Near the beginning of the course, a few of my posts dealt with my relationship with wrestling texts as a non-fan. I've been thinking of how to follow up with a post about where I'm at now, but it didn't come into focus until a few days ago, when I was watching a Spanish-dubbed RAW. It was already about half over, and I had no overriding reason to watch, but I was channel surfing and there was nothing else on.
All they had done was insert a Spanish "announcer" track over the audio, but the volume and excitement level meant I could only make out the occasional word from the English track. I don't speak Spanish at all. Yet despite the language barrier I always felt I was being given a narrative. This narrative was derived from 1, the visuals and 2, the Spanish announcer's intonation, and was hampered, so far as I can tell by 3, my personal lack of knowledge and context.
Where this puts me: 1, Previously I would look at a match or a 'back stage' bit and see purposeless activity, such as yelling, violence, and bad acting. This is still what I see, but post hoc reflection superimposes motivations onto the characters. That is, I now assign the characters agency. I think this is due to greater familiarity with the physical 'language' of wrestling, which implies that I've learned the representational vocabulary of the melodrama. 2, Similarily, I find that much of the announcer's role is to keep up the energy in counterpoint to the visual, rather than purely giving me information. On the whole it felt a lot like watching the original Iron Chef, with the enthusiastic commentary mostly letting you know that SOMEONE is finding something to be excited about, though in Iron Chef I don't know enough about cooking to feel as comfortable forgoing subtitles. 3, I think if I was a regular viewer, I wouldn't have lost much by not being able to understand any of the words. If I knew more about the characters the narrative I constructed would be more accurate. I was watching Ric Flair and Carlito, and while I know a tiny bit about each, I don't know the specifics of the conflict. Last time I watched RAW Carlito was definding his honor against some old guy. In retrospect I think the old guy was actually Flair or Blassie, but at the time I presumed it was Flair, and this was part of that conflict.
Essentially, watching RAW this time around I had a contextual basis for the wrestling format and actors, but no specifics. (As opposed to if I had watched in English, when I would have had details from commentator and dialogue.) Details would have left me actively reconstructing a story line, which given my experience with clips in class, I usually have little interest in unless I know more about the characters or situation that makes the information useful for understanding something besides current short narrative. A discussion of transparency could take place here: the narratives I construct for myself are supported by my understanding of the format, and do not necessarily rely on specific knowledge.
This may be an atypical response, especially since my experience with wrestling has been explicitly analytical rather than arising from prolonged exposure. But most telling for me was a spontaneous thought I had later that evening. I've been trained to watch events around me, and imagine what would happen if different characters were put in those situations. I was stumbling down the fire escape with a cigarette in my mouth, almost inhaled it by accident and suddenly thought of a wrestler on a staircase, tackled from behind, swallowing a cigarette and belching fire. That was a more physical reinterpretation of events than is my norm, and I'll go so far as to say that is because it was drawing on a different vocabulary. I still don't think I'm a wrestling fan, but maybe I've learned something (useful) after all.