Thursday, August 29, 2019

Theology of the Body and...Rocky? Part One

The Rocky films are some of my favorite movies of all time because I love boxing and have found
The Rocky films are some of my favorite movies of all time because I love boxing and have found great inspiration in the struggles that the Rocky Balboa character overcomes throughout the series. One of the most amazing pieces of the story that is at times overlooked due to the nature of the underdog theme is the relationship Rocky has with his wife Adrian. Here we have two simple people who in the worlds' eyes have very little to offer that make all of the difference in the world to each other. They truly exemplify the following quote: To the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world. 

In this first installment of what will be a six part blog that I call Theology of the Body...and Rocky? we will focus on the first film and how these two simple people lived out the call to will the good of the other. To some it may seem like a strange idea to use a boxing film to display such an idea but anyone who has seen the Rocky series knows that there is also a great human story in each film, which would include the desire that we all have for authentic love.

The first time we see Adrian is when Rocky stops by for what we will see are regular visits to her place of employment, which is a pet store. Right away we can see that he's trying to get her attention but does so in a respectful way. He greets her with kindness and wants nothing more than to spend some time with this very shy and insecure women. His jokes are terrible but he's very sweet and even gets Adrian to smile at one point . Adrian's lack of confidence does not prevent her from knowing that Rocky means well so we catch her looking over at him from time to time as she appears to be somewhat interested in him as well.

Rocky's second visit during the film was after he had a very difficult day. He starts out by asking her if she needs any help with what she's working on and then invites her out to a basketball game, which she declines. He tells her a little about his day and then focuses more on her well being rather than seeking her sympathy. That is when he tells her that the night is very cold and even offers to walk her home, which she also declines. Then he suggests that she take a cab home in order to avoid the neighborhood creeps. Adrian continues to say very little to him and even though Rocky is visibly frustrated he continues to act as a gentleman.

Immediately Rocky goes to the local tavern to speak to Adrian's brother Paulie. Rocky is frustrated and wants to know if Paulie knows why Adrian seems to have no interest in him.  Immediately Paulie tells Rocky to forget her and that he can do better than her as he refers to his own sister as a freakin' loser

...and we wonder why Adrian is so insecure.

Rocky deflects each of Paulie's comments because he truly does care about her, which leads to Paulie changing the subject. This shows that Rocky's interest in Adrian was indeed genuine because he continues to speak highly of her even when she is not around.

Such an idea could bring us to the following passage from Song of Songs 4:9:  You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes. In other words, while Adrian may not see what Rocky sees there is something about her that has captured him and it's more than just the way she looks.

Then we arrive to the famous Thanksgiving dinner scene as Paulie escorts Rocky to his home without Adrian's knowledge. As soon as she sees Rocky she knows that Paulie is trying to set them up on a date and immediately says that she is not ready for this. Paulie criticizes her and then calls her a loser in front of Rocky before she demands that he stop calling that. She then tries to use the excuse of having a turkey in the oven for her not being able to go out with Rocky before Paulie, in a horrible act of cruelty, tosses the turkey into the alley. Adrian is humiliated and runs to her bedroom.

Rocky sees that Adrian is distraught and gently stands by her bedroom door in order to speak to her. His gentle approach is what gets through to her as he is the total opposite of Paulie. He admits to feeling very awkward because he is talking to the door and then tells Adrian that he has no one to spend Thanksgiving with so he asks her if she would consider going out with him. Adrian, perhaps out of sympathy for a lonely Rocky or because she would like to to get away from her brother who has humiliated her yet again, decides to take Rocky up on his offer. Before they leave the house there is a great shot of Adrian looking in the mirror where we can see that she is in fact hiding as much of her face as she can behind her glasses and her beanie that she has pulled down to her eyebrows (this last part is unfortunately not in the link)..

Rocky's approach is most effective because it follows the idea that we see in the bible when the man in Song of Songs 5:2 knocks on the gate and calls out to the woman rather than trying to force his way in. The same also applies to the image of Christ in Revelations 3:20 when He knocks at the door and waits for us to allow Him in as He too will not force Himself on us. That is because true love must be offered and received willingly. When a woman sees that a man's intentions are good she may allow him into her world. In Rocky's case he was always consistent with this type of behavior, even when he grew frustrated with Adrian because he saw her as good and wanted her to know that he really cared about her.

As they exit her home Rocky tried to downplay Paulie's actions in order to smooth things over. After all, Paulie is Rocky's best friend so he's trying to clean up Paulie's mess while also showing Adrian that he just wants to spend time with her regardless of the circumstances that led to her agreeing to go out with him. This is very important because such events could have made Adrian uncomfortable with being around Rocky due to the way that Paulie treated her in the privacy of their own home. Yet, Rocky continued to treat her the same way, which certainly allowed Adrian to see that really cared about her.

Then they arrive to the ice skating rink after it had already closed down so Rocky had to smooth over the lone worker at the rink in order to allow Adrian to have some time to skate. This must have been an eye opening experience for Adrian who was certainly used to Paulie's demanding and abusive behavior rather than a man that would do anything to make her happy.

