Saturday, March 24, 2007

Joshua Shea answers your questions!!

The other day, someone was whining at me for not going back and responding to people’s questions. I assumed that nobody wanted answers, preferring just to pound out a response because it’s part of the class requirements and that these people didn’t really like me. But, I guess I was wrong. I’ve gone through every post where I thought a question was being asked of me and also on several where there are simply comments about me, or what I had written. Answers will be kept short since there’s really a lot of these suckers.

Anonymous asks:
Do you have the slightest clue what Comparative Media Studies is or what the goals are?
As a media studies major in the mid-90s, yes, I understand the department and I understand what the goals are. I just didn’t go to….I can’t seem to remember the name of your school. You really need to post it more to remind me.

Do you understand what the point of this class is, what is being taught and how the students are being asked to think about it?
Sam was kind enough to give me a syllabus, so yes.

You think people shouldn't bother thinking about the audience?
I think in the limited time you have in this class, the business, in-ring performance and characters should come first. I also think since you’re likely not able to perform focus groups or surveys with fans, anything you come up with is speculative at best. Might as well go bet on the horses if you’re just pulling conclusions out of thin air.

Mike W asks:
Wrestling has no basis in greco-roman style?
For many years I believed it did, having a Nordic vs. Alpine skiing relationship, but the more I read the less I could draw parallels except in the word “wrestling”.

Did fighting just occur naturally in the carnival, with no influence from a millenia-old sport?
Fighting occurs naturally at the carnival, haven’t you ever been? It's usually between two 20-year-old guys just out of prison over some disgusting 16-year-old named Dawn or crystal meth, or both. I could say pro wrestling has an influence from Adam and Eve, but I’m not going to reach that far. Does roller derby have its roots in demolition derby?

Women's wrestling is dead?
Technically no, but let’s be honest. Its health is somewhere between tag-team and midget wrestling. The only way you’ll really make it as a female wrestler vs. Diva is in Japan. The greatest match I’ve ever seen live was a one-hour hardcore brawl tag team championship match in Tokyo. It went to a draw. Japanese women wrestle at full speed. Even going back to the days of Moolah, then Wendi Richter and yes today, most womens’ wrestling is done at about 70% of the speed of men’s making it much faker looking. The proof it’s going nowhere is that it’s not marketable. WWE can make more money on girls with big fake boobs than real skills. Either way though, I don’t think it draws a dollar. And the reason that "Lipstick and Dynamite" blew was because they hardly broke kayfabe. I didn't learn anything I didn't already know.

How can you tell us it's not comparable to theater when it so clearly is?
As I said earlier, you can compare any two things if you try hard enough. Both have an audience sitting in chairs. Both sell concessions. Both have souvenir programs. Both are performed on a raised platform. Both take intermissions. Both have expensive tickets.

Where, then, do you feel wrestling comes from?
Like groove, in the heart.

Brian "Louxchador" Loux asks:
Are we wine-sipping elitists or low-income TV pageboys who can only afford Olde English?
Currently you’re the first, but upon graduation you’ll become the latter. And you won’t see it coming, that’s why it sounds weird when I say it to you now.

Mike W asks:
After all, what is the dark side of the social sciences if not marketing?
This I agree with. I work with marketing people all day and think 99% of them are completely full of BS, so I guess it’s a good analogy.

Really, what's with the petty "PA" comment?
I thought it was funny. Just looking into the crystal ball.

Sam Ford asks:
How many guys have been called "Judas” so far, for instance?
Nobody said wrestling was very creative. I think it’s just an easy point of reference for the Christian crowd. Even Benedict Arnold would fly over most of their heads.

Narwoood asks:
Help, what's a pyro?
Drew Barrymore in “Firestarter”

Do people actually feel threatened? (Or just enjoying the fight?)
Nobody should feel threatened. I don’t even know where (most of) you live. My guess is that it’s 50/50 but nobody would say I’m getting to them publicly. Getting to you forces you to admit I might be right and you might be wrong.

