Monday, April 16, 2007

Foley's Multiple Masculinities (not to be read 'big grapefruits')

In reading Sam Ford's text,'Mick Foley: Pro Wrestling and the Contradictions of a Contemporary American Hero , I got to thinking about Foley as the 'mythic' and the 'everyman'. If the wrestling character is an extension of the wrestler themselves, and then this character is expanded into the realm of myth/ living legend, the original persona is being so multiplied and twisted around, it's no wonder it's impossible to tell what is real or not. What amazes me most about Foley is exactly the multiplicity of personas that he draws upon. Rather than building one character image to perform to the fans, he gives a pile of identifiers: three wrestling characters, plus his 'real' persona: the intellectual side, plus the warm cuddly father, etc. The culmination of which is an extremely successful and likeable character, 'both as a myth created for wrestling fans and as an everyday hero created by wrestling fans' (22). The co-production of Foley's character is very interesting- he is in many ways a palette available for negotiation about issues of masculinity, physicality, individualism vs. collectivism, justice.
Because of the multiple characters, Foley can adopt and cycle through different ideas and represent different versions of masculinity for the fans. He is at once the most violent and the most innocent, most loved and most tossed-aside, most charismatic and most mangled/ deformed by circumstance. He is especially interesting to me because he doesn't move through complicated shifts and reversals between oversimplified/ one-note characters, as many wrestlers do, but he moves through complicated shifts between characters that are each complex and multi-layered themselves.
A last note- reading Foley, watching his matches, and meeting him all made me feel like I was in a Murakami novel or something-- there's definitely a strong sense of alternate realities and multiple faces to this man. In that sense, I thought the entrance music bit at the lecture was more meaningful than just to get the crowd awake.

1 comment:

Sam Ford said...

Kate, I keep returning to this mythic/everyman debate in looking at pro wrestling in general. It seems to be the big question about wrestlers, especially on the small-town level. These are often guys who are "weekend warriors" who work at the grocery store or in the factory during the week, for guys who wrestle but can't make a full-time living at it. That idea of being a mythic character on stage and so immediately "everyman" elsewhere underlines many of the tensions, but it also explains why wrestlers spend so much time mythologizing themselves as well.

Mick's story about having a fan walk him to the hospital after winning the big King of the Death tournament in Japan was eye-opening in this way, the mythic legend looking for a ride. Or the idea of the Hardcore Legend driving his mini-van. These contradictions embody the enigma of a pro wrestler.

And you are quite right, that Foley's multiple personas are a meaningful way to see how he can negotiate these divides in particular.

As a final side note, I have to give all the credit in the world to Henry IV for pulling off the role of doofus music guy so well.