Sunday, April 8, 2007

late S, L, & H post

I missed doing a post about Sex, Lies, & Headlocks, and wanted to get down a few thoughts before moving on to the Foley material, which is equally hard to put down...

What I noticed most was the framing of Vince as the tragic hero. At the beginning of the book, we are given the image of Vince being downtrodden, having odds to overcome: 'While the families of military officers were allowed to use facilities on the base, such as the pool and the athletic courts, locals like the Luptons had to watch with their noses pressed against the fence" (22). The theme of Vince lusting after something unreachable comes up throughout the book-- his father's company, the success of Ted Turner, the extension of his empire into other industries (XFL, competitive bodybuilding).

While Vince as a kid looking through the fence at the military base and the descriptions of his volatile home situation paint a picture of an innocent child being dealt some unfair injustices, as the book goes on, we see Vince more and more serving as his own insurmountable hurdle. While we still feel sympathy for his extreme task of handling all the crises, scandals, and tragedies, he is increasingly detestable because of his role in their creation. He starts to come off to me as a sort of Willy Loman character, being integrally linked to his own perpetual demise.

But of course, S, L, &H also paints Vince as a man with a certain amount of magic tricks to be pulled out at the exact moment when necessary. I guess Vince, like the wrestling industry in general, is a pile of self-contradictions, and this will translate into any memoir detailing his life. In the end, I don't quite know how to feel about him, but I suppose it's totally appropriate to love and hate him with equal and simultaneous passion, so I'm going to go with that for now.


Sam Ford said...

Kate, interesting comparison between Vince and Willy Loman. At first, when I read this post, I was thinking Willie Stark, which is a completely different type of comparison...

Vince almost seems to thrive on having that love/hate relationship with everyone. Think even about J.R.'s position with some ways, Vince has that Andy Kaufman syndrome of enjoying being hated, at least a little bit. But the timid offstage Andy doesn't seem to correspond to a timid offstage Vince, now does it?

Peter "The Malcontent" Rauch said...

I remember thinking that, for all the difficulties Vince would normally have faced in accomplishing his goals, he consistently managed to make NEW difficulties for himself.

My favorite would probably be the steroid scandal. I'm not sure why Vince decided he needed to be as built as one of his wrestlers prior to the Mr. McMahon character, but actually trying to run a company through a roid-rage haze seems positively absurd. Did it not occur to him that, in his position, steroid use endangered not only the business, but even his personal ability to run it?

katejames said...

The steroid adventures were indeed shockingly stupid. The seeming lack of focus on Vince's part to get involved with competitive bodybulding, in addition to his own steroid regimen and associated haze, would seem to be fatal business practice. I think the only way he could possibly stay afloat through all the scandal was to exploit every bit of that drama in the development of his loves-to-be-hated persona (though definitely without the Kaufman timidness as offstage personality).
Vince is all about going over the line in his business to actively produce this persona: taking chances, making unpopular decisions, offending anyone and everyone. "Sure McMahon and his writers went over the line. Like the episode of Raw that aired the prior January in Beaumont, Texas, where Mark Henry was portrayed as being so deperate for a blow job that he accepted the advances of a character portraying a transsexual" (S, L&H, 221). How can any company head be involved in such smut? But he wouldn't be successful as Vince if he weren't, and the wrestling industry image seems built on these chaotic, rebellious, defiant character that Vince embodies so perfectly.

Anonymous said...

While not as disasterous in hindsight as it seemed at the time ($15 million is a drop in the hat by WWE standards today), the bodybuilding venture may have been the single stupidest venture Vince McMahon ever embarked upon. There was little-to-no likelihood of WWE-like profit (bodybuilding does not burn up the PPV circuit) and it did nothing but help to arouse suspicions of steroid use at a time when that was the last thing Vince needed.

The XFL and WBF are interesting counterpoints. I don't think Vince had the knowledge of football but he courted as many knowledgable people as he could (Butkus, for e.g.). I think his XFL venture was more inspired by profit-potential. The WBF was about a genuine interest (it doesn't take a rocket scientist to take one look at Vince and see that he has more than a passing interest in bodybuilding).

What I find equally interesting is that Vince does not portray himself as a tragic hero despite the book doing so. I think that he does not like to elicit pity. (This also falls into the masculine aura he crafts for himself as we've discussed). Sam made an excellent point in class about how strange it seems that the "McMahon" DVD would basically start McMahon's story at age 35 when there's such a fascinating life lived beforehand that he so rarely delves into (the Playboy interview being one exception).

This lack of wanting to elicit pity is perhaps why Vince refuses to acknowledge his sometimes-Loman-like qualities (also, he's tremendously successful overall, so why dwell on the comparatively minor failures?). Instead of acknowledging them as failures, he proudly proclaims "I liked Katie Vick!" and "I thought (the XFL) was a valid concept."


Luis Tenorio said...

It sure did seem like there were points in Vince's life where one should feel sorry for him. This for me was especially true when reading about how his family was living and what he was trying to do to make a living. Of course I think that he could have done something other than stay in the wrestling business. There are lots of times when people that were close to McMahon wondered why no one ever called him on his massive promotional failures. I have to agree that Vince, and how my perception of him changed mirrors my experience with WIlly Lowman. You could feel sorry for his slide in life but when you learn about what is causing it and that he really has only himself to blame. They both cheated on their wives! You can't feel sorry for a man that does that or hope that he succeeds, it is just hard to.