Rocky does not skate with Adrian but jogs around the rink with her because he said that skating is bad for a boxer's ankles. What's most important about this scene is that he is doing whatever he has to do to spend time with her. By having this time together they got a chance to have their first private conversation since they were not at the pet shop. He starts out by sharing the ups and downs of being a boxer and when she can see that he too has certain insecurities and issues she starts to open up more and even starts to look at him more rather than looking down or away from him.

Eventually they get to the famous exchange where Rocky says that his father told him that, you weren't born with much of a brain so you better develop your body. Adrian laughs for the first time in his presence and tells Rocky that her mother told her the exact opposite. For a woman that was certainly not the most pleasant memory but considering the fact that Rocky had a similar experience and felt comfortable enough to share that with her perhaps this led her to feel safe enough to tell Rocky about her similar experience. With that we also notice that Adrian is now speaking in a louder voice than she had in the earlier parts of the film and even laughs as she is obviously more comfortable with Rocky now.

Later as they walk down the street Rocky and Adrian begin a very important conversation. Rocky speaks of people who are very shy by nature and how such people are fine the way they are. By saying that so he again affirms Adrian for who she is. Then they talk more about boxing with Rocky sharing how most fighters end up becoming bums and how he in fact sees himself as a bum. Immediately Adrian tells him that she doesn't think he is a bum so now we see for the first time that she has affirmed him. (the shy comment is not at the beginning of the link)

Later they arrive to Rocky's apartment and while it does take some time for Adrian to accept his invitation to come inside due to Adrian's insecurities she eventually enters. Eventually the fear of being in a situation that she is not accustomed to takes hold of Adrian and that is exemplified by the fact that she won't accept Rocky's invitation to sit with him while also speaking in her soft voice again. That leads her to tell Rocky that she doesn't belong here, that she doesn't think she knows him well enough and that she has never been alone in a man's apartment beforeSurprisingly Rocky admits to also being uncomfortable but reminds her that she is his guest and tries to reassure her that everything is okay. This is important because we see both of them reveal their fears to each other which may have come from a trust that they began to establish earlier in the evening.

Adrian then decides to leave and that's when Rocky insists that she stay, even going as far as blocking door. Adrian had to be frightened at this point but the fact that she didn't fight him again might be from her knowing that he won't hurt her. That's when he asks her to remove her glasses and her beanie. He then tells her that she has nice eyes and that he always knew that she was pretty. Now Adrian has the hardest time looking at him because she can't hide behind her disguise. She responds by saying don't tease me with Rocky responding with I ain't teasing. Now, the same little girl whose mother told her that she wasn't born with much of a body in fact has a man telling her that he sees something that her own mother didn't see and how he saw all of this even when she tried to hide herself from the world. Rocky has made it very clear that Adrian is good!

As the film progresses we see a difference in Adrian because now she is in a genuine loving relationship. Her glasses and hat are now gone. She says a lot more and with a bigger voice because she knows that Rocky will listen to anything she has to say. Rocky made her feel beautiful both inside and out because he accepted her for who she was. One of the most heart warming scenes is when she is waiting for Rocky at his apartment when he returns from a run and he stops in his tracks just to look at her. He then tells her how beautiful she looks, which of course warms her heart as she offers a smile that could only come from a woman who is genuinely happy. (See still image at 0:46) Meanwhile, Rocky remains the same sweet guy that he was when he first began pursuing her as Rocky continued to show her that she was good. Imagine how good that made her feel!

Later we see that Adrian not only accepted the fact that she was good but was also willing to defend her new found dignity. When a drunken Paulie accuses her for being the reason for him never getting married she fights back with a rage that started most likely years prior when he made a habit of putting her down. She states clearly that she was in the fact that one that took care of him and yet he still made her feel like a loser. Then she roars aloud that I am not a loser and most likely at that moment realized that she never was a loser!

Rocky certainly struggled as a witness to this sibling exchange as it must have been hard for him to see Adrian in such pain while also realizing that his best friend had done this to his sister. But this would certainly be an example of Adrian being naked and not ashamed (See Genesis 2:25) because she already knew by now that Rocky would not judge her for what she said to Paulie. With Adrian having the willingness to admit such pain in front of Rocky he too would feel safe enough to share his own fears to her. That was best exemplified when he admitted prior to the climactic boxing match that he knew he couldn't win because he was not in the same class as his opponent. Adrian of course treated him with the same respect that he always gave to her, which of course brought them closer as a couple.

Rocky carried his love for Adrian everywhere he went. The best example was when he received an unexpected title shot and then takes part in his first televised press conference. After answering some questions about the upcoming fight he then makes a point to give a shout out to his girlfriend, even when those who were running the press conference tried to interrupt him. (Start at 5:04)

Finally, when the big heavyweight title match is over it's difficult to tell what is going on in the ring because all Rocky cares about is seeing her. (Start at 1:03) He is greatly moved when she comes to him and tells him that she loves him, so much so that the movie ends with him being the champion of her heart rather than the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. When one sees their final embrace at the end of the film we can see that her love was in fact that thing that will always mean the most to him.

We are just getting started. We will continue this discussion on how the teachings of the Theology of the Body is further revealed in later films starting with the first sequel, Rocky II.

Carlos Arthur Solorzano
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach 
Certified through the Theology of the Body Institute 
Instructor of Theology at St. Augustine Catholic High School
Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate