Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In which I break the first rule of classblogging...

...that being, current events are not automatically fair game.

Among my favorite parts of Foley is Good was the epilogue in which he took apart the methodology of the UI study. I enjoyed it, and appreciated the work involved, but didn't have a whole lot to say about it.

But then, I came across the following in response to the recent VT shooting:

"As with every American tragedy, we are about to learn all sorts of “lessons” in the aftermath of the VT shootings. And true to form, most of these lessons will be hastily implemented versions of pre-existing agendas, shoddily conceived, and in the long run, more painful than the tragedy itself. It is a uniquely American form of grieving, completely predictable, and equally difficult to stop."
- John Cole, described by left-leaning cartoonist/blogger August J. Pollack as a "conservative blogger who isn't insane." The post in question can be read here.

Jack Thompson has already managed to appear on Fox News as a "school shootings expert," and and Dr. Phil has weighed in on the dangers of a ubiquitously violent media environment. I'm going to try to avoid the usual knee-jerk defensive wankery--I've read far too many of those in videogame magazines--and look into something that's always confused me about the PTC in general, and their treatment of wrestling in particular.

Foley goes out of his way to connect the PTC with McCarthyism, a claim that would seem gratuitous were it not both well-researched and historically accurate. But wrestling is not Doom, and it's not rap music. Wrestling, to my knowledge, doesn't play into existing agendas about gun control or voting demographics. Put simply, it's hard to define exactly what agenda is served by attacking pro wrestling.

Foley suggests that it's just about money, that attacking wrestling consistently puts money in the PTC coffers. And that's plausible enough on its face, since the great thing about money is that it serves no purpose except to turn into stuff. So attacking wrestling could fit into any existing agenda the PTC leadership has; accusing the WWE of killing children could be part of a long-term plan to reestablish teacher-led prayer in school for all we know. It's a non-profit, theoretically, but the American political system has been very good at producing explicitly political non-profit groups with a loose definition of non-profit.

So, here's where I (as usual) appeal to the knowledge of the fans here--assuming, for the sake of argument, that it's about wrestling and not a smokescreen for something else, why do you find, in your experiences as a fan, that people might find wrestling distasteful or dangerous? What preexisting agendas might it fit to get Vince off the air?


Anonymous said...

My own knee-jerk reaction to what sort of agenda would there be to attack wrestling is purely 'to make themselves look better by comparison'. If someone pointed at wrestling and said 'Oh man, how can anyone watch that low-brow stuff?', two things can happen: one, if the person who hears that is a fan, they may feel embarassed or insulted by the insinuation that they too are low brow for enjoying such fodder, or two, if they are not a fan, then they may acknowledge that the speaker must know a thing or two for making such a judgment and therefore must be either 'high-brow' by default, or at least does indeed know a thing or two. Either way, by attacking the wrestling product, someone looks good and someone looks bad.

For the PTC, they may have picked on the WWE because they wanted to make a name for themselves as concerned, socially aware (and powerful) lobbyist group. WWE was extremely popular at the time, and as far as I know, the PTC was not well known for anything. So what better way to make themselves known than by picking on the big popular guy, eg: 'Wrestling is too violent', so PTC must endorse non-violence, and a bunch of sponsors don't want to be seen as violence-endorsers. The same with excess sexuality and so forth. It doesn't matter that these claims are without hard evidence, just accusations are enough to scare investors, hurt the WWE, and boost the PTC's profile. That alone seems to be enough of an agenda.

Sam Ford said...

Peter, I really appreciate this post, in light of these recent events. The quote that you've linked to is so appropriate to Mick's argument and the discussion that Mick and Henry both had about situations they have both been in where a victim of violence blamed in some way on the media. For Henry, there was the Donahue episode in which the mother of a child who was killed in a school shooting called in to converse with Henry, who was then a sitting duck. In the same way, Mick was asked to be part of a news piece, with his quotes following a teenager in a wheelchair because of "backyard wrestling." Mick said that he would be glad to do a live studio interview but would not do a pre-taped piece...After all, he learned his lesson with 20/20.

But, to address your question, this is going to be a thread that runs through the rest of our work, particularly looking some more at the PTC as an attack from the "right" and the Media Education Foundation as an attact from the "left," as well as Henry's essay from Steel Chair that addresses your question.

I think that wrestling's violence just makes a good target toward whatever you are interested in. The PTC's feathers are ruffled by violence and sex and other puritan issues. The MEF bring up stereotypes and race, class, gender, with an emphasis on gender.

But I hope that all of our understanding about the history and development of both the wrestling industry and the scholarship that has surrounding it will culminates in some of these very political debates that you bring up.

Luis Tenorio said...

I think that wrestling is something incredible because even though it has been around such a long time, it is not seen as being in the mainstream. We have seen all those documentaries that show that it had been something society saw as "normal" and it was a family event. It seems pretty obvious the steroids and the racy new content drove the perception of wrestling the opposite way. And it became akin to media forms that were misunderstood. TV was thought to be the end to families when it came out and only solidified them. Then you have video games and this media form is still misunderstood and people blame and fear what they don't understand for horrible things that happen. No real discussion can be had and no real research will be done if people are so fast to reach conclusions and refuse to believe human beings are fragile and that the answer to tragedy is not so easy to find.