I’ve been a fan of the “Rocky” saga since 1976, when the Italian Stallion realized that the fight with Apollo Creed had to be about HIM, and not what Apollo did, or what the judges said. And because he changed the definition of “winning” (to simply being on his feet after 15 rounds) he became an absolutely uncrushable beast, and set up a series of films that have thrilled audiences for over FORTY YEARS. That…is amazing. Especially since we all know how they will end. No surprises, other than the grace notes in the journey itself, and a nugget of real emotional truth. Given that truth, we are watching Sylvester Stallone’s journey of life. And when Ryan Coogler revitalized the series with “Creed” he tapped into that same vein: a familiar story, well told, old wine in new bottles, touching some truth of the human experience that provides the emotional “spark” to send the battered fighter back to the center of the ring to thrill us one more time.
And “Creed 2” was no exception. If you liked the others…you’ll like this one. I loved it. And if it isn’t the same revelation as either the original “Rocky” or “Creed”, in NO way is it less than the other “Rocky” sequels. And as with the others, there is a moment that spoke to me, that put the heart in the movie and kept it from being a simple exercise in waiting for the training montage and the Bill Conte horns.
So let’s look at that moment. Adonis Creed is the son of the former heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed. Born out of wedlock and in poverty, he is struggling to find his own identity, as a fighter and as a man. Although he has won the championship, he is still hit with a common conundrum: “I don’t FEEL like the champion.” His challenge is to own, to inhabit his life. Because his expectations (how he thought he was supposed to feel) were not met, he feels like an impostor. This creates an emotional weakness where a promoter can challenge him to fight the son of the man who killed his father, and Adonis CANNOT react to this logically or rationally or strategically. He reacts emotionally because of that wound. His challenge is to live as himself, not in reaction to the world, or the past.
You can probably predict the story beats that follow, and I won’t spoil them. But let’s just say that he cannot make that emotional connection to himself FOR himself. This is the point at which an adult either wakes up, grows up, or falls back into old patterns which will eventually grow self-destructive.
Here’s the truth: he DID feel like a champion.
He just didn’t realize how champions actually feel.
“I earned a million dollars. Why don’t I feel like it?”
” I’m an adult now. Why don’t I feel like it?”
“I’m a published writer. Why don’t I feel secure?”
“I’m a black belt. How come I’m not confident?”
People DIE if they can’t resolve those issues. External accomplishments can not and do not fill that hole in your heart. Recently, I spoke to a woman with high educational accomplishment (Call her Dr. Jane), who talked about a man she loved, who could not be with her because she earned more money than he did.
This is a real-world issue. Both men AND women have reinforced the notion that males should be great hunters and gatherers, so this isn’t just a “male weakness”. It is a human issue we are dealing with as we evolve our society. What Dr. Jane said is that no matter how much she loved him, his insecurity was too strong.
To be with her, he would have to shut his heart against what the world thinks, and have faith that she would not, in time, grow more attracted to a man of higher power (a very real phenomenon) and leave him. More importantly…he would have to love himself enough to have faith that he would be fine no matter what. To have the clarity to trust his perceptions of her.
In “Creed 2″, Adonis has to separate himself from the roar of the crowd, from the belts, and accept that his mother, his lovely partner Bianca, and his ‘Unk” Rocky Balboa love him for who he IS rather than what he DOES. To do that, HE has to accept himself the same way. And…he cannot. For all of his accomplishment he feels empty, spent, lost. I’ve had that feeling, haven’t you? Where the roar of the crowd, the love of our friends, the money in the bank mean NOTHING.
On Prince’s “Gold” album there is a terrific song that says he went to the mountaintop in his career…and there was nothing there. If you don’t understand that, like so many “winners” that came before you, you will reach that point and ask: “Is that all there is?”
What, then, is the way out?
“Creed 2” has a lovely scene where he, and Bianca, and their child are laying on the floor, and Adonis realizes that they are a family of fighters.
Lion. Lioness. Cub.
That’s who and what he is, with all it implies about the ups and downs of life. Not every hunt, every fight will be successful. And eventually time takes us all (“It’s undefeated” Rocky said in the first Creed)
These two (Bianca and his child) will be there, and love him, after the crowd is gone. His mother tells him: “don’t tell me that this fight is about your father.” It is not. It is not revenge, it is about answering the question “Who am I? Am I my father’s son? And what does that mean?” He MUST answer that question before he can face his challenge with real personal force, actually balanced with feet set firmly on his own soul. From there we can love. Fight. Lose, without losing ourselves. Or win, without thinking that the trophy, or title, or money makes us a winner.
NO ONE CAN GIVE THIS TO YOU. You have to find it within yourself, or spend your entire life seeking it from others. And when you get that award, that honor, that contract, that relationship? You will wonder why you still feel empty.
HEAL YOURSELF FIRST. Bianca was a lioness. She needs a lion. It is as brutally simple as that. Ask yourself what your perfect partner would be. Make that choice not merely based on the possibility of finding them, but WHO YOU MUST BECOME to be worthy of that relationship. Is that a better, stronger, more honorable and joyful version of yourself? Is that in alignment with your goals and values? Then walk that path, NOT for the other person, but for the sake of your own soul. Whether they ever show up has to be almost irrelevant. You DON’T do it for “them.” You do it for YOU. You love yourself enough to be absolutely 100% certain that you will live your life with integrity to your spirit, your heart, your values, your sense of what you want to contribute to the world.
And when you are on the road to becoming that better person…THAT is when you will find another person who is on THEIR journey, moving in the same direction, at the same speed, with their “green light” on, saying that they too are ready for love. It is magic.
It is life.
Love yourself…and share the love!