Friday, March 30, 2007

Vince and his apologia

The McNeil reading, "Foot on the Rope: Corporate Apologia and The Discourse of Vince McMahon" is really interesting, mostly because it so rigorously applies the discourse of apologia and restoration to McMahon's actions. This discourse felt a little bit forced to me, maybe too strictly interpreted. (Maybe it's just an unfamiliar framework for me.) What I do think is fascinating is the development of the clear image of Vince really using this rhetorical device of creating or exaggerating situations where apology and redemption are necessary, and then exploiting the drama of the redemptive act itself.

I realize that the steroids, sexual harassment, etc., were not circumstances explicitly created by Vince, but he seems to have an incredible knack for riding the ups and downs of these outrages and others (the Screwjob, for example), and making those exact ups and downs a drama that viewers can't look away from. It's like the fans are trapped in a misogynist relationship with Vince in his role as head of the corporation, one that stays intriguing and passionate because of the apology, explication, or shift of blame that always follows the outrageous behavior. And because the corporate dealings are so bizarrely intertwined with the entertainment format, the whole playing out of the ups and downs is exactly what earns ratings.

8 comments:

BMN said...

Thanks for the feedback, Kate. I look forward to discussing the piece further on Wednesday.

If you're interested in Benoit's work on apologia, just one click onto Google scholar will reveal a plethora of examples ranging from politics to popular culture.

BMN

Sam Ford said...

For those who haven't read the piece yet, he is not referring to the great scholar Chris Benoit but rather William L. Benoit. Kate, your questions draw an interesting question about when Vince McMahon is "in" or "out" of "character," including these reaction to high-pressure or tragic situations for the company.

katejames said...

Thanks for the extra Benoit reference, looking forward to talking about the piece in class.
Also, I was thinking about it more, and I misspoke when I said that I thought the work felt forced-- I realized that what I really meant was that the text was notably different from almost everything that we've read thus far, in that the theoretical framework, corporate apologia, and its chosen subject at hand, Vince McMahon, are mutually validating. The theory is much more in the forefront, and McMahon's actions are analyzed very clearly and carefully in each iteration of the dramatic cycles of events, not so much in the narrative style we read a lot of.
Vince always seems to blur the line of in and out of character, and this is especially true in the situations outlined in the text. I;m constantly left wondering whether he's a great actor, a brilliant publicist, a big jerk, or some dynamic mix of all of these things.
Also thought it was really interesting to read the Foot on the Rope text at the same time as S,L&H- two different strategies for getting at the phenomenon of Vince.
Til wednesday...

Sam Ford said...

Kate, you make an interesting juxtaposition here between the difference in text that feels forced and work that feels forced, which I think is key to this situation. I encountered some of these same issues when I was writing the piece of mine on fan types that the class read early in the semester, in that the type of writing I was doing when trying to prepare an ethnography for publication had a background in a much more social science style than I prefer writing in, but some of that more "objective" and rigorous writing style is preferred in certain academic circles, so it's a struggle between a writing style one is comfortable with and a writing style that would get the topic accepted, especially when you are writing about something that might be construed as "unimportant" or "frivolous" like pro wrestling.

I would be curious about Bryce's take about the language, since he has a very structured thesis in the same vein in applying a theoretical framework very meticulously. I think you are right in that the work does not feel forced but the text is much different than most of the readings we've had for the semester, and this may point to ways in which "the academy is faker than wrestling."

BMN said...

My thesis is actually completely atypical from what I've been studying/writing since. It's highly based in rhetorical criticism (it actually stemmed from a shorter paper for a Rhet. Crit class specifically on the Owen Hart example).

I definitely look forward to discussing the writing style issue as well. My advisor has often commented on my "unlearning" an old writing style, shifting from a rhetorical piece to the cultural studies realm.

BMN

katejames said...

I'm actually reaslly interested in this issue of writing style, and what precedents we work with in these more quirky couplings of academic analysis and 'low' (oh geez, I hate writing that every time) cultural phenomena like wrestling. What do we take from ethnography, or rhetorical criticism, or sports theory.

I'm tackling simliar with my thesis preparation- being someone with varied academic backgrounds, I'm now in a position of drawing on many of those practices at once to describe my art work. Interestingly, I find that feminist texts, philosophy, sports and dance theory, and even anatmony and kinesthia frameworks support my projects more than art precedents right now. But juxtaposing Judith Butler's theory of performative bodies and Jane Fonda's original workout videos in an effective way sort of requires inventions of new, hybridized academic techniques; and to develop these techniques for handling the material while simultaneously performing the research with rigor is exactly the challenge, I think.
Look forward to talking more about it in class today, should it come up.

TheLostHorseman said...

Can anyone direct me to where I can find a copy of this paper? "Foot on the Rope: Corporate Apologia and The Discourse of Vince McMahon." I have had issues trying to locate through our libraries here.

Any help would be much appreciated.

Penn State!

Sam Ford said...

thelosthorseman, as you may have notice, Bryce McNeil, the author of that thesis, visited with our class and participated in this blog. I can put you in touch with him directly. However, I currently have no way to contact you. You can e-mail me at samford@mit.edu.