Wrestling with the Wrestler

25 Feb

In screenwriting, writers follow a basic rule: show don’t tell. The actions of the characters should reveal their inner struggles and motivations and the dialogue hint at their histories instead of telegraphing them (or the ideologies of the writer). 

While watching the film “The Wrestler,” I knew everything I needed to know about the father/daughter relationship between Randy the Ram (Micky Rourke) and his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) even though I knew very little about their back history. When Randy says to Stephanie, with tears in his eyes, “I’m just an old piece of meat…I deserve to be alone…I just don’t want you to hate me,” and afterwards Stephanie links her arm in his, forgiving him for past transgressions, I know everything I need to about her desperate need to have his love. And when she later yells at him – “I waited two hours for you in that restaurant. I’m done! I’m not doing it again,” as he pulls her hair out of her face almost as if seducing her, I get their history. The essence of it anyway. When she opens the door and says, “Out. Get out,” I remember my own history. When I shut my dad out of my life because the heartbreak of having him in it was destroying me. Such decisions become the ultimate act of self-preservation and yet at such a cost. It is sheer HELL to walk a parent out of your life – slamming the door of your heart behind them. 

I did not enjoy the movie “The Wrestler.” I hate wrestling and I hate stripping – both of which are featured in the film. I find them both barbaric and void of intimacy and connection. Nor did the characters transcend anything which for me has become an element I want in a film, particularly if dealing with tragedy. But nonetheless, I was deeply moved by this portrayal of a father/daughter relationship (and the brilliant acting). 

The details of my relationship with my own father differ vastly from those insinuated in the Randy/Stephanie one but the essence of the relationships parallel each other. My dad and I had a connection, he was there for me for a time and then he severely abandoned me. My story is too long and complex for a blog entry. It is however written in movie form, which I PRAY TO GOD will some day make it to screen. 

Thankfully, I was able to spend time with my father before his death. He died knowing I didn’t “hate him” and I was left with the knowledge that he loved me besides letting me down over and over again. Because of this, I left the movie reflective but centered instead of unhinged like I used to get in the old days. 

Girls like me with fathers like Randy the Ram – basically good guys at heart but deeply flawed leave one with a template for relationships that is hard to reconfigure. I saw myself in the character of both the daughter and stripper – women wary of love and who often pick men who are good but despite themselves can’t quite figure it out. Thankfully, there is an answer and end to this anguish. It comes in the form of God the FATHER. 

My aunt and uncle send me paraphernalia dealing with princess themes partly because Johnny called me princess when I was a little girl and partly because I spent three years working on an unpublished book project based on fairy tale themes. Recently they sent me a plaque that says, “I know I’m a princess: my father is King of Kings.” This says it all and can heal even the most severe of father wounds. Because of Him, I no longer have to wrestle with this so hard, nor am I getting so beat up. Amen.

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