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The Fighter


Manliness & the problem of family

Contemporary America is a bad time for aspiring white boxers. Irish Micky knows this. He is ashamed both because he dislikes his family & because they abuse him. Filial piety & justice conflict. Foremost, he lacks confidence, not skill.

This recalls Rocky: America’s predicament is a loss of confidence in America’s cause, which hurts men. Rocky and Micky both need a woman; neither is much of a lover; both show endurance. But Rocky lost, whereas Micky wins. Rocky had no family, whereas Micky has too much. – Their fighting styles are similarly different. Rocky proved he was not a punching bag by attacking early & taking his chances. Micky is defensive, he takes the punishment. He attacks unexpectedly & decisively. This reveals his character & the injustice of lowered expectations.

I like my movies unsentimental, but that is undemocratic. Men cannot look each other straight in the eye. – You will learn about yourself if you decide who you like better, Mark Wahlberg or Christian Bale. Who is the better actor? Who is the better man? What do you like to see? Compelling ugliness or faltering nobility?

The day comes when a tough decision is necessary. All his family problems are coming back to destroy Micky’s life. America was self-destroying in the ‘70s – we see that repeated in the generation born then. But then we see what hope there is for democracy. A young girl, spirited, beautiful, & in love. A boy will go back crying to his mother’s arms. A man will admit there is only so much good & that necessity may separate us. Micky has to start his own family & rule his family if he is going to hold high his head. He turns everything ugly about his family into something good. Fear becomes anger; poverty becomes neediness; & pettiness becomes humility.

Perhaps we can return to humor now. Marky Mark has an attractive smile; he shrugs things off; his face records surprise & resignation. He goes to a sophisticated movie & sleeps his way through it. The healthy thing to do, I think. Certainly, that is not the kind of movie Wahlberg makes. But then again, insight is not pretentious, it is unassuming.

Watch this movie, if you do not bat eyelids easily. Sure, you hear all sorts of crass & vulgar things, but they stand for self-reliance & straight-forwardness. Calling a spade a spade is always crass; cutting things down to size seems vulgar. It is the stuff of comedy to make the high seem like the low, both to come across as unassuming & to suggest what is wrong with idealism. It is an unusual way of showing courage, but it is courage nevertheless.

For fans of Mark Wahlberg & Christian Bale, a good boxing movie.