Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Hello, I’m Sue Clerc. We’ll be meeting tomorrow but I thought I’d give you some background now, and then quickly lower the tone of the conversation by responding to some of your posts.

Catherine Salmon, my co-author, asked me to record Raw and Nitro as Hall and Nash were leaving the WWF, as it was then, to go to WCW. Her cable company didn’t carry TNT…I’m not sure why I also needed to tape Raw. I think the Canadian network might’ve been editing broadcasts. Or it was a cunning plan to get me hooked on wrestling. In any case, I moved from really just taping shows for a friend to saying “no, really, I’m just taping them for a friend oh my God did you SEE THAT?”

Next thing I knew I was badgering Catherine with questions, memorizing the Hart family tree, and holding up lewd signs at Wrestlemania 13.

It’s OK. I’m over it now. In fact, after writing the book chapter and presenting 2 other papers based on wrestling, I stopped watching. Not cold turkey, but I didn’t require a patch or anything. Sure, there was a relapse. Possibly two. But I’m OK now. It’s been months since I looked at a wrestling news website, and I’ve watched bits and pieces of Raw the last couple of weeks but haven’t felt an undertow pulling me back in. I do keep a Mankind action figure in my office. During slow moments at work, he and my Librarian action figure occasionally engage in a match, but she’s pretty useless because only her arms have articulated joints so the only moves she’s capable of are a clothesline and maybe flying leg scissors. Also, Amazing Shushing Action is an even lamer finishing move than the People’s Elbow.

But I digress…

Since this is a university class, maybe I should mention our educational backgrounds. Catherine has a PhD in evolutionary psychology and teaches at Redlands in California. She and Don Symonds published a book about slash, Warrior Lovers, and she has written journal articles about slash. I have a PhD in Culture Studies, a JD, and an MLS. I’m a librarian at Southern Connecticut State University. I’ve written other book chapters about media fandom and presented papers on fandom, wrestling, and other subjects. We have both spent years in the media fan community and that was our basis for the chapter you’re reading—comparing and contrasting wrestling fans with the community we already knew.

As fascinating a work of rare genius as the chapter is, I hope we can discuss other things when we meet. I’m going to try to tack comments onto some of your posts now. Much of what I have to say will be tangential to the original post. As I browsed around last week, sometimes a word or phrase would remind me of an idea I’d had, a random observation, a senior moment of “you kids today with your Cenas and Lashleys…” So if I can get this to work, there will be comments scattered around about suffering, camera work and the 4th wall, and why I liked WWF/E better than WCW, Montreal, the deployment of reality in storylines being similar to historical novels and unlike scripted television, and possibly lascivious remarks about performers.


Sam Ford said...

Sue, I've really been enjoying your posts here today, and I am looking forward to your visit tomorrow. I think your perspective will really add to the dicussion we have been having about gender roles, fan agency, stereotypes in wrestling, and a variety of other issues, and your post and comments here definitely give us some food for thought.

Sue Clerc said...

Thanks, Sam.

Here's something I wanted to put in a comment but ran out of time to look for an original to hang it on.

Reality. I’ve written papers about this but here’s the gist: The use of reality in the wrestling narrative is more like historical fiction than it is like other scripted television. I’m not familiar enough with the current storylines to give a fresh example but I can tie this to the post about injuries. Sometimes an injury is just an injury and if the performer is central enough to the broad narrative, like HHH, there will be updates. This approach reminds you that even though you know the fights are staged, real injuries do occur. But sometimes an injury is used in a storyline, perhaps to set up a feud for the return of the injured performer. This approach uses the knowledge that real injuries occur in order to reinforce the emotional reality of the fictional narrative (“you hurt me for real and I’m going to avenge myself when I get back”). The tactical deployment of reality here is like an historical novel or, ooh!, the Da Vinci Code. It’s fiction, but uses pieces of history—reality—to give the fictional events resonance and an aura of reality (to add verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. Gilbert & Sullivan).
Reality in a conventional drama or sitcom in the form of in-jokes or spousal stunt-casting (Brad Pitt on Friends, Tea Leoni on X Files), disrupts the fictional narrative by reminding you that the fictional characters aren’t real; undercutting the narrative by reminding viewers of the fictional construct.

Sam Ford said...

Sue, you make some interesting points here, and perhaps we can unpack them a little bit more in class tomorrow. The argument makes some degree of sense, though, and I think that calling wrestling "reality television" is somewhat problematic as well. The trouble is that wrestling has no direct parallel, but as many comparisons as we can use to bring to the fore various parts of the text sheds greater light on what people find intriguing about the wrestling text.