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The Lo-Down: “The Iron Claw” represents the crippling effect of familial standards

Family dynamics are challenging to portray due to the many silent and invisible intricacies under the surface that are rarely seen or recognized. Your family is the group you spend most of your life with, the people whose roof you share until you’re old enough to go find your own. Familial relationships are as strong as they are complex and are the relationships that determine how we grow and adapt.

“The Iron Claw'' tackles the story of the Von Erichs, a legendary wrestling family whose members currently sit alongside one another in the WWE Hall of Fame. The film starts as the father of the family, Fritz Von Erich, is leaving a match he had won, exiting with his wife Doris and two of his sons. Immediately, there’s conflict and motivation established as Doris expresses concern about the expensive car attached to their trailer home, something the family didn’t have the money for at the time.

In the backseat of the car, the camera focuses on one of the two boys, Kevin, as Fritz establishes the founding motivation of the family: be the strongest, be the best and be the most successful, and you’ll be ok. After a time skip to a now adult Kevin Von Erich — now rippling with muscles and crowned with a mop of hair — repeating that motivation and telling the audience about the alleged curse that surrounds his family name.

The idea of the curse started when Kevin’s father changed his last name from Adkisson to his mother’s last name, Von Erich. Soon after, Kevin’s older brother passed away at just six years old. The curse and what it encapsulates is why the film was made. While bad luck is what our protagonist blames, it’s the sprint across a tightrope that is the Von Erich boys’ forced attempt to live up to their father’s expectations.

We’re then introduced to the now-adult Von Erich boys, including heavyweight championship-contending wrestler Kevin; David, who’s a successful wrestler in his own right and Mike, who still needs to find his way according to his father. The film’s fourth brother, Kerry, is away training for the 1980 Olympics.

The curse is the antagonist on the surface throughout the film, but it can be argued that the real, hidden antagonist is the standard to which Fritz holds his boys, whom he openly ranks in front of them over breakfast. After Kevin fails to win over the crowd following his championship bout, he doesn’t hesitate to move David over him in terms of favor, making him the family’s wrestling staple and causing tension. Then, after the United States decides to boycott the 1980 Olympics, Kerry heads home and is convinced by Fritz to join the family’s growing wrestling creed. 

Around this time and in the following years, Kevin meets, falls in love with and marries Pam Adkisson. Pam represents an escape from the curse for Kevin — someone who doesn’t believe in luck and disregards the standards to which Kevin and his brothers are held. In this regard, she acts similarly to the viewer, who doesn’t have the familial blinders the Von Erich boys possess, preventing them from seeing what the curse is.

One by one, Kevin watches his brothers die and guilt consumes him. He was unable to save his brothers from the curse and unable to sway them from his father’s absurd standards. Now the only heir to the Von Erich business, Kevin decides to sell it off to support his new family against his father’s wishes. It’s not until the final scene that we see Kevin grow out of the curse, consumed by emotion as he sees his two sons playing football, choosing to give them a life free of the curse his father’s standards pushed on him.

“The Iron Claw” beautifully walks the tightrope between a family’s closeness and conflict. Through tragedy, impossible standards, and unbreakable bonds, we follow Kevin Von Erich’s escape from the family’s curse, choosing his path rather than the one his father laid out for him, and giving his next generation that same opportunity from the beginning.

Logan Adams is a sophomore studying journalism. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Logan know by tweeting him @LoganA_NBA.

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