Peter "The Malcontent" Rauch asks:
But you seem to draw the line between analysis and overanalysis in a very different place than we do. What criteria do you use to make that judgment?
Analysis is a real-world process based in facts, statistics, experiences, etc. Overanalysis is philosophy in that it cannot be proven nor disproven because there is no way to measure results.

Sam Ford asks:
What place does emotion have in academia?
Depends if you’re a boy or a girl. Girls cry and whine a lot easier than men.

Do we clearly favor logic and distance and introspection?
For the price you’re paying, I hope so. Spending all that time simply to be better at talking crap seems like a waste of money.

How does that balance with rhetoric and passion?
There should be none of this, except in the science lab and most math classes.

And what does all this mean within the context of a discussion about pro wrestling?
What is the difference between text, context and subtext? I don’t know what it all means, but like a song by Tori Amos, I think it means whatever you want it to.

BMN asks:
Just because a guitar soloist or two gets out of hand, do we completely dismiss the entire Rush catalog? Or better yet, just do away with rock music completely?
In the case of Rush, yes. Bob Seger too. You like what you like, and if you want compare Rush’s guitar playing to the calls of migrating birds, which I’m sure will be an available class to you next year, go for it.

Brian "Louxchador" Loux comments:
Josh haunts my dreams. Dr. Nausbaum says it's becoming unhealthy.
You’re a dude. Stop it.

Narwood comments:
Into this ongoing discussion came Joshua Shea, who will be a guest speaker later in the term. He has an extraordinary history with wrestling, both as a fan, and as someone involved in the business of pro-wrestling. This is not under debate.
You are brilliant.

His central message, however, is that we are primarily wankers, in over our heads and trying to impose theoretical discourses onto what is, first and foremost, an entertainment and a business.
Can you be a female and be a wanker? I don’t think that about ALL of you, by the way. Just those, who in their hearts, think this kind of analysis will be important to them when they try to draw a check after graduation. Especially those that don’t actually know anything about wrestling.

And don’t just take my word for it. Here are two excerpts of a review posted on about Jim Ross’ recent visit:

“No one directly asked Jim Ross about steroids and as the crowd of mostly MIT students were not savvy to the business, they didn't seem aware of the current issues of the business, including the current steroid controversy.”

“Even in a two hour lecture, I wished we could have heard more stories. It was also a bit too bad that the lecture was aimed towards the MIT students with little awareness of the business. What fun it would have been if J.R. knew he was in a classroom of 65-70 real wrestling fans and could speak in fewer generalities and more in depth about the business.”

Mike W. asks:
Is it important to be a wrestling fan to analyze it?
I don’t think it’s important to most, but I enjoy analyzing it. I guess it depends what kind of person you are. Some of the biggest wrestling fans I’ve ever known are special needs kids who would come to my indy shows in a group for free and they loved it, and I don’t think it was anything other than what was on the surface.

If it is so simple and does not need deep analysis, why can't the average non-fan watch it and grasp it?
In one viewing, because it’s new. This is true of most stuff on TV. If they’re not grasping it after 3 episodes of RAW, then you have to ask are they not grasping it or not liking it? I've seen squash on the BBC channel many times and I still don't get it. Yet it seems like the British fans do, and they don't strike me as deep analysis types.

I also think that one cannot simply say that "wrestling fan" is a simple and unanimous concept. Nobody dares think of fans of "music" as being a inseparable and cohesive unit, right?
Depends what you think. Are all figure skating fans the same? Yes? No? I think anytime you have two or more people doing anything you can’t be unanimous.

Benoit v MVP? Really?
It’s a 4+ hour show. Multiply that times 3 beers an hour and you see the need for that bathroom break. Who’s coming over to my place for it anyway, I need to plan for food.

