Tuesday, March 27, 2007

thanks professor JR

I just went online and bought JR beef jerky. I'm a vegetarian. That's how awesome he was.

So, I think there's a whole lot Prof Ross let us in on, and I was really grateful for all of his input, and his willingness to get into the spirit of our class. In class I asked him about how he managed to play so many roles within the industry, and what his relationship to performance was, particularly in terms of his role as sports announcer, a seemingly responsive and 'objective' rather than character role.
In response, JR spoke of how much the personalities in wrestling are successful in their ability to extend and hyperbolize the actual core character of the performer. He cited The Rock as a prime example, his character being based on his actual personality as a cocky college football player. He also said that he was playing himself when announcing, though it was an extension of the everyday self, a more full and exaggerated version of true man. He mentioned several times that some of the wrestlers were indeed the playground bully all grown up, and this can't be turned on and off in absolute terms.

Since this theme came up several times during our time with JR, it made me start to really think about the performers in wrestling. It seems like they aren't exactly characters, and they aren't exactly acting. Instead, there is some sense of alter-ego, or inflation of self going on. Wrestling isn't acting, these aren't characters conceived in the minds of writers, but developed in the atheletes themselves.

We've blogged plenty about the idea of the off-stage wrestler-- what happens when he has to 'turn it off'; and read some pretty funny examples of wrestlers' personas persisting in their everyday existence (some of Ole Anderson's anecdotes and the actions of Blassie in Breakfast with Blassie come to mind). And JR's comments made me think that maybe we overstate the division between character and man in wrestling; if these two faces are really integral, perhaps the most brilliant wrestlers are those who are too bold, too overpowering for the average world.


Brian "Louxchador" Loux said...

Man, the more I'm gleaning from this talk the more pissed I am that I missed it.

Anybody catch his Hall of Fame induction announcement? Good stuff.

Sam Ford said...

Very classy announcement for J.R., Brian. I'll have to show some clips in class of J.R.'s induction on Saturday night and the announcement.

As for your post, Kate, I think J.R. did make some very good points that reverses the idea of people carrying the character into everyday life and instead looking at their already being a "character" and just taking that into wrestling.

J.R. himself is a great example of what he was describing. Was "Good Ol' J.R." in class with us or Jim Ross? One of the MITers at the public speaking event put a note on his blog saying that he was one of the greatest storytellers they had ever heard speak at MIT, which I can't argue with. So much of that, though, may just be that J.R. on-air storyteller is just an extension of Jim Ross, just as the stories he told about Ric Flair and The Rock and Steve Austin, etc., etc.

It will be interesting to think of this phenomenon in relation to Mick Foley in his appearance in a couple of weeks.

Peter "The Malcontent" Rauch said...

I, too, was impressed with J.R., and it's hard to argue with the claim that the best wrestlers--and most of the best actors, really--tend to play characters that are extensions of their own personalities. Really, that's only a slight jump from creating a character from pieces of your own feelings and experiences, which seems to be the underlying principle of method acting. Or possibly Stanislavki's System. I dunno.

I agree that it might be too simple to neatly bisect wrestlers into "actor" and "role," especially when the entire tradition of kayfabe, not to mention the somewhat unimaginative naming conventions (cf: Bret Hart as "Bret Hart"), seem(s) designed to blur the two, but I think it's a useful interpretive tool nonetheless.

katejames said...

I hadn't directly thought about it in terms of how much J.R. gave us a show in class and in the lecture... but his stories were so well-composed and skillfully told, that it does beg the question. I suppose this proves his point about the integral role of personality in the wrestling character. I can imagine that J.R. is a great storyteller when he's reading a grocery list; I doubt he could be dull or less than incisively witty if he tried.
J.R. did mention during the lecture that he is always reading his audience and adjusting to the mood and circumstances. I think this was clear in his talk, which wove one story into the next in a narrative more intriguing than any theater I've seen lately.
Anyway, it's really great that we can have guests that are so historically important to the industry and who can give us a first-hand point of view about the business, the wrestlers, and the industry's development over time. I'm really looking forward to Mick Foley as well, especially after seeing the interview with him and J.R. at the beginning of the lecture.

Omar said...

Truly, the best performers in the squared ring have been those who have integrated a part of their real personality into their character

Omar said...

Truly, the best performers in the squared ring have been those who have integrated a part of their real personality into their character. There seems to be something particularly electric about those performers who have been able to do so. One in particular, who is not necessarily a wrestler, is Vince McMahon.

Who the hell knows who the real McMahon is. Probably more than any wrestling personality we've discussed, McMahon has been able to blend his real self with his so well as to be virtually indistinguishable. Consequently, he has been able to portray his egomaniacal persona quite effectively, drawing heat from viewers in and out of the stage. As long as his true self remains elusive, his character will definitely make for continued scandalous acts.

Tirzah said...

Well said.