Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Drawing Heat II (and III, but who's counting)


A sharp left turn from my last post, and where we left the image of the Wildman at the end of Monday's readings. On the road, the show gets worse, less mythic, more mundane. Profits drop, tempers are strained, and everyone--Dave included--behaves rather unadmirably.

Riffing from Sam's comment on my last post, and a conversation we had before class, part of this is no doubt a reflection of the author's highly conflicted status. That status is itself further complicated by Freedman's assertion that the fans understand the show way better than the performers, who still seem to think they're fooling people into thinking they're athletes or warriors. But Freedman's journey from outsider to insider is uneven.

When he's actually working, all of the noble savage, lone-man-against-the-world stuff seems to dissipate. He's gruff, businesslike, berates his performers (who, of course, richly deserve it), and...fails. Dramatically, as befits a figure of his stature. And in failure, Freedman returns to his mythic tone. When there's downtime, and it's becoming apparent exactly how badly things are going, the Wildman is again a mythic figure, this time a tragic one, and the show he's been putting on (in which the cruel and dishonest ruthlessly crush the brave and noble) becomes a metonym for his life. (Or possibly synecdoche. I've never been clear on this.) Tunney, acting on orders from McMahon, leans on the comissioner, and Dave gets shut down. The new WWF shows are flashier, happier, and Freedman subtly suggests that they're racist in addition to being relentlessly jingoistic. But mostly, they're optimistic, designed to obscure the cruelty Dave's shows had been designed to reveal.

I'm not sure I can completely buy that the insanity of the matches described in the book can be boiled down, as some of the other pieces we've read suggest, to "the bad guys consistently beat the good guys," but then, I wasn't there. Yeah, everyone likes heels, but part of the drawing power is knowing the heel might get the ass-kicking he deserves. Whether it's accurate for wrestling as a whole, it's a hell of a metaphor for Dave's career, assuming we can actually believe Freedman's account. Which does seem to be a bit of an if.

1 comment:

Sam Ford said...

Of course, McMahon and the Tunneys have to be the ultimate heels of the book, if the Wildman is the face. Hopefully, we'll get into these issues more in our discussion today, but Wildman the mythic hero does seem to have to balance with Dave the businessman, and that becomes a complicated issue.

So, somehow, the book tries to present us with both the romanticization of these smalltown shows and, simultaneously, their business realities. Having seen a lot of small independent wrestling shows, I understand how those two things balance depending on what side you are on the curtain of, etc. I don't know if you can reconcile these two images or not, or if it's more like Dave is taking face and heel turns depending on whether he's in business mode or performer mode. But good points, Peter.