Sunday, June 26, 2011

When real life rises beyond Hollywood story...

Was talking this morning about stereotyped storytelling, with character arcs mapped out for 'our hero' to vanquish the villain and return with the elixir (garbling several story structures from Campbell to Vogler - my apologies to both.)

Sometimes real life rises and falls beyond such formula.

One such example I've always found compelling is a guy named Matthew Saad Muhammad, who was abandoned on the median strip of a Philadelphia highway at the age of 5, to be found bloodied and wandering lost by a street cop who took him to an orphanage. He rose from that to become a professional boxing world champion and multi-millionaire, then blew and lost all his money on crooks and hangers on and ended up broke, destitute, to find relief in a homeless shelter. He is now an advocate for the homeless of his native city, using the one thing he has left - his name - to raise funds.

Here's a link to an article about him. I guess he doesn't fit the model of a Rocky, for Hollywood to come calling. Make a hell of a story though, but then it already is, even without a wordsmith.

Boxing has always been a vicious real life version of so many different kinds of narrative. Man overcomes the odds and obstacles, man seeks redemption, morality plays where man wins it all then blows it all. It gives its audience a chance to live and throw punches vicariously - and not have to worry about the cuts and bruises. It's a fact that more movies have been made about boxing than any other sport. And as so (the fantasy version) is open to so many romantic cliches. The reality is plainer, nastier, usually bereft of happy endings. A place where middle-aged men look like old men, their eyes puffy, their words slurred. A place where their fans live in a kind of time capsule with them, remembering only who they were, preferring the story of the past to the reality of the present.

Photo: Muhammad Ali and Matthew Saad Muhammad, 1980. Two men who lived the dream, such as it was.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea about his life, nor about boxing movies being so popular. Fascinating, heartbreaking.