Thursday, September 5, 2019

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

As we continue the discussion of how we can recognize the teachings of the Theology of the Body in the Rocky series we are now in a totally different place in the marriage of Rocky and Adrian Balboa. Rocky is now the heavyweight champion of the world so he is now successful, wealthy and famous. One would think that such a life would change a couple that began their life together on the streets of Philadelphia but we will see that their relationship hasn't changed as much as one would expect from a couple that went from rags to riches almost overnight.

In the opening montage we see a man who looks much different than the club boxer we met in the first film. First, we see his victories over all of the challengers he has faced since winning the heavyweight championship. Next we see a man who had some physical work done on his face after many years of boxing injuries. Further, Rocky now associates with other celebrities and public figures from around the world as he is now a global icon in his own right. Surprisingly, we also see the same mannerisms and affections between the Balboas, which is usually expressed in the way he looks for her after his victories in the ring. Outside of the ring their love continues to grow as they raise their young son in a life filled with luxury and comfort.

It doesn't seem like his life could get any better.

Eventually Rocky loses the title to another hungry contender named Clubber Lang who not only defeats him but humiliates him in the ring. The loss crushes Rocky not just because he lost the title but because everything he was told prior to the match by his now deceased manager came true. It's one thing to realize that another fighter was simply the better man that night in the ring but Rocky's manager Mickey Goldmill didn't think Rocky had a chance against Lang because the contender was a very dangerous fighter who was much more focused than Rocky. Further, Mickey also disclosed that he had carefully selected Rocky's opponents during his title run in order to ensure that he would keep winning and, most importantly, to protect him from further physical harm. This caused Rocky to question his own abilities and self-worth because he began to feel that everything he had accomplished in his boxing career was a lie.

Who better to bring him out of this funk than the woman that he lifted up many years ago?

While training for his rematch we can see that Rocky is still shaken up by his failure as well as the sudden loss of Mickey.  Adrian confronts Rocky about his loss of motivation to which he claims has come from him not wanting to fight anymore. Adrian sees something more than this because she had never known Rocky to be a quitter.

While arguing on the beach she challenges Rocky to be honest with her about what he is really feeling. First he admits that he feels dishonest since he wasn't the champion that he thought he was. Adrian continued to push him though as she knew that there was more than Rocky cared to admit. Eventually, he comes clean and admits that he is afraid. This is a huge step for Rocky because after all, he is a fighter and had actually won the title from Apollo Creed who was considered in the Rocky universe to be the greatest boxer of all time. Of course that didn't spare him from being absolutely destroyed by Clubber Lang, whose performance against Rocky had him doubting that he could win in the already scheduled rematch.

After that, Adrian admits that  she is afraid too and that there is nothing wrong with being afraid. Rocky sees his fear as a challenge to his manhood but Adrian reminds him that fear is a big part of life. In other words, she doesn't accuse him of being weak or worse than that, less of a man. She in fact allows him to know that he is still good in her eyes even though he allowed her to see him at one of his weakest moments.

Even though she encourages him to remain in his profession for his sake and/or peace of mind she also reminds him that his day in the spotlight will come to an end and that his experiences from this time in his life will be impact their future when he is no longer boxing.  In other words, this is the same woman who we saw in the last film would not walk away from him when she feared that he could be permanently disabled. She is totally committed to him through the good times and the bad times and she is not afraid to challenge him when he has a chance to make things right. Adrian is not scolding Rocky because he's not living up to some type of public persona or even say, her vision of what she thinks a real man should be. She is in fact reminding him that he is the same good person she has known all along and still better than what he thinks he has become.

Finally, Adrian tells Rocky that she and Creed (who is training him for this fight) believe in him and that he should go after his title for the right reasons. Win or lose, if he simply does his best then she knows he can live with the outcome because he will have no excuses. The most important thing about Adrian's approach was that she didn't break him down in order to hurt him. She broke through the walls he put up in order to bring back the man that she knew was still inside of him.

For some reason this reminds me of a simple but powerful quote: The purpose of marriage is to get your spouse to heaven. Another way of saying this is when one has the courage to tell their beloved that you make me want to be a better person.  

All of this of course, was the easy part as there was still a huge boxing match ahead. Just like their marriage, the match featured many ups and downs with Adrian being there the entire time. When he did well she cheered for him. When he struggled she was concerned. When he was down and out she pleaded for his suffering to end but she never left his side. Even though he had to be completely focused on his task at hand there had to be a part of him that knew that she was in the ring with him.

Eventually Rocky conquered what seemed to be an invincible opponent and regained his championship. As he was raised up by the men in his corner we see an exhausted fighter who is relieved of the burden he had been carrying.

What was most moving was when they brought him down to see his bride who stood on the edge of the ring in order to greet him. How appropriate since she was the one who always kept him grounded. Of course she didn't do this by jabbing at him in order to humble him. In fact, she did this by loving him in a way that reminded him that he was in fact good.

Before she embraced him she asked are you alright in which he responds never better before collapsing on her shoulder. One could only wonder if his response was because he had regained his title or because he was in the arms of his beloved Adrian. 

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