Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Believe It or Not

As a relative newcomer to the wide world of wrestling, I could really identify with the researchers in the Trujillo piece and their musings on the WWF. Like the researchers, I didn't really know what to take from wrestling. Initially, I was confused as to whether or not it was considered a real sport.

A recurring theme throughout the class has been the "suspension of disbelief". It is the idea that when watching a wrestling we are expected to put our reason aside and give into the performance of wrestlers--that is, if we truly want to enjoy the spectacle. Being exposed to wrestling for pretty much the first time, I found difficulty in just "giving in". Had I been an age-old fan of wrestling, I think the situation would be very different. As children, suspension of disbelief is always the name of the game. We are very much willing and able to get caught up in the kind of excitement and action wrestling presents. We are under the impression that the Ultimate Warrior was truly hexed by the ominous Papa Shango or that Jake the Snake had sealed the Macho Man's fate with a deadly snake bite to the arm. As an older viewer, however, it is much harder to believe any fatal harm ever befalls a wrestler as a result of such stunts. We simply know better.

As hard as it may be, I think we really do have to approach wrestling from this naive perspective. For the most part, the research group from the Trujillo passage reveal their inability to adopt such an open-minded view when they first arrive on the scene. Despite their best defenses, they succomb to their preconceived notions of wrestling and the wrestling audience. As the matches ensue, however, their mindset shifts a bit and they come to realize that a lot of the people in attendance know that the performances are staged. It's a notion that is difficult to get by, I know; especially when everyone jeers and cheers throughout the match and seem so convinced by the performance. In this respect, it is easy to see how big a role the audience plays in the success of the wrestling program. One of the researchers even compares it to the role of the chorus in Greek tragedy.

As a more seasoned viewer of wrestling, I have begun to let up on the idea that matches should be more realistic. I still prefer the more technical or "scientific" matches in which wrestlers appear to have some sort of strategy in mind. But I now appreciate the culmination of characters' story lines in the ring. Perhaps it is the inteviews that have bolstered my interest in this respect. In any case, I've learned that watching wrestling requires a willingness to simply let go of many of the preconceived ideas we may have about it or who watches it.


Sam Ford said...

I think that, to steal a line from occasional class participant Alec Austin, that wrestling involves an implicit contract with its fans. The WWE fans are clearly willing to give up some aspects of realism, yet they get really mad at other violations of realism. The deal is realism within the narrative world they create. I also study soaps, so it's the same there, where people are just going to have more exciting lives and more bad things happen to them than "real" people, where people are going to be married and divorced more times than actually happens in the "real" world, etc. Yet, fans might get upset if a zombie shows up on a soap opera, just as wrestling fans may get mad if an actor like David Arquette wins the WCW World Heavyweight Title. There is suspension of disbelief, on the one hand, but there is a push for a consistent reality within that fictional world.

Ismael said...

If you asked me if I thought wrestling was staged and not real, I would completely agree with you and have no arguments otherwise. When I watch a match, however, something comes over me and I forget all logic and revert back to a naive viewer. I know deep down that what I'm watching is not real and even comical, but I'm overcome with feelings of anxiousness and excitemtne as to what is going to happen next. I react to finishing move as if it is the most devastating blow that the wrestler could suffer. Once the match is over, all of my logic and common sense comes back and I forget that I was in such a different state of mind during the match. I guess since I have been watching since a really youbg age, the point at which I ralized wrestling to be staged is unclear. It could possibly be thatI have the exact smae mentality every time I watch a match. In any case, I'm complaining because it's often the most enjoyment I can get out of a busy day.