Sunday, February 11, 2007

Musings from another "outsider"

My name is Jackie Roe, and though I'm not a student in the course, I've been following the blog and am thrilled to be able to contribute to it! Let me tell you a little bit about myself:

I just recently completed my M.A. in Speech Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a focus on media effects research. In particular, I spent some time looking into the effects of viewership of pro wrestling; I proposed a study examining the relationship between pro wrestling viewership and desensitization to violence in children and another study looking at the link between pro wrestling viewership and body image problems (e.g., a drive for muscularity) in men. This research was borne out of my personal affinity for pro wrestling, as I have been an ardent fan and follower of "sports entertainment" for close to 13 years.

I vividly recall my first experience watching pro wrestling. I was in the 4th or 5th grade and was channel surfing with my sister. I came upon the image of a demented clown (Doink), holding a steel chair in his hands, hovering over a fallen muscleman in orange spandex (Crush). These sights were mesmerizing; as my sister implored me to change the channel, my only thoughts were, "Who were those men? Why was there an audience? What that real or was it acting?" And so my obsession began! I took note of when and on what channel the program aired (it was actually "WWF Superstars") and watched it week after week in secret, assuming my family would frown upon their young daughter/sister watching such a program. As time passed, I became a great student of pro wrestling, from memorizing the names of moves and characters to learning the history/politics/styles/jargon of pro wrestling to researching pro wrestlers' personal lives. I also amassed quite the collection of pro wrestling memorabilia (hundreds of magazines, dozens of videotapes, books, CDs, action figures, trading cards, games ... ). Having followed and studied pro wrestling for so many years, I've come to see myself as a sort of connoisseur (though some of you could probably give me a run for my money!). I should note, too, that since I began watching, I haven't stopped for more than maybe a couple of weeks at a time. Through the good and the bad, I have remained a steady fan. In fact, my fondest memories of pro wrestling come from the period when the WWF was at its nadir in terms of popularity (1994-ish, around WrestleMania X).

To me (and to most of you, I'm sure), pro wrestling is an art form. The matches I enjoy most are those devoid of outside interference, weapons, and stipulations - ones that simply feature pro wrestling at its finest. In no match was this more apparent than in the SummerSlam 1992 Intercontinental Title bout between Bret "Hitman" Hart and the British Bulldog, which I believe you'll be viewing later in the course. I think it's important for today's fans to view matches such as this one, as it exemplifies pro wrestling in its purest form and demonstrates that a memorable match is not dependent on the inclusion of blood or countless high-risk maneuvers. And speaking of Bret Hart, I truly believe that we have yet to see a more impressive technical wrestler and storyteller in the ring.

On a final note, I've always felt that pro wrestling carries with it the stigma of being entertainment only to white males with low IQs who live in trailer parks and guzzle beer all day (I exaggerate, but you understand the implication). As an educated Asian-American female, I feel that I break every "wrestling fan" stereotype, and I've longed for an arena in which I could share my perceptions of pro wrestling and how it has impacted my life and to discuss my experiences/ideas/opinions with others who also break the aforementioned mold. Thus, I'm excited about corresponding with you, and I invite any questions or comments you might have (and see them coming, particularly in regard to media effects research!). As I wish I were an actual student in the course, I'll do my best to keep up with the readings and hope to even visit the class at some point, if you'll have me! Take care!

4 comments:

Jackie Roe said...

Sam: To answer your earlier question, I'm not terribly familiar with Katz and Jhally, but I have seen "Tough Guise" (1999, I believe). I actually enjoyed the piece, as I felt it raised several strong points about the development and portrayal of masculinity in our culture, but I agree that it was a bit simplistic in its analysis of media as "bad." I'd be happy to go into more detail about either the film or media effects research in general, if that should be of interest to people ...

Sam Ford said...

Jackie, of course we will all have you if you are in the Cambridge area. Glad to know that you will be following the class from afar. And I think your expertise will come into play throughout the semester, especially in serving as a check on our discussion of the more "social science" style of research on pro wrestling, among other things.

As for your other comment, I have seen "Tough Guise" and found it more palatable than "Wrestling with Manhood." You should see that documentary if you have the chance. We'll definitely be relying on your expertise in media effects when we hit both that period in the class and Mick Foley's critique of the IU study in Foley is Good.

Alex Maki said...

That was a great read. I am also following this class from afar as I, too, am interested in pro wrestling beyond anyone's belief.

Side Note: Doink was one of my favorite wrestlers growing up...I guess I liked people outside the box because Yokozuna was my favorite.

Jackie Roe said...

Doink (and let's not forget Dink!) was quite the character, though he scared the bejesus out of me at the time. Yokozuna blew me away when I first saw him, and I still remember the great work he did with both Bret and Owen Hart (remember his tag title reign with Owen?). If only he stayed in better health ...