Real Steel: Some Things Are Worth Fighting For

Real SteelBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

So often we hear the advice that, if you love something (or someone), you should let them go. But part of the reason I fell in love with my husband was his willingness to fight for me. His willingness to fight gave me the invaluable gift of knowing I was worth fighting for. And I hope my willingness to fight for him has done the same.

In Real Steel, a movie set in 2020, when robot boxing has replaced human boxing, Charlie (Hugh Jackman) has forgotten what it means to fight for anything.

Charlie is an absentee father who ends up taking care of his eleven-year-old son during the worst time of Charlie’s life, when his last robot has been destroyed and he’s in enough debt that people want to kill him. The woman he loves won’t have anything to do with him because he’s immature and irresponsible, and Charlie doesn’t want anything to do with his son, Max. In fact, he “sells” Max to the aunt and uncle who want custody. Charlie only takes Max for the summer because Max’s uncle pays Charlie to care for the boy while the aunt and uncle travel to Italy.

And then Charlie loses the money in a single boxing match.

Desperate, Charlie and Max pull a sparring bot from the junk yard and restore it just to earn a few hundred dollars in throwaway matches. At least, that’s Charlie’s plan. Max has a different idea. Their sparring bot starts winning. They move from illegal, unsanctioned matches to a professional match. And they win.

After their big win, the man Charlie owes money to beats up both Max and Charlie and takes all their winnings.

The next day, Charlie returns Max to his aunt and uncle early. Max is furious.

“What do you want me to say?” Charlie yells at him. “I’m sorry? No, you knew. You knew from day one what this was. You decided to take the ride. What? You actually thought me, you, and the little robot from the junk heap were gonna ride off into the sunset? Come on! No, you forgot who I was. I mean, what do you want from me?”

Max turns on him, eyes filling with tears. “I want you to fight for me. That’s all I ever wanted.

I think that’s what we all want in some way, because the person who will fight for us is telling us we’re valuable. We’re worth the trouble. We’re something special.

Fighting for someone means you have their back. My career choice isn’t popular with everyone, but my husband refuses to allow anyone to criticize the choice I’ve made. Whatever private disagreements we might have, we’re a united front in public. You attack one of us, you attack both of us.

Fighting for someone means you prioritize your relationship above everything else. I love my job, but I think it’s foolish to “make whatever sacrifices it takes” to succeed. I won’t sacrifice my relationship with my husband, and that means setting aside inviolable time for him (and recognizing when I’m working too hard).

Fighting for someone means you cut them some slack when they’re hurting. Sometimes hurting people will shove us away as hard as they can, trying to prove themselves right that they can’t count on anyone but themselves, but secretly, desperately, hoping you’ll finally be the one to prove them wrong.

Fighting for someone means you compromise and value their happiness equally with your own. Putting someone else’s happiness above your own is a fast track to resentment. However, valuing their happiness equally to our own means we’re always looking for win-win situations rather than trying to be the martyr or walking all over the one we claim to love.

Fighting for someone means you don’t give up on them when trouble comes. Traditional wedding vows talk about “in sickness and health, for richer or poorer.” In our time together, my husband and I have weathered specialist visits, wisdom teeth removal, and torn hamstrings. We’re still in the penny-pinching stage. We’ve even dealt with border and immigration hassles. But those problems are minor to us compared to what being together gives us.

The advice to let something go if you love it gives us an out to quit too soon, when if we hung on, we’d find that the struggle, the fight, brought us to something greater than we could have had if we’d walked away. I know it did for me.

Who (or what) have you been willing to fight for?

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