Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Classic and Classy Heels

In the article about Freddie Blassie, the 'Greatest', Muhamamed Ali, credits his legendary fast-talking, gab-jiving persona to first Gorgerous George, then Blassie, then back again. That he was confused about which star had inspired him is understandable, since they had very similar gimmicks: blond, tan, upscale, 'classy', fierce in the ring. George may have come off slightly more fey, and Blassie slightly more blood-crazed, but still, there seems to be a common footprint in their personas. If you keep looking, this trend with big-name heels continues with several Nature Boys, especially your man Ric Flair, the high-flying, wheelin and dealin champion, the dirtiest player in the game, of course with the blond hair, limousine ride and all the attention.

What makes this heel blueprint so popular, and successful to boot? Is it the familiarity, given that at least someone has heard of the previous generation's incarnation? Or possibly the overall elitism that these heels portray rubs the (on average) middle to working class audience the wrong way? Possibly, but whatever era and whatever circumstance, there always seems to be a version of the blond-haired, tan, elitist and aggravating heel. Each has his own little spin, but if you didn't know any better, they may seem to blend together (like George and Blassie did for Ali).

It's that little spin on an old classic that allows this heel blueprint to work over and over. Georgeous may have been the originator of the gimmick, with perfect blond curls, flowing sumptuous robes, and a butler to sweep the ring and ward off 'lesser people' from the Georgeous One's presence, until he stepped in the ring and cleaned up. Building on this template, Freddie Blassie was blond, tanned, consummate Californian, with Hollywood ties and contempt for just about everybody, who all seemed to constitute 'Pencil-Necked Geeks', not to mention a fearsome reputation he had cultivated in Japan. Skip forward to Ric Flair, blond, tan, with a motor mouth and the ring skills to back it up, as a high-class, wheeling-dealing big time player, etc. If we wanted to stretch further, we can look at early Hunter Herst Helmsley, blond, tan, and basically a pure-bred preppie, upper-class, self-centered elitist, before he evolved and became closer to the everyman and joined DX. Sound familiar?

This type of heel just seems to have a perfect slot available in every generation, he has a role laid out for him, to which he can add some distinguishing details. But it doesn't look like we'll be getting tired of hating these blond assholes for a long time.

1 comment:

Sam Ford said...

Deirdre, this goes back to Omar's point that he drew from the piece from Gutowski, as well as the points made by Martin about "Friday nights" in the wrestling arena, that you have so many archetypes that become variations of a common theme. These new incarnations, at their best, are not derivative but rather modern adaptations that pay homage to original characters but take them in new directions.