The Wrestler – Power of Idealism
The Wrestler opens with a montage of clippings, photos and playbills extolling the career of 1980’s professional wrestling star Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke).
Twenty-years later, Randy’s glory days are long-gone. He is reduced to a battered battle-scarred hulk self-medicating his psychic and physical pain with a cocktail of drugs, steroids and booze.
Randy is a Power of Idealism Character fallen to the Dark Side.
At their worst, Power of Idealism Characters suffer from delusions of grandeur and, alternately, deep despair. They are self-destructive, self-loathing and self-harming. Randy is locked in a self-annihilating dance with the ghost of his former fame. He is consumed by the fantasy, loss and drama of his stage persona. Randy only feels “alive” in the elaborately choreographed hero’s role he plays in the ring.
Ty Burr, writing in The Boston Globe, contrasts the two main characters in the film: “Pam (Marisa Tomei), (is) an aging stripper whose stage name is Cassidy and who understands far better than The Ram the tensions between selling a persona and living in reality. Both use their bodies for the fantasies of others, but only Pam sees that when the body fails, the fantasy goes with it.”
Pam/Cassidy also realizes her real world and real life is with her son. The fantasy of her stage persona is just a way to make a living– Nothing more. Her true self-identification is as a mother.
Randy can’t embrace the simple reality of ordinary family life. He continually abandoned his daughter for the brief hero-worship of strangers. He breaks her heart yet again by not showing up after a fragile reconciliation. Instead, he chooses to party with a young woman who sees a liaison with him as a novelty retro sex act. Randy also rejects Pam/Cassidy’s real offer of love for the cheering strangers in yet another grimy run-down converted gym/wrestling arena. As he makes his trademarked leap from the top of the ropes, his heart literally gives out.
Burr comments: “(P)ro wrestling has always been a cartoon, and that’s the appeal to performers and fans alike: It resolves life’s complexities with a turnbuckle to the skull. The Wrestler is about the seductions of superficiality and the dull ache of living beyond one’s moment.”
In order to find salvation, Power of Idealism characters must learn to find the magic and passion in the small details of life with family, friends and the mundane, ordinary moments of living. Randy’s tragedy is he finds magic only in the empty choreographed illusions of the ring. He compulsively plays the spray-tanned bleached blond hero to dwindling numbers of cheering strangers.