Carolina comments:
Wrestling is a business first and foremost, as Mr. Shea won't let us forget, but right on the heel of that, it's performance.
Absolutely. All for-profit business is performance.

Sam Ford comments:
At the risk of angering Mr. Shea, I'm going to write a response to Gerald Craven and Richard Moseley's piece on the dramatic conventions of professional wrestling.
It’s okay. I didn’t read it.


Sam Ford said...

Joshua, never presume that people don't like you. We're a community here, right? I'll give a few responses for your answers, the ones that caught my eye while I'm waiting for my breakfast to be ready this morning.

-In response to the audience, most of the students' speculations is focused on the ethnographies with audience members they read for the class, so we actually did have focus groups or surveys with fans, of sorts anyway, available to us, even if we didn't have the time to conduct original research.

-Ruth Leitman has been in touch with me, the director of Lipstick and Dynamite, so it will be interesting when she joins to blog soon, as she plans to, to discuss directly with her as a group the merits of her documentary.

-Women's wrestling looks to be pretty dead in Japan as well. The key is not that there isn't talent out there wanting to wrestle and audience members who would like to see it but rather no promoters who want to put it on. J.R. pointed out to us that RAW ranks second in the nation on cable among young female viewers, so the idea that wrestling is just a show for male teens and young adults is a farce, even if it's a farce WWE believes as an organization.

-Brian Loux has actually been graduated for several years, so I guess he already saw "it" happen, if "it" indeed did.

-Actually, Grand Wizard's stretch to make the Judas analogy may HAVE been pretty creative, come to think of it.

-You seem to be someone who values quantitative over qualitative, since you say that "Analysis is a real-world process based in facts, statistics, experiences, etc. Overanalysis is philosophy in that it cannot be proven nor disproven because there is no way to measure results." What you are saying, then, is that analysis is something that can have numbers crunched to back it up, while overanalysis is qualitative. But don't you know that the easiest way to lie is with statistics?

-Rhetoric and passion in the science lab and math classes. Sounds like a nerdy porno.

-As for your answer about the Craven and Moseley piece, that answers the one question of mine I never saw an answer to--that is, how many of the pieces you are criticizing you've read and thought about. :)

-Finally, regarding your point about J.R. J.R. e-mailed me from Norman yesterday, to point out how you can always be sure that someone would misrepresent what happened on some of the dirt sheet Web sites. There's actually three reports floating around, two on PW Insider and one on the Observer. One that claimed there were 70 in attendance and few of them were wrestling fans, while another that said 40 were there and almost all were wrestling fans. As Workman said in the title of his piece we read a while back, I guess it is "the differential perception of popular dramatic events," if you can call J.R.'s speech dramatic (and I certainly would).

But the quotes that you pulled out from the story doesn't prove much. J.R. had already spent two days with the class, talking to us in-depth. The public event they came to did not involve this class, although several of the students sat in on it as well. I would say there were probably 90 to 100 there in all, counting the people who left early and came in late, and about 60 of them were fans. So, sure, there were plenty of people at this public event, probably 40 or so, who may not have been wrestling fans but were just interested MIT students and faculty sitting in. That J.R. chose to tell stories and facts in a way that would be accessible to both wrestling fans and interested non-fans alike doesn't prove anything about members of this class, since his talk to the class was much more wrestling-centric. But you won't see transcripts of those talks floating around the dirt sheets, since it was a more private setting. At least I hope we won't! (I trust these guys not to shop J.R.'s stories around.)

Sam Ford said...

By the way, those reviews of J.R.'s appearance are available here, here, and here.

Mike W. said...

Roller derby evolved sometime after 1933 by a man in Portland (?) named Leo Seltzer, when he began using theaters he owned to sponsor competitive events. Early on, this involved a "walkathon," where people would walk (in a circle!) for hours. But you paid to watch that, not to participate. (He had other novel ideas, like ice sitting contests)

After moving to Chicago, he switched this to the "Transcontinental Derby," wherein people would skate in a circle until they traversed the distance from New York to San Diego. It involved (roughly) 37 days of 12-14 hours on skates.

