The Fighter for Interdependence - A PNN ReViEwSfortheReVoLutioN movie review

Tiny - Posted on 28 February 2011


The Fighter opens with Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) strutting down the street followed by his brother,  Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), in the "poor" neighborhood of Lowell Massachusetts. Its a walk of deep love for neighborhood for brothers and for community. This community love, family love, respect and honor for the real  peoples and places that built you and made you sets the tone for the real "fight" in this beautiful movie which is as much a document of indigenous resistance as simply another fight film.

Contrary to what people might think, the fight in the fighter does not take place in the "ring" , rather, the fight takes place within a capitalist US reality, which would rather pathologize, criminalize and marginalize poor people and separate families to purportedly "save" the strong or possibly successful person in the family so that he/she can become a "productive" member of society, code for money-generating member of a consumerist  US machine.

With a calm demeanor and soft gaze in the opening scene, Mickey Ward, Dicky's more "normal" or in my mama's words, less ghetto, brother begins to establish the roots of the fight he will carry throughout the film which is for family strength and together-ness above all else. This was Mickey Ward's fight in the fighter- a fight for interdependence.

Throughout this movie, we meet all of Mickey Ward's very ghetto, family members, his mama, (the brilliant Melissa Leo) replete in tight jeans and big hair, always smoking long-tipped filter cigarettes, and trying to figure out how to navigate the boxing industry for her sons and still keep family together, his brother Dickey who struggled with addiction, and the violence of poverty, causing him to lose touch with the fame he achieved in the 70's in a famous fight, (Against Sugar Ray Leonard) his multiple, big-haired, street tough sisters, his hard-working step father, and his soft-spoken trainer (his real-life trainer, Mickey O'Keefe).

For many scenes into the film, the camera captures the subtle and not so subtle tension of this family of Irish poverty scholars trying to love each other while also dealing with the stress of survival and the omnipresent promise of "success" within the corporate controlled  boxing industry, which like all industries within capitalism encourage the "weeding out" of people with problems, with no concern for whether that weeding out destroys the family, the person or the community.

I come from poor people, black, brown and bright white. Puerto Rican, African and Indigenous Taino, Roma and Irish. All of them fought with each other, hated on each other, became colonized separated and deconstructed by racism and capitaIism and unlike, Mickey Ward's family, were eventually completely destroyed.

The tension rises even higher when Mickey hooks up with girlfriend Charlene, (Amy Adams) who encourages, Mickey to take offers to be trained and managed by successful trainers) ii.e., not his mama and always late because he is crack-using brother.  But  in the end,  the values of indigenous love and justice by Mickey Ward  defies all corporate and capitalist pimping. He fights for a decision that will permanently impact not only the current Ward-Ecklund generation and family but generations and communities in Lowell to come. 

The beauty of this films revolution was in the way it depicted resistance within a family to poverty and the cult of independence. A lot of people and researchers and media producers conduct studies about the cause of poverty in the US and yet no-one ever looks at the real issues of how we as a society operate on western, psycho-therapeutic model of mental health, models that encourage people to make decisions to leave family and community that are seen as "dysfunctional".  What is never discussed is the impact on the people left behind from these surgical and brutal choices of departure by the  "so-called" stronger family members. Then the people left behind are hungrily eaten up by the Prison Industrial Complex and the Non-profit Industrial Complex  built to profit off our depression, drug abuse and "crime".  By all Freudian standards, Mickey's family was dysfunctional, but what he showed is through his love and eldership and community involvement and dedication, he acted as a good son who like the Malawi people practice,  if one member of the family "makes it" everyone will be ok.

The film's journey to be produced was an example of resistance in and of itself by Mark Wahlberg  who made sure this film was made, by any means necessary as he felt a deep affinity for the  values practiced by Mickey Ward, a young man who in all indigenous, non-western cultures (and by my mama), would be considered not only a good fighter, but a good son. 

You present some critical perspectives in the article, thank you. Important points are brought up, especially regarding the unnecessary separation and division within, and between, both families and communities they are a part of, due. The untenable reality is that the wealth this nation was built upon is a direct result of the use and abuse of the land, animals, air, and water from the East Coast, to the Western seaboard, for the past few hundred years. Yes, learning about traditions such as that of the Malawi is good practice for all of us. Looking forward to viewing the Fighter!



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