Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Modes

After reading Sam's piece "Pinning Down Fan Involvement", I found myself reflecting on which mode of engagement I would fit into. Reading the categories, my initial thought was that I would only be classified as a fan as a spectator. After reading the rest of the essay, I found that I exhibited more than one of the modes.

I was right that I would be classified as a fan as a spectator. I would think that most fans would also classify themselves in this way. I don't know if I would say that I get off on watching pro wrestling, but I do agree with its draw as a soap opera . It's entertaining to watch plots unfold and stories take shape. Whenever I would miss an episode I would have to be filled in by the next show in order to fully enjoy it. As much as I think that I am able to predict outcomes and stories, there is always a sense of unpredictability and interest as to what will happen next.

Since I have been mostly a tv fan, it's hard to imagine myself as a performer. I did, however, have to opportunity to attend a WWE show 10 years ago. At this show, I do remember taking on a performer role that I hadn't before. During a normal tv viewing I would describe the atmosphere as being calm and laid back. At the show I attended the atmosphere was very different. I found myself cheering and booing with the rest of the audience. I even remember going along with the audience at times when I didn't know what was going on (I was sitting in the nose bleed section), which could be viewed as a type of fan as community. I found that even at home I exhibited some of the traits as fans as performers. It seems like all of my common sense goes away when I watch a wrestling match. I never question whether something is real or not and it's not until later that I realize how silly some of the things I believed were.

Sam's essay shows just how important the fan really is to the performance of wrestling. One mode of engagement is not more right than another. There is no right way to watch a wrestling match. Instead, it is the combination of all the forms that adds to the diversity and popularity of wrestling.


Sam Ford said...

Wrestling fans are indeed like's Reese's cups, huh? No wrong way...I think you are right, Ismael, that people can switch these modes or engage in several of these simultaneously. Now, these groupings are imperfect, and I guess in some ways I constructed categories that do not take into account everything that fans do. And another important point is that this was written solely about fans at live events. However, you are right that TV viewers exhibit many of these behaviors as well. They certainly act as spectators and as critics and can definitely act as theorists as well from home. And, as you have proven in this class, wrestling can build a community of friends around it to talk and discuss 'rasslin with. Even fans as performers, which is the most problematic from home, can nevertheless take on some aspects for the home viewer, especially in a group setting where you may indeed perform your fandom in one way or another.

One category which I didn't mention in the paper because it actually includes the non-fan, is that there are of course some people at the wrestling shows who don't care at all about the shows and simply aren't fans, meaning they aren't engaging with the text in any mode, but I didn't include that as a separate category both becuase I didn't interview anyone who didn't get into the hsow at all and also because non-fans didn't really have a place in a piece looking at how fans engage with the show...

Brian "Louxchador" Loux said...

Is the non-fan the girlfriend that agreed to be brought along, doesn't want to be there, gets weirded out, and swears to never come back after that one show? I've seen those.

narwood said...

Hmm. So of the 50 participants, 6 self-described as "not really 'fans'." And yet they're treated throughout as fans. How is it possible to be present (and conscious) and not engage in any way?

Conversely, is it never possible to not be a fan, but yet to engage with the text? If someone engages with the audience, mocking, for example, while ignoring the wrestlers, are they by definition a fan?

I feel I'm having linguistic confusion ;<

Sam Ford said...

Another No-Prize, this time to Tess, for pointing out this linguistic confusion. I will likely insert a parenthetical clarification for this in the text, but my key was that they self-identified as not really fans, yet they engaged with the show nonetheless. I consider people as fans if they are engaging with the show, at least within the context that they have paid to get in with the show and are enjoying themselves, even if they don't self-identify as fans. True non-fans are those who are simply not interested in the show at all, who aren't engaging with it at all. Since the purpose of my studies was mode of engagment, I didn't talk with people in the crowd who didn't seem engaged with the show at all, and they likely would not have had interest in my questions, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I remember my first live WWE show, clear as yesterday. I think I was 15 or 16, and standing with all the other fans around me, cheering, chatting about the matches, who was awesome and so on, I felt a sense of community I had never really experienced before. In that arena, almost everyone there (except the non-fans, dragged by their SO's only to swear never to come back ) enjoyed wrestling and was probably a fan, just like me. Up until that point, all I had encountered re: wrestling was discouragement and negativity, so having that community fan experience was phenomenal. I was also part of the performance, as it were, as I had tried to dress up as Jeff Hardy and made signs which I hoped would get on tv. :)
While at the shows, I've never drifted off into 'analytical' or 'theoretical' fan mode, as I'm usually too wrapped up in the show and the spectacle to analyze anything. But man, that first live experience always sticks with you.