Needless to say, its excitement peaked early. At some colleagues' suggestion, he began to allow the skaters to engage one another (hitting). That's more or less the short story of how derby came about, so no, it didn't have anything to do with Demolition Derby.

Forgive the long aside, and don't mistake me for misreading a rhetorical question; I'm a part-time derby referee (I took some nasty bumps in Indianapolis list night as well), so I felt the need to clarify. I was really tempted to make parallels between a DIY derby show and an indy pro wrestling event, but for Joshua's sake, I'll stop here.

Mike W. said...

"As I said earlier, you can compare any two things if you try hard enough. Both have an audience sitting in chairs. Both sell concessions. Both have souvenir programs. Both are performed on a raised platform. Both take intermissions. Both have expensive tickets."

Well, that's more avoiding the question than it is answering it (which appears to be the greater proportion of your "answers.") Save, lamentably, for your answer on women's wrestling, which, although it has too much of a long-term dismal outlook, is certainly (mostly) spot-on for the moment.

Let's say wrestling isn't comparable to theater at all. Let's also say you have four wrestlers call you and ask for bookings, but you can only afford two of them. Which two would you book?
1) Ravishing Rick Rude
2) Ultimate Warrior
3) Batista
4) Chris Benoit
I'm willing to bet that it's a hard decision to make, yet popular opinion among sophisticated wrestling fans would say that there are only two "real" (in a manner of speaking) wrestlers on the list, Benoit and Rude. If you strip away the layers of theater (character names and origins, outfits, promos, etc.), and if those elements aren't important, then why would choosing 2 of those 4 be so difficult?

Let me pose another hypothetical to you. Let me say that I wanted to join your nationally-televised promotion as a wrestler straight out of Dickens novels. A dandy fop, indeed, with ruffles in my shirts, nary a scratch on my top hat, and with a fondness for telling those ne'er do wells in the crowd that their tawdry outfits are unbefitting for the presence of someone as myself.

What I'm suggesting is that (1) it's absolute foolishness to think there's nothing relating wrestling and theater, and (2) there has to be some culturally relevant ties to society at large in order to "get over." Nobody would get why "The Natural" Butch Reed was supposed to be a bad guy in this day and age (A black man with blonde hair calling himself "Natural?" How dare he!), and some cultural attitudes (towards sexuality, for instance) remain long-lasting enough that I'm sure George Wagner would be *well* hated in this day and age.

Your remarks on "Lipstick and Dynamite" make me wonder about you. "Kayfabe" is not, contrary to your Skinnerian view of the world, a thick and precise line separating "Lawler beat up Kaufman on David Letterman" from "Lawler's in on the gag." "Kayfabe" is a dangerously amorphous concept, and that's something I think an ex-promoter would grasp. "Kayfabe" is the difference between a female wrestler talking about working against so-and-so in the territory and hating her guts, and lamenting about how sexually exploitative they thought Jack Pfeffer (sp?) was.

Living in a world after Bret-and-Shawn, I would imagine that you could grasp how moments that break Kayfabe aren't going to be as shocking as, say, The Missing Link sharing recipe secrets on-air with Julia Child (not that this ever happened); they're going to be so under the radar that it will be *years* before you or I figure out that, just like the "regular" fans smart marks look down upon, we've been worked the whole bloody time.

Lastly, please stop with the "I ran a wrestling promotion so I know it all" mentality. It's boring and it's wrong. Lots of people can talk about their years in the business, but have no genuine idea what it's really like. Even the successful ones. Do you think people who worked in Eric Bishoff's WCW understand "the business" the way those who worked (or, rather, volunteered, given the pay scale there) in ECW did? Do you think either of those guys know the business the way an old journeyman would? Or that Johnny Nitro, who's never stepped foot one into an indy fed (OVW doesn't count) before, knows the business like 2 Cold Scorpio (who was on OVW last night, and looking very good, I should say)? Would someone working in the 1980's WWF find "the business" the same as those who come into it today (in a day and age where guys physiques like Trevor Murdoch are one in a million and with physiques like Batista a dime a dozen)?

