Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wrestling and Pop Culture

Any truly good wrestler is able to sell his performance to the crowd. He or she is able to give an audience what it wants at particular moments in a match. As we've come to learn, however, the most memorable wrestlers have been those with the most colorful personalities, both in and out of the ring. From Gutowski's piece on the "Art of Professional Wrestling", I realized that the versatility in creating characters and personas in the world of wrestling is representative of wrestling as a social dynamic.

The form modern wrestling has taken is specially adapted to the world around it. Unlike popular sports, wrestling has the ability to continually give its audience more of what it wants to see. As Gutowski writes, professional wrestling borrows bits and pieces of popular culture and effectively incorporates them into their programs. The evolution of character performances and personalities can be seen as an evolution in audience tastes prescribed by popular culture. In the post World War II era, for example, it was was not uncommon to see many wrestlers who were self-proclaimed Nazi sympathizers or who wrestled under German surnames.

Wrestling has been able to command a large following throughout the years because it can perpetually cater to popular interests. If nothing else, this is what defines wrestling as a form of entertainment (as opposed to pure sport). Like performers in other entertainment genre (music, television, etc.) wrestlers gain favor among the crowd by keeping up with the progress of popular culture. If they are truly special, they can transcend this stricture and become a cultural icon themselves. Nevertheless, it can be argued that wrestling is a social organism all its own. Popular culture itself can borrow personalities from the ring and transmute them into characters in TV or film or even music. In any case, a clear symbiosis can be seen to exist between mass culture and professional wrestling.

1 comment:

Sam Ford said...

Good reading of Gutowski's points, and I think it blends well when looking at the points made by Morton and O'Brien in Wrestling to Rasslin', when they look at the historical roots of wrestling. The key is that wrestling has myriad influences becuase it is a dynamic text, influenced heavily by the world around it.