I was psyched to hear that you've just read my article, Growing Up and Growing More Risque, and I was curious what you all thought. Here's an interesting postscript: For the past several weeks I had been involved in an intense recruiting process to work as a writer for the WWE, developing exactly the same kind of trends that I had written about academically six years before almost to the day. After five interviews with the head recruiter and having my writing sample - in which Edge discovers he's the father of a teenage girl - be read roundtable and discussed by Stephenie McMahon-Lavesque and WWE Creative they decided to pass. But they said I had exceptional potential and left the door open for me to get some more experience and to re-apply in a year. But before I got the bad news I had already begun writing a sequel to Growing Up and Growing More Risque which I hope to someday, somehow get written and published chronocling my transition from fan to pro, from outsider to insider. In the meantime, I'm working on getting some experience and I'm really thrilled to have my piece read at MIT. I wish I could come back again to discuss it with you but I was keen to do so on the blog if nothing else.
The backstory. As I said, I wrote the article about six years ago to the day. I remember adding in a bit about the then brand new Hulk Hogan/The Rock match at Wrestlemania X8 in the last set of revisions in order to sound as current as possible. It all started when my Freshman year of college I wrote a final project for UC-Santa Barbara professor Lisa Parks' TV History class on the WWE as soap opera, focusing on the drive-through Vegas wedding ceremony between Stephenie McMahon and HHH in comparison to the weddings that commonly mark major milestones on traditional daytime soaps. That same month I had an opportunity through a class on Writing the TV Script: Buffy the Vampire Slayer to visit the set of Sunnydale in its fourth season (where the Scooby Gang goes to college) and asked Professor Parks to come with us as a chaparone purely on the basis that I had a crush on her. In a complete fluke it turned out she was starting work on a book about Buffy. Fortunately she'd loved my paper on wrestling and had given me an A+ and through our conversations in the van to Culver City I managed to network my way into writing an article for the book. I'd seen it done. I was convinced I could do it, no problem. Somewhat to my chagrin, what started out being an article by me about Buffy ended up being a dialogic piece between my father and I, which we wrote by sending emails back and forth over Thanksgiving break. It was a wonderful father-son time that I really look back on fondly but it proved nothing except that everyone in academia thinks it's adorable that Henry Jenkins has a son who wants to be just like him! How special! So the second time out I was determined to write my own article. Well, as you can see from reading the book it half worked. My dad and I both wrote afterwords, but they were seperate afterwords. I've always been accused of being a journalistic writer, a creative writer, something other than an academic writer, and given a free choice I've always preferred to go with that rather than cover it up. I was lucky that Nicholas Sammond understood what I wanted to do - to use my memories to trace patterns that I could make broader arguments about. I wrote one main draft, which took me about five days, and then went through two or three revisions over the next year, each of which took me about an hour to sort through. They were very nice about letting me print the piece pretty much as was.
It's kind of funny - When I was applying for the job on the real WWE writing staff I recieved the advice over and over again that I should send them a copy of my article, but when I read back through it I realized that I made several references to enjoying Stephenie McMahon-Helmsley in a sexual way, and since McMahon-Lavesque would soon be my boss and would be the one reading it I decided inappropriate sexual conduct wasn't the right foot to start off on. Not to mention that I basically said her father got cow towed by ECW. Yup. That essay's going deep in the vault.
I think the thing I'm proudest of about the article - other than the approach, which is different than I'd read before - is how prophetic the ending was. I said that the WWE was starting to become more melow, more grown up, to push the envelope less, that it was becoming more mature and I believe it did. The current WWE is a lot more clean cut than the WWE of the time I was writing the article. There are a lot fewer cheap heat angles - no necropholia, no gay wedding bashing. The obscenity is for punctuation ("...................................... DAMN!") instead of every other word, which is fine by me. But they haven't taken a step backwards. They've taken a step forwards. This is definately no kids show. Not with Melina's ring entrance or bloody Hell in a Cell matches. This is much more grown up in that they feel the need to act out to get attention less. John Cena is the perfect baby face. He even salutes his enemies when they won't shake his hand. He's patriotic. He's studly. He's Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels rolled into one, but he's his own thing too. He sets the tone for the WWE along with classic wrestlers like Michaels and The Undertaker and Chris Benoit and completely uncontroversial, painfully dull heros like Lashley and Batista. Today's wrestling has the elements I liked about old wrestling - some silly gimmicks like a country western Asian guy or greasers with a rollergirl or an Irishman with a leprachaun - and a classier feel - but it also has the things I valued about its adolescent period - breathtaking high spots and some fun play with sexuality. There are things I would badly like to see them work on. I feel like they're still way behind in terms of seeing women as equals rather than play things. They've gone with such uncontroversial characters in some cases that I'm not sure who the heck they are (Batista, Lashley.) But I think the hour long HBK/Cena match last week and the long term angle they're building with Mr. Kennedy are some of the best stuff I've seen the WWE do in a while and I'm really taken with it.
What do you think?