Short story long (sorry, I'm good at that), there are thousands of wrestlers and thousands of ideas of what "the business" is. Put your defense mechanisms away, deal with the fact that thought is going to occur with or without your permission, and try to engage the conversations (those that you feel are worth commenting on), and ignore the others.

Forgive my own moment of pettiness, but it seems to me that, like most smart marks, you're focusing on what frustrates you about this board and making long diatribes about what's wrong with people's comments, and spending little to no time reflecting on other people's contributions that are worthwhile or help foster discussion. Just like most of your website contributors treat pro wrestling in general.

Joshua Shea said...

I've only got a few minutes before I have to head out to the airport, so this will have to satiate your need for my knowledge for a couple of days.

Couple points:

If I keep bringing up that I worked in wrestling and in fact had only worked two months, I might see your point, but I successfully ran an organization, on both the business and the creative ends, for over 4 years. I keep going back to it, because that's how I back up my points, I don't use theory or articles written by someone else. I attended over 200 WWE and 50 indy shows before I ever got into it. I know it kills you that people who worked in the business, even the successful ones who you still claim don't get it, may not subscribe to your rather flowery view of the wrestling world. If Eric Bischoff, or me, or whoever you want to say don't get it truly didn't, why were we successful for so long? I didn't do the kind of overanalysis you're doing because it wouldn't have drawn another fan and I had real things to worry about. If you're criticizing my business abilities, I fully support your attempt in starting a company that does 20 shows a year over 4 states so you can prove me wrong.

I think far more people understood the different aspects that it took to run a wrestling organization and put live and television shows on in WCW than in ECW. True, ECW was far more fun to witness, but it only rose out of indy status in that last year or two.

If I was going to book two people for one show, It would be Warrior and Batista. If they were being booked long-term, it would be Batista and Benoit. Warrior and Batista would bring out different generations of the same type of fan, and it's that fan that would likely spend the money to see a show. With Benoit, he'd only draw money if you could put him in a long-term angle. Why are you picking them based on anything other than who will bring in the most money?

I didn't realize it was evil to not like Lipstick and Dynamite, but aside from the early parts of how they were banned and how McMahon helped get those bans dropped, it actually offered very little than a bunch of old women bitching about each other. I can see that at Thanksgiving. And when they talked about their matches, especially Moolah, they talked as if they were legitimate 1-on-1 contests. I guess they talk that way because they're from that era, but a documentary is supposed to be fact, and this was heavily skewed fact. Although I will admit it was nice to see Mae Young talk like a normal woman and not the sex-crazed borderline retard that the WWE has portrayed her as.

Go back and read your piece on kayfabe...I don't get your point. Kayfabe, from my experience, has generally included a) not sharing secrets from the script b) not sharing secrets about the workers and c) not sharing secrets from behind the scenes. Kayfabe is still alive and well. So the whole thing is predetermined? OK, that's one secret...there are still thousands more.

Sorry if I focus on the negative, but when I read a post like yours is hard to find a lot positive.

Mike W. said...

You're taking my points far too personally. I did not condemn you as a failed promoter, or a lousy businessman. I know little about your promotion; I was merely pointing out that acting as if you know it all about the business and are the be-all end-all philosophy of wrestling is incorrect, because it's little more than a phony defence mechanism. It's akin to Tommy Lasorda (sorry for dating myself) claiming that there's only one way to win and play baseball - HIS way. It's an indefensible straw man.

As for your "pick the wrestlers who will draw the most money" answer, well, yes, that's true. You'll begin to see my point, however, once you answer *why* you would choose them. Warrior and Batista? Benoit and Batista? That more or less proves my point.

