Monday, February 12, 2007

Confessions of a Fangirl

Hello gentle readers, it is time for an introduction. I am Deirdre, a would-be Course 6-er, rugger, movie whore and not-so-secret fan of pro-wrestling, but the path by which I became addicted was more by accident than any other pure intent. You see, back in the day (which was a Thursday) there was a weekly battle between my cousin and I for control over the television, he wanted to watch Smackdown, and I wanted to watch a girly drama that will remain nameless. So I plotted and schemed and watched for the occasional opportunity to pounce and possibly wrestle the remote away for at least a minute or two, but was often unsuccessful. Therefore, I spent most of those Thursday nights half-watching and half-ridiculing the matches and plotlines unfolding before us on the flickering screen. Ridicule turned to mock-interest. Mock interest turned genuine.

The physicality was one thing, and I came to accept that while the action wasn't 'real' in the strict sense, there was not much sense in denying that falling off ladders, through tables and over opponents' heads onto metal surfaces took extreme toughness and athleticism. As the kids say nowadays, it really was 'hardkore'. Then there were the characters and plotlines, some ridiculously outlandish, some purely vanilla, and everything in between, so that there was something for everyone it seemed. For me, it was the Hardy Boyz that sealed the deal. They did not look or act at all like the sterotypical wrestlers I had seen or imagined, they were young, punkish daredevils, doing their own thing and wowing the crowd with it. With them at the time was Lita, and she was certainly an inspiration in some ways. She was not a blond bimbo, a damsel in distress, or even a female monstrosity, but rather a strong, fierce woman, who went toe to toe with the ladies and the guys, a combination of tomboy, rebel and beautiful diva to boot. I became a fangirl, and began watching all the wrestling I could, and have ever since.


Unfortunately, being a wrestling fan can be difficult, as there are plenty of others who do see wrestling as ridiculous, stupid, and 'fake', aimed at rednecks and hicks to satiate the thirst for violence, real or fake, and trying to change someone's mind about wrestling is often a battle lost before it is begun. I cannot count the times I have been forcibly carried off from the lounge tv by hallmates when trying to watch Raw or Smackdown, because of the ire that they had for my viewing tastes. It is unfortunate that there is such a hypocritical mindset about wrestling in our society, where such entertainment is often deemed too violent, hazardous to our children, and contributing to social decay, when the highest grossing Hollywood features contain far more graphic acts of violence or sex than are ever seen or even insinuated on wrestling programming. Wrestling fans are not social degenerates, blood-crazy hicks or threats to morality, but rather they are you and me and probably your friend Bob. We cheer on our favorite characters, boo the villians, and gasp and scream at the twists and turns and falls and slams, following the good vs evil, revolution vs. establishment, age old themes that are mirrored across creative mediums. We aren't hicks, we're watching Shakespeare in a squared circle, but instead of watching our hero being double-crossed in silence, we jump up and yell along with the crowd.

5 comments:

Sam Ford said...

Deirdre, your reputation as a wrestling fan actually proceeded you, and I had heard legend about your staking out TVs in the dorms before you ever made it to this class...I think your points emphasize the defense most wrestling fans have, and the fan half of this class can surely emphathize with you for the disdain you often face.

On the other hand, wrestling's writers has always given critics of the genre a lot to work with. In fact, I would argue that the writers often have a stereotyped idea of the fans as well, at least at many points in history. Wrestling seems pretty polarizing, in that there are people who are either fans or appreciate it, and then many more people who can't stand the thought of it, whether they are people concerned with violence, people concerned with "lowbrow" programming, or sports fans who can't stand the thought of "sports entertainment."

As your own history shows, it's not hard to understand why people exhibit this disdain for wrestling. But I think there's a major difference between just looking at the wrestling text and seeing it through the lens of a fan. The major mistake I think many scholars and critics have made in the first place is thinking that fans approve of everything that happens on pro wrestling. In fact, it's the opposite that many times keeps fans still watching: the ability to complain and reject what the writers come up with.

Rob said...

It is really interesting to me how you started as someone stereotypically mocking wrestling, and yet the program managed to keep you coming (to keep mocking it more?), and slowly won you over until you became a real (and out of the closet) fan. The half-mocking, half-legitimate interest is definitely something I felt just a bit of as well while watching wrestling in class on Wednesday.

I think this also touches on the fact that wrestling -- in general -- seems to be something of a "guilty pleasure" among a lot of its (in the closet) fans, and I wonder if your story is a very common one among wrestling fans.

As far as my specific interests are concerned, this makes me curious just how many "in the closet" fans there are who are watching wrestling and either don't admit it or claim to only be watching it to mock or ridicule it. More generally, it makes me interested in all the different ways wrestling fans first became interested.

I'm wondering if that ability to be mockable yet still genuinely entertaining for the same audience is one of wrestling's more powerful attributes...

Sam Ford said...

Wrestling definitely borrows from vaudeville and carnival attractions in many of the regards you mention, Rob, and it's one of the reasons that it's hard to parody wrestling, when wrestling has built in so much parody into itself in a way.

Alex Maki said...

Although I am not a fan of the Hardyz and never will be, they have brought in a lot of fans throughout their 8-9 some odd years in the WWE (with time off occasionally)...

Alex Maki said...

http://odor31.blogspot.com/

My newest blog on my introduction to professional wrestling (abbreviated)