***Warning: Spoilers ahead.
The 1983 play “Fences” by August Wilson was adapted into film and released last month in the midst of awards season. With A-lister protagonists Denzel Washington (Troy Maxson) and Viola Davis (Rose Maxson), the movie has received high accolades from critics and audiences.
Op-ed by Marisa Martinez
However, I argue that the film adaptation leaned a bit too closely with that of the original play, missing the opportunity for a modern twist that would have developed Troy and Rose Maxson’s characters in a whole new direction.
Halfway through the film, it is revealed that Troy has been cheating on his wife and has impregnated his mistress. However, she dies in childbirth and he is tasked with raising his daughter on his own, a new experience for him, as he has always seen the father’s role as a monetary provider and nothing more. Thus, the strained emotional relationship between him and his sons Lyons (Russell Hornsby) and Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson).
Instead of showing us how Troy will find a way to raise his daughter and provide for her, he returns to his wife (Viola Davis) and asks her to care for his daughter as if she were her own, and she accepts.
It would have been interesting for the film and Troy’s character development had the audience seen a different ending for him as a single father in the seventies. By being the one to raise his daughter and provide for her, Troy could have learned to see himself in both roles (nurturer and provider) and how both are important to fill. Raising Raynell would have allowed the audience to see Troy get a second chance, so to speak, and have a closer relationship with his offspring. This relationship could have been better in the end, as opposed to having Troy die the same unlikeable father figure. So much so that his own son debates coming to his father’s funeral because of how Troy negatively impacted his upbringing and overall path in life.
It would have been beneficial for Davis’ character as well had Rose turned down Troy’s offer, and divorced him. He had left her and their two sons as soon as his mistress became pregnant, and returned solely to not have to raise his infant daughter.
This new ending would have shown the father possibly have a change of heart, while also giving the mother an opportunity to raise her sons the way she wanted to without Troy’s work-centered principle and ethic getting in the way (he denied his son the chance at a college football scholarship because he wanted him to make a living working instead of attending college).
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Marisa is an Austin native — follow her on social media @marismart94 (Instagram) and @marisam9401 (Twitter) to see all of her Capital City adventures. You can also check out more of her writing at marisa-martinez.webs.com.