As for L&D, I don't recall saying anything about it was "evil," so please use that as that last attempt to exaggerate (or "overanalyze," if you will) my disagreement with you. My point about "Kayfabe" is that it's precisely far more than you argue in your brief bullet points.

Personally, I'd recommend reading an article called "Doing Difference" by Candace West and Sarah Fenstermaker (from "Gender and Society" 1995) to get at what I'm talking about. Every one of your posts reinforces that you're the kind of person who really like to have concrete, identifiable packages ready to define, create thick borders around, and insist are the "natural" boundaries of it. If you can recognize just what a fluid concept "gender" is, how it is separate from "sex," and what "gender as performance" are, then we'll be getting somewhere.

A wrestler can violate kayfabe and not violate those criteria you listed. We no longer live in an era where guys would stay in "heel" and "face" hotels, where "retarded" (in Ball's usage) wrestlers stay in character outside of a show, and that giving an interview "out of character" is common and unsurprising anymore. Kayfabe, in my opinion, also involves "protecting the business."

Sorry if you can't at least grasp where I'm coming from; I'd be more open to your viewpoints if you kept your attitude in check and (far more importantly), if you're going to respond to these viewpoints, provide less condescension and more support. Do more than tell me you'll book Batista and Benoit. Tell me why; Don't willfully ignore my point that there are as many philosophies for running a promotion as there are promoters, and continue to insist your self-imposed status as the grand know-it-all of this thread.

There is *FAR* more to pro wrestling than violating kayfabe, and there's plenty to study and even (gasp!) analyze for those people who don't find kayfabe, or its violation, interesting.

Brian "Louxchador" Loux said...

Joshua Shea writes more one liners!

For the record, my job (environmental engineer) doesn't suck because I spent my time flitting away in college on unprovable theories, it's because jobs by and large suck.

And half the people in this school turn worthless 4-years-of-bullshit degrees into amazingly lucrative Wall Street careers. It's called the Sloan School of Management.

Anonymous said...

I'm staying out of all the other comments and just sticking to Josh's response to mine:

"BMN asks:
Just because a guitar soloist or two gets out of hand, do we completely dismiss the entire Rush catalog? Or better yet, just do away with rock music completely?

Josh says: In the case of Rush, yes. Bob Seger too. You like what you like, and if you want compare Rush’s guitar playing to the calls of migrating birds, which I’m sure will be an available class to you next year, go for it."

So the original question-- do we do away with rock music completely?-- remains unanswered. What I was trying to suggest is that you're judging all academia based on the examples you view here on this blog (which is certainly not published work, just a group of students trying to get their thoughts together). My analogy was to say this is the same as someone listening to Rush, finding it overindulgent and then saying that it proves-- ipso facto-- that all rock music sucks.

Maybe it would have been better to use someone like Joe Satriani or Yngwie Malmsteen for my analogy. My bad. The argument against people like this is that they do a lot of finger-faddling on their guitars to show off that they can do it, but it amounts to nothing. Your argument: us stuffy-shirt types are doing a lot of mental-wrangling on our blogspot to show off that we can do it, but it amounts to nothing.

And, well yeah, maybe so: that's why it's a blog and not a final paper or a published book or anything of that nature. This is a group of people (many of whom admittedly have limited experience watching wrestling) trying to get their head around a popular phenomenon by engaging it from an outsider's point of view. The fact that we don't look at it from a booker's perspective is part of what it is. We're looking at a group of people from the outside and saying "here's what they react to and what those reactions are, it seems to suggest (insert random conclusion here, such as, "wrestling is homoerotic" or "wrestling is not homoerotic"). We're relatively confident that bookers, wrestlers, fans, etc. may not be *cognizant* of this during said reaction but that doesn't take away from the power of the observation.

