Monday, September 2, 2019

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

Welcome to the second part of the six part series of how the teachings of the Theology of the Body are exemplified in the Rocky Series. In the last blog we discussed how two people named Rocky and Adrian not only fell in love but did so while affirming the good in the other. In recognizing the actions of the other that affirmed the goodness in each person it also established a relationship of authentic love and trust. This will be most important as we get to the next phase of their relationship.

As the story continues into Rocky II most fans of the series tend to focus on the redemption that Rocky experienced by winning his rematch with heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. However, the one thing that is not discussed as much in the story line is the development of the relationship between Rocky and Adrian as they not only get married in this film but also have their marriage tested almost immediately.

After his big boxing match that serves as the climax of the first film Rocky is informed that he has physical damage to one of his eyes. After an extensive stay in the hospital he and Adrian begin to move forward with their lives. This begins with the beautiful scene when Rocky proposed to Adrian. There we can see how nervous he was because of the fact that she meant so much to him. Then, as she accepts his proposal it's so beautiful to see how she looks right at him and is very happy to give him the answer she knows he wants because she wants the same thing:

On the night of their wedding they have a brief conversation where the two of them look at each other and with great honesty share their feelings for each other. As they begin to settle into their evening Rocky asks her if she wants him to help her remove her coat before telling her that she is the best thing to ever come into his life.  In other words, like the male lover in the biblical book Song of Songs, he doesn't force himself on her. Adrian of course responds with affection because she knows how much Rocky loves her as she can sense that he still wishes nothing but what is good for her. That's what leads her to ask him if it will always be like this with Rocky affirming that it will always be this way.

Now that Adrian feels safe she looks Rocky in the eyes and shares something she fears when she says: I hope you never get tired of me. Rocky shakes his head and responds: You ain't never getting rid of me before telling her that he would never change anything about her. Then they tell each other: I love you and share a beautiful kiss because this is another moment when they were naked and not ashamed. (Start at 0:52) At this point it's almost shocking to remember that this was the same woman who couldn't even look at Rock when he first showed interest in her.

As the couple begins their life together Rocky uses his new found celebrity to make commercials. Adrian is pleased with this because it means that Rocky will no longer have to risk his own safety by getting back in the ring. It is also at this time that they receive the news that they are expecting their first child. Their reaction is also quite beautiful as it shows just how much they love and respect each other. First off, once Rocky hears the news he is filled with joy and said that he suspected something since Adrian woke up with a big smile that morning. Then as they walk through the park they share how they both wish for their unborn child to be like the other.

Unfortunately, their life doesn't go through as planned. Rocky has trouble reading the cue cards due to his damaged vision, which jeopardizes his ability to continue making commercials. Aside from that we see a couple that recognizes that there is something important in the way people are treated as they both stand up to an abusive director who mistreats Rocky during a very awkward moment for him. Still, that doesn't fix the problem that Rocky now faces as he must now find another way to make a living.

After a long search for employment Rocky ends up at the meat packing facility where his brother in law Paulie used to work. He works hard and is thankfully able to provide for his family. Still, Adrian worries about Rocky because the work is hard and he comes home very tired on a daily basis. Rocky disregards his fatigue as he continues to treat her with the same kindness that she had always known from him.

Things start to change though once Rocky gets laid off.

Now we have a man whose self-worth is challenged as he questions his ability to provide for his family. He is humiliated when his now pregnant wife offers to go back to work as he still feels the call to be the provider. Still, with all that is going through his mind and his heart he is still honest and gentle with Adrian. To make matters worse, he is not in the right frame of mind to refuse a challenge from heavyweight champion Apollo Creed who is still fuming over the fact that Rocky more than held his own in their last match.

As Creed baits Rocky into a rematch Rocky tells Adrian that he feels like a nobody again as those around him now refer to him as a coward since he won't respond to Creed's challenge. She reassures him that he is not a nobody in her eyes and that they will be fine. She also expresses her wish for him not to fight again because she doesn't want to see him get hurt. This is one of the hardest scenes to watch in the series because Adrian is pregnant and looks at Rocky with great fear in her eyes. One can easily see that he is the most important thing in her life because he was the one who brought her out of her funk and into the life that she now had with him.

Adrian is devastated.

Rocky begins to train but is immediately distracted by his marital problems. Interestingly enough there is never any discussion about the two of them separating over what we can see is a very serious disagreement. Adrian is worried about Rocky's well being, which again shows her commitment to her husband because she is still with him even though she doesn't approve of what he is doing...and she is going through this while she is pregnant with their first child!

Her true feelings come out when her brother Paulie decides to scold her for not approving of Rocky's decision to fight again. This time though we see a different woman than we saw in the past. Instead of taking Paulie's nonsense she speaks directly to him as she explains her position. Then Paulie tries to blame her for the possibility of Rocky getting hurt, which in this case could cost him his eyesight. Adrian reacts with great emotion as the thought scares her tremendously. Amazingly, she says something so beautiful in the midst of her struggle: If he goes blind Paulie, you walk away: I can't. I love him, you don't! 

Adrian Balboa, the woman who could barely speak to Rocky in this same pet store at the beginning of the first film is now a woman who will not only stand up for her husband but also stand by him, no matter what!!!! In other words, she really knows the meaning of true sacrificial love. She knows agape!

Unfortunately, Adrian's concern for Rocky's well being would not be the end to her suffering. Adrian goes into labor prematurely and loses a lot of blood during the delivery of their son. This causes her to slip into a coma. Rocky is devastated and can't do anything but stay by her side.When he's not at her bed side he is in the chapel praying for Adrian. (see the film War Room for a great discussion on why we should be praying for our spouses). He is so concerned for her well being that won't even see his newborn son until he can see him with Adrian.

When Adrian comes out of her coma the first person she sees is Rocky. She sees that same smile that she fell in love with because that smile only comes for him when he sees her! This scene is one of many where we can see that their true exchange of mutual love. Then we see them both react as their seeing their son for the first time. They are amazed at the sight of their newborn baby and all Adrian can do is thank Rocky. Rocky is so happy to see Adrian recover and once he finally sees his son in his mother's arms he offers to drop out of the fight. For some reason this leads Adrian to have a change of heart as she tells Rocky that she wants him to WIN!!!. It was never said during the film why she changed her mind but one would guess that her giving spirit, even at a moment when she still had a good reason to fear for his well being, knew that this was something that meant so much to Rocky. Again, Adrian knows the meaning of agape and by accepting her request it's almost as if Rocky's eyes make her a promise to do as she wishes because after all, no one's support would mean more to him than hers?

The fight of course is a war as both men are determined to win. Rocky barely squeaks by with a surprising knock out victory and as he has his moment of glory he says that this is the second greatest moment of his life (his son's birth being the first). But the last thing he says, which is the most beautiful, is when he raises the belt and says, I just got one thing to my wife at home. Yo Adrian, I did it!

Rocky remembers his promise to Adrian and is not afraid to say what was in his heart in front of the entire world because from the moment she entered his life it had never been just about him. This is yet another example of being naked and not ashamed. 

Imagine how that made the shy girl from Philly feel.

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