Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Final Thoughts on this Course

Coming into this course, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what wrestling was. I had been a fan for many years and I thought I was pretty knowledgeable in this subject. Now, I see how much more there is to wrestling than just wrestling. Its history spans back to the Greek and Roman empires and has evolved greatly over time. Wrestling also addresses many social issues that might not have been discussed otherwise. By watching and analyzing wrestling on a regular basis, I was able to develop a greater appreciation for wrestling itself.

Originally I thought that wrestling began with the WWE. I started watching wrestling in the early 90s and it was the only wrestling program I knew of. I can see why they would never have mentioned any other wrestling promotion, past or present. The problem with doing this is that wrestling fans may never know the rich history of wrestling or the path wrestling has taken to be what it is today. You are also able to appreciate the pioneers that revolutionized wrestling and were responsible for its early popularity.

Wrestling deals with many social issues that are present in society but are less often addressed. Issues concerning race, sex, politics, and class are just a few that come to mind. The WWE often parodies these issues in a way that is obviously meant to be entertaining, but at the same time allows the audience to make their own judgment on the issue. The way that the fans play as much of a role as the performers, we are show our approval or disproval of different storylines or matches that deal with these topics. The readings in the class helped to give a different perspective on the subject. I was able to make more well-informed judgments after reading different sources and comparing them to my own views. This also made me realize that wrestling could be studied in an academic setting, which would probably make most people laugh at the idea.

I now realize that it is the different styles in wrestling make a wrestling performance unique. I would always look forward to the heavyweights battling in the main even of a PPV and just kind of sit through the other matches to get to it. Only a small fraction of the PPV, however, is actually composed of the main event. The matches before the main event are just as important as the main event itself. You don’t want an audience to be bored by the time the main event comes around so these matches often showcase some of the best talent in wrestling. Hardcore, lucha libre, technical, power, and traditional are the most prevalent styles in wrestling that I can think of. Each one has a different purpose and tells a different story to the audience, which is what I now focus on and appreciate during a performance.

My appreciation for wrestling has dramatically increased in the course of this class. I feel like I have such a greater understanding for the wrestling performance than I ever had. Before, I would watch wrestling mainly for the big matches, storylines, and divas. Now I think that I can watch an entire wrestling show and appreciate every aspect or it. After stepping away from the wrestling scene since I entered college, I now have motivation to continue enjoying what I grew up watching as a kid.


narwood said...

On the notion that: "many social issues that might not have been discussed otherwise." It is true that comedies lead the way in dealing with liberal/controversial issues. What I'm curious about is whether the WWE leads discussion on these issues before other shows, or at least how they're related.

Omar said...

As I mentioned in a previous comment, when first entering this class I wondered why anybody would focus on studying wrestling. We've certainly come a long way this semester in assessing and learning how to assess wrestling as a social/cultural/political/economic phenomenon.

I didn't start out as a fan of wrestling and that really hasn't changed much. But, as I'm sure we all can, I can appreciate the wrestling performance having been exposed to its historical roots and it numerous influences.

What has been especially rewarding is taking into consideration the many views that the guest speakers have been able to provide us. Their expertise have allowed us to understand wrestling as a business, a social phenomenon, and as a "9 to 5er".

While I doubt I'll be a consistent watcher of wrestling matches after this semester, I will have acquired a great set of tools in understanding media studies.

Sam Ford said...

Ismael, I am glad that you feel you learned something from this class, both as a fan who gained greater appreciation for the art form of pro wrestling and also from understanding why popular culture matters. I hope that, with the variety of perspectives in the various readings throughout the term, you also learned that it is important to realize that most analysis has its strong points and weak points and that no one ever completely finds the "one right answer" to a social phenomenon. On the other hand, there are usually some good points made even in some of the most problematic research...and I tried to present both perspectives I agree with and those I find troubling.

As for Tess' question, I think wrestling does address some race and class issues more head-on than many other television genres precisely because it exists between comedy and action/suspense/horror, both of which have a long history in dealing with taboo issues. Since Vince has an odd conception of what is good taste (Mae Young gave birth on live television at 80-something, only to have a hand come out of her on the delivery table), that is sometimes directed at issues that no one else would dare touch.

Omar, I am glad to hear that you feel that way. I wanted to create a class that would both give greater nuance to those who signed up already knowing the product and present a variety of perspectives for those who had no history with the show. In the process, I think we have seen some approaches that did and did not work and have seen a lot of interesting writing and met some intriguing people.

There is no right answer to looking at wrestling, and I hope the diversity of sources and guest spekaers emphasized that. Further, I do hope that our conversations about what media studies does has been informative for those who are not CMS majors, and I will keep my fingers crossed that some of these issues will be brought to the table (literally) as we do a roundtable about the class, our final projects, and what we learned next week.