I apologize if I missed it from an earlier post, but I'm sincerely interested in knowing if this blog has violated your expectations in any way. Just curious, really. It *reads* like (and please correct me if I'm wrong because I freely admit I'm basing this on very limited info) that you expected the type of class that prepared your average student to be a businessperson in wrestling or a booker. However, what you saw was a theory-based class designed as more of a social critique and it threw you off.

If that's an unfair assessment, let me know.

I actually find Josh's posts very invigorating (which is probably why I've spent much time replying to them). Whether intentioned or not, they're highly performative and entertaining whether you agree wholeheartedly or disagree with every fiber of your being. And that's good wrestling at the end of the day: whether you cheer or jeer, you certainly react.


PS I'm all in favour of doing away with Bob Seger (except for "Her Strut" and "Famous Final Scene"). Not Rush, though. I love Rush.

Peter "The Malcontent" Rauch said...

First, congrats on the replies. As a snarky person, I salute you.

That said...

Analysis is a real-world process based in facts, statistics, experiences, etc. Overanalysis is philosophy in that it cannot be proven nor disproven because there is no way to measure results.

Shit. I hope nobody tells literature or most branches of philosophy that they haven't been doing analysis. They'd be crushed.

There is a large branch of academia dedicated to the production of theory that has no empirical basis at all, and no real checks except the theories' internal consistency and parsimony. Analysis is a word that is often used. I now realize this is mistaken, and will edit my thesis to remove it.

And, seeing as I've wasted the past six years of my life or so not focusing on things that can be easily represented statistically, I'm sure I'll be hitting you up for a job soon. Sam, will you be one of my references?

Sam Ford said...

Peter, if I hear of any entry-level pure theory jobs out there, I'll let you know.

Joshua Shea said...

I think that Subway is going to start hiring people to assess customer's personalities and figure out which bread goes best with their particular sub. Personally, I think it's just a ruse to push the parmesan oregano.

Okay, I see my popularity continues and there have been plenty of comments while I've been away, so let's dive right in...

I don't criticize specfic pieces you've read unless I've read them as well. I kept my mouth shut about Lipstick and Dynamite until I saw it.

I wasn't critiquing JR's visit. I was offering a review that commented on the MIT student involvement. I read the other reviews after they were posted.

The easiest way to lie is actually without statistics. For instance, according to the US Dept of Education, MIT had 71 on-campus burglaries in 2005 (the most recent stats available). Now, for 2006, you could say "I bet there was 100 burglaries." You have nothing to back up your claim, while I have something to back up my 2005 claim. And for a school that's supposed to be so prestigious, why are 7% of the students victim of a felony?

Mike, go ahead and compare roller derby and wrestling. I'd like to hear it. I've followed it sporadically and know a bit of the history myself. It sounds like the professional stuff is starting to come back in LA. Man, I miss the T-Birds.

Mike, I didn't take your comments personally. They did get me going, but I think that's a good thing. It's nice to hear somebody rebut me with something other than "Well, this is MIT and this is an MIT course and I'm an MIT student." If this same class were offered at a community college, it would be considered a cheesy elective, but because it's MIT, it's something special. And it's not like you're all quantum physics majors. Doing well in a course on wrestling at MIT is like acing your art class at culinary school or majoring in English at the Rhode Island School of Design. And there's over 10,000 students at MIT, so we're not exactly talking Dartmouth, Bates or Swarthmore levels of elite.

And while I guess you can create a philosophy for wrestling, it's going to get you as far as every other philosopher has got. There is only a philosophy to wrestling if you want there to be, much like for crazy people, there is an alternate reality.

I think there are far fewer ways of doing business backstage than you might believe. I've been backstage at a ton of indies (notice here, experience, not theory talking) and it actually surprised how similar it all is. That's probably why the indies are really struggling now. I think it's like running a restaurant. You can tweak here and there, but it's still about feeding people and turning a profit.

