Fences, or, Swing Batta Batta


See that in the background? It’s a fence! #thatsthenameofthemovie

Why do we have kids?

To help out on the farm? To carry on our lineage? Our beliefs? Our names?

Why do we get married?

For romance? For economy? For legitimacy? For children?

I dunno. I’m not married and I don’t have kids. But, in the grand scheme of one’s life marriage and parenthood are pretty monumental decisions that are so societally pedestrian they can escape the vigorous questioning such undertakings would otherwise be subject to.

Why do we have kids?

Why do we get married?

For Troy Maxson (as played by director Denzel Washington in his cinematic adaptation of the 1983 August Wilson play Fences) the line of questioning and ultimate rationale behind these decisions seem to be foggy and uncertain. The foundation of his marriage and of his parenthood feels uncertain and that uncertainty taints aspects of both. He gives his wife his paycheck but he doesn’t share with her the emotional toll of familial responsibility. He insists he’s given his son life but never considers that the gift was forced upon his son for better or worse. His thoughts on marriage, fidelity, fatherhood and the like feel reactionary, as if briefly considered and finalized after the fact.
But Fences shows us a slice of a life that was never lived to hold up to the scrutiny of a blog think piece. Troy Maxson is a runaway and reformed criminal working for the sanitation department in 1950s Pittsburgh. One is given the impression that his life isn’t one that was allowed to be planned, that he’s never gotten the chance to play offense, so much so that even his philosophy on batting sounds defensive, less like thoughts on hitting a grand slam and more like a strategy for deflecting hits that will never stop coming.

Why do we have kids?

Why do we get married?

Fences shows that the magnitude of life’s biggest decisions does not necessitate an adequate amount of planning and consideration. It’s a work that will make you grateful for any spare second you have to plan ahead as you stare down the pitcher and wait for what’s next.


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