Since its release, The Wrestler has been lavished with critical praise and attention. For all the commentary, though, S. Brent Plate thinks reviewers have neglected a crucial thread of analysis—namely, what he sees as the film’s obvious religious undertones. In a compelling essay for Religion Dispatches, he discusses the Christian symbolism of The Wrestler and why critics have such trouble talking about it.
In Plate’s mind, the religious references aren’t particularly subtle. He wonders:
“[D]id the reviewers blink their eyes, or reach down for another bite of popcorn, at the images of a tattooed Jesus Christ on Randy’s back? Or the ‘Job’ (pronounced with long ‘o’) inked into the skin of his middle finger? Or the white fleece vest he wears on his entrance into his final fight?”
It might be easy to chalk up the silence to religious illiteracy, but Plate believes something more complicated is going on. He argues that people tend to connect religion with the mind and spirit, while viewing the body as more earthly and mundane. From such a perspective, it might be difficult to read The Wrestler—with its visceral focus on the body—as a religious film.
Sources: Religion Dispatches