being asked to retire in the prime of his career becomes the central mystery of the film. Jonathon slowly begins to uncover this knowledge, and once he does, he is able to slowly understand the larger political implications at stake: the corporations are threatened by Jonathon’s success because celebrating individual achievements undermines the authority of the corporate state. By withholding this knowledge from the public, the corporations are able to more easily control the masses.

One pivotal scene that reveals Jonathon’s slow understanding of the political forces he is up against is when Ella, his wife, comes to visit him in order to convince him to retire. As Ella and Jonathon walk in the woods, Jonathon reiterates several times that the executives have been asking him to retire. At first they promised gifts and money, but after these are rejected, they started changing the rules of the sport so he would be unable to play. As Jonathon mentions the changes, Ella keeps begging Jonathon to not play because the sport has become too dangerous. Jonathon, however, slowly discerns that Ella is under orders to get him to quit playing; her claiming that it has become too dangerous is used as reasoning, but it is not the true motive. She wants Jonathan to quit for no other reason than she is under corporate orders to convince him to quit. Jonathon soon realizes this, and when he realizes that his wife was essentially provided to him by the corporations, he is able to fully understand the extent to which the corporations have seized control of society. The corporations have seized not only economic control but also social control, through their ability to create false relationships that appear real. In this instance, Jonathon’s marriage is revealed to be false, and he finally understands that he was originally supposed to just be a pawn that the corporations used for their own agenda.

The one thing they withheld from Jonathon up to this point was the knowledge as to why the corporations were asking him to retire. They offered him great rewards as long as he is willing to accept that this knowledge be withheld. Thus, this represents the trade-off that the corporations are offering Jonathon, and by extension, everyone else: with ignorance comes comfort, while the pursuit of knowledge results in punishment. This proposed trade underscores how the corporations are able to subvert power from the public and control it themselves, as they have identified how to make citizens willingly ignorant: they provide superficial comforts and distractions in the form of a violent sport, which keeps the population both ignorant and complacent. Jonathon represents a clear threat to this social model, as his fame as made him become idolized by the public. However, once learns their methods, his own power grows as he is able to retake control of his life. He is no longer a puppet, as the knowledge he has gained has empowered him.