I'm not trying to come off as the grand know-it-all. I'm comfortable drawing on over 100 shows I promoted where I picked up my observations through experience. If you want to sit around and talk about the homoerotic subtext or the God complex found in wrestlers today, that's fine, but I go back to one of my early statements, it's only wrestling, enjoy the show. Analyze weather trends, or the increase in autism...something the world can benefit from.

BMN, I like your post, but I think you prove my point. You are outsiders pointing at wrestlers, the business, the fans, and talking amongst yourselves about random stuff like how all fans want to sleep with our mothers or how promoters don't realize that a weekly TV show could be bad for business or whatever random theory is up for discussions. You're passing judgement with a limited set of facts, consciously remaining an outsider, and that is elitest.

I'm lost on the musical analogy by the way. What was the original point before it became about banning rock music?

Peter, you could luck out and get a great well-paying job, but it's not going to be in philosophy unless you stay on campus for the rest of your life. Most of you will end up in well paying jobs that have nothing to do with what you studied. That's been happening forever. I guess technically it's happened to me now. But some of you will be repeating the phrase "baked potato, steak fries or rice pilaf" for the rest of your life as well. Unless you're one of the chicks, then you just need to marry well.

Anonymous said...

Josh says:

BMN, I like your post, but I think you prove my point. You are outsiders pointing at wrestlers, the business, the fans, and talking amongst yourselves about random stuff like how all fans want to sleep with our mothers or how promoters don't realize that a weekly TV show could be bad for business or whatever random theory is up for discussions.

I say:

Thanks for the kind words. I guess what I was trying to get at was: do we come off as trying to pretend like we're NOT outsiders? To me, true elitism starts when you act like an insider when you're not. Part of literature and social science discourse is applying a "fresh" outlook on something; the idea being that the people on the inside have been on the inside for so long that their perspective could use some rounding.

Josh says:

You're passing judgement with a limited set of facts, consciously remaining an outsider, and that is elitest.

BMN says:

Again, this is just a course. It's not a book. It's not a published paper. It's a course that may lead some in the class to say "well, that was interesting, but I won't study wrestling any further." But others might go on to do more ethnographic research as you espouse. If we just jumped into publishing scholarship on wrestling from a fan-to-insider perspective, that's not necessarily invalid either, but it's different. I think that this course is geared more towards the scholar-fan approach rather than fan-scholar (which I think you'd prefer). I personally think BOTH approaches have merit and provide a fuller perspective.

Heck, my favourite essay in the Jenkins' book is the one written by the wrestler! It's not like I'm not on your side here!

Josh says:

I'm lost on the musical analogy by the way. What was the original point before it became about banning rock music?

I say:

I guess my point was that you seemed to be lumping all academia (or maybe all of MIT, I'm not sure) based on select posts on a blogspot you don't like. Just like it would be silly to write off an entire genre of music just because one band gets overindulgent or "overthinks" it, it would be silly to write off the blog just because a couple of posters "overthink" it. Maybe you didn't intend it this way, but it comes across as "this website is really silly" or something to that effect. Instead of "here's the posts that need work."

If you really do think that ALL the posts are silly, then I return to rephrase someone else's question, which was: after reading Sam's syllabus, what exactly did you expect and did you express an outrage to him then?

Heck, were I Sam, I'd probably tell certain students that. I'd say "hey, here's where you're reaching and here's how you can improve your critical outlook." I wouldn't say "hey, you're just an anal-retentive overthinker and just shut up and enjoy wrestling for what it is!!"

This, I guess, goes back to the heart of what academics have to wrestle with (no pun intended). We're totally nerds and completely admit it: we actually ENJOY thinking about things and find it unusual when people take offense at this. When people get turned off by our overthinking, OK, that's par for the course. But genuinely offended? Not that I agree with everything Theodor Adorno ever said, but it's sort of a dangerous thing to tell people that thinking about entertainment is a bad thing.