Shattering the Mystique – The Bottoming of Ronda Rousey’s Film Career In One Fell Swoop


It’s Thanksgiving this week and a number of things are coming up to be thankful about. We’re in the middle of prestige season, thus the average quality of film in theaters is better than normal. For most of us it’s a three day work week, and realistically it’s two and a quarter days where people will actually give a damn in the office. For others it’s a nightmare as retail shoppers go nuts for food before Thanksgiving …. And on Black Friday immediately thereafter.

The one thing that got me curious this week, curious enough to write about, is the stalling of the film career of Ronda Rousey.

The NY Post had an interesting piece on how the two big films that should’ve launched her, Pete Berg’s Mile 22 and the Roadhouse reboot. The New Yorker pointed out that Mile 22 has been paused, mainly because of doubts on her acting abilities. Roadhouse seems to have stalled based on the sheer lack of information coming out. Rousey is still attached to it … but no progress of note has come out. In over a year since it’s been announced the only news we have has been that Nick Cassavetes is writing and directing the film.

No one else is attached besides Rousey, either, as news on the film is few and far between. Films like this get stuck in these places for some time, of course, but the last 12 months have been incredibly illuminating in how quickly a burgeoning film career can crater. And it’s all tied into the fallout of Rousey’s definitive loss to Holly Holm.

I’ve written about Ronda Rousey’s projected film career before but the world has changed in the year plus since I wrote that. Back then Rousey was the invincible wrecking machine, arm-barring girls left and right. It felt like no one was going to have a chance against the “Rowdy” one and transitioning to an action star, while difficult, felt plausible to a certain degree.

She was a beautiful badass, a legitimately talented fighter who the uneducated always said “She could defeat a high level male fighter, easy.”

Rousey was a path of destruction that made a future as an action film star a near certainty. Inside the cage she was this wrecking ball, arm-barring girls like they stole money from her. She was a force of nature that no one could compete with. She wasn’t once in a generation; she was “once in human history” as Joe Rogan infamously declared.

Outside the cage she was the athletic role model young girls could look up to. She spoke of putting on weight because she didn’t feel as sexy as she could be ten pounds or so lighter. It was a rare moment of body acceptance and one can imagine so many young girls could feel good about themselves despite not having the sort of photo shopped model look.

She spoke of how her body was designed for a purpose, not just being a sexual plaything, and that being a “do nothing bitch” was the worst a woman can do. In an era where you see women wanting to be a Kardashian … Rousey was the polar opposite. Musical artists referenced her for it.

So this Rousey, this upper tier alpha athlete of alpha athletes, was easily the type that Hollywood would love to sink its teeth into. Female action stars in the modern era have to have a gimmick because most female actors aren’t overly impressive athletically. They had to be superheroes because male actors have developed these bodybuilder physiques en masse. Rousey was different; she didn’t the gimmick of a superhero because she was a badass cage fighter.

And then one head kick shattered everything we knew about Rousey and it all fell apart.

She spoke on talk shows of wanting to kill herself after the loss, only stopping because she wanted to have children with her domestic violence accused boyfriend. There never was stories of Rousey being in the gym, obsessed with getting better at her craft, like there had been before. Rousey before the loss was this force of nature. Rousey after the loss revealed someone with significant issues who shouldn’t be fighting anymore.

It’s why many people are betting against her at UFC 207, her return to MMA, in a world title fight with newly crowned champion Amanda Nunes. One Mike Tyson’s aura of invincibility was shattered, and fighters stopped walking into the ring against him scared, he stopped being “Kid Dynamite” and started being a walking punching bag. Rousey’s aura is also gone and another loss would end it permanently. Rousey has also declared her intent on walking away from MMA soon as well.

One has to wonder if she’s coming back just for the payday, as if the juice is still worth the squeeze.

You can accept an actor with suspect acting skills if they bring something else to the equation. Arnold’s hulking physique and otherworldly charisma made up for his acting ability and Rousey’s real life badass nature made up for some truly awful acting. To be fair she had to act in the Entourage film like she was attracted to Turtle, of course, but when Vin Diesel looks like Laurence Olivier in comparison then well … yeah.

Rousey’s biggest attribute is that you could utilize the suspension of disbelief with her in an action film because she was a certified badass. She still is … but no one is thinking she could win in a fight with a male fighter of note either anymore. That mystique was shattered … and now we’re seeing that her potential as the first female action star in that Jason Statham type category is effectively over.

No one cared that Rousey’s acting skills weren’t strong and that she didn’t have a great screen presence when she was the undefeated badass who filled stadiums. Now that she has been lamped after a fight where she was completely dominated, and made to look like a rank amateur, all those flaws about her silver screen career come to the surface. They get ignored when they don’t matter … but now that they do, they’re extraordinary.

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Scott Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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