One would not expect wrestling to be profound, let alone speak about Christian themes, but The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke pulls it off quite nicely. Here, wrestling is not the stuff you see on WWE but a reflection, among other things, on self-sacrifice. In the season of Lent, no topic is more apt.
Randy “The Ram” Robinson is a veteran wrestler, now in the twilight of his career. His life is rather messed up. Ram’s daughter doesn’t speak to him, thinking him an asshole and a fuck-up. He can barely pay the rent and takes on certain jobs as well to make ends meet. Amidst all that, he suffers a massive heart attack, and doctors advise him to quit wrestling altogether. But worst of all is that he is alone, and the people close enough to care for him – his daughter and Marisa Tomei – eventually leave him in the end. He then turns to the one thing that he has known all his life – wrestling – which will probably cost him his life, if not after the rematch with Ayatollah, then in his future matches. Didn’t the doctors tell him to give up wrestling because it would be dangerous for his heart?
Anyway, call it a tale of being true to your heart, of heroically plowing on despite difficulties, the parallels to Jesus Christ are clear. For one thing, both are outcasts. Both suffer. Indeed, the movie takes great pains to see how bloodied and beaten Ram is during his wrestling matches. He has to cut himself with a razor, endure staple guns, and get thrown around, rather as Jesus was scourged, crowned with thorns and beaten on the way to Golgotha. As Ram himself says, “I’m a broken-down piece of meat.” And apart from the wounds, he has a gnarled, withered look to him, like he’s so delicate, fragile and will easily break. No surprises why the movie gives him a heart condition.
Of course, suffering automatically doesn’t make one a Christ. But Ram’s is not an empty, futile one. He may be an outcast, at least in his personal life, but he is a sort of savior too. Just as Christ died on the cross to bring us salvation, so does Ram sacrifice his body and endure the pain to bring joy to wrestling fans and honor to his fellow wrestlers. It’s not for nothing that Marisa Tomei quotes The Suffering Servant from Isaiah, “He was killed for our iniquities, and wounded for our transgressions.” (or something like that). It is not an accident that Ram is nicknamed the way he is, as rams were often choice sacrifices in Judaism. Lastly, it is not surprising that Ram has a gnarled, withered look to him, delicate and so battered that it will easily break.
The Ram of God indeed.