Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Judging the Latino Wrestling Performance

After reading Serrato’s piece in Steel Chair to the Head and watching the match between Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle I was left with two conflicting impressions. Reading and watching something take place are two completely different experiences. When I was reading the piece on Latino wrestlers, it seemed like there was such a negative connotation in their performances. This is something that isn’t as apparent in watching Latino wrestlers perform during a show.

Eddie had fun with his character and even comments that he knows people from his hometown, El Paso, who act the way his character does and serve as a basis for his character. It’s meant to parody a stereotype that already exists in society. Eddie comments that it’s stupid that some people read too much into the character and it’s only meant to be funny. As a Mexican, I think that I was rarely offended by some of Eddie’s antics inside the ring. I thought that most things he did were pretty funny, even the time he rode into the arena in a lawnmower. His trickster character was also fun to watch. I thought it did more than just show how lying, cheating and stealing can get you to the top. It showed how brains can conquer braun. Eddie used his intelligence to have an edge over the opponent in a way that was rarely illegal. I think that the audience had the same type of attitude toward Eddie Guerrero. The way he was received by the fans shows that he was able to convey that his character was meant to be funny.

As an outsider watching or reading about wrestling, it may appear that Eddie Guerrero is giving Latinos a bad name by being glorified for lying, cheating, and stealing. The piece made it seem like the fans were laughing at Eddie and other Latino wrestlers instead of with them. WCW and WWE were then used these stereotypes as a way of keeping these wrestlers down in the business. I don’t know if I believe that the formation of the NWO was a direct result of Latinos gaining more popularity than the big white wrestlers. It seemed like a series of coincidences that were made into an argument. I do agree with the odds being against the Latino wrestlers to win the Heavyweight Championship and being the central figures in wrestling. This article was written, however, before Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio both won the Championship and became big parts of the WWE. I guess it’s only natural that a Latino wrestler won it since Latinos make up one of the largest fan bases.

I think that it is important to experience both forms of communication. I was able to obtain very different perspectives on an important issue in wrestling from reading another person’s views and making my own directly. Reading about some of the historical aspects allows you to make a more complete analysis on some of the more controversial issues in wrestling. I think the best bet would be to make your own judgment after you have more than just a first person point of view.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steviehunter weighing in again:

For a really good look at latinos in wrestling I suggest you see TNA's LAX gimmick.

Homicide is a friend of mine, and in TNA, has been allowed to portray his character almost exactly as it was created on the indy circuit with very little watering down.

He, Hernandez and Konnan have been cast as Latino extremists--the gimmick is realistic and serious and I think you'd enjoy seeing it for style contrasts.

narwood said...

This is a perfect example of why context is important when doing any analysis.

The problem is (related to) one that's fundamental to all media analysis, and revolves around the question: how is meaning transfered or created in the interplay between author, text, and audience?

Modernist theory posited that meaning is embedded in a text by the author, and extracted by the audience. Post-moderist theory relocalizes meaning making to the audience, who create the meaning for the text based on their own cultural context and experience. This helps explain how texts from one area or culture group can be understood in another group, without resorting to 'cultural imperialism'.

The one problem with saying that wrestling fans understand the point of the character, and thus aren't influenced by 'negative connotations,' is in determining whether knowledge of the wrestling format forces the audience to have this interpretation. If not, we run again into issues where the character, parodic or not, is the only example of an unfamiliar culture. Which does influence an audience's understanding of that culture. (What if the only exposure to a culture is media-biased? What if the stereotype itself is introduced to an individual/culture through wrestling?)

So this means that what's important (post-modernly) is that these (culturally) stereotyped characters host spaces for community dialogue. The form and result of this dialogue is culture-specific, and thus may be positive/negative/something else entirely, but the fact it exists means we can't dismiss it.

Sam Ford said...

I don't take much merit in Eddie's "it's just meant to be funny" routine becuase nothing is ever "just" funny. As I've said, it isn't "just" wrestling, and these texts do have impact on people's lives. I think media effects theories as they have been popularly used takes too much agency away from viewers, but it doesn't mean that these texts have no impact at all.

But I think you make an important point here: "The piece made it seem like the fans were laughing at Eddie and other Latino wrestlers instead of with them." There is certainly a difference, and I think you are savvy to point this out.

Steviehunter, thanks for pointing out LAX as a more modern example as well...

Tess, you write, "So this means that what's important (post-modernly) is that these (culturally) stereotyped characters host spaces for community dialogue. The form and result of this dialogue is culture-specific, and thus may be positive/negative/something else entirely, but the fact it exists means we can't dismiss it."

Again, I think the fact that WWE is popular internationally raises important questions about a text that is culturally specific but playing in cultures all around the world...I touch on these issues in the study we are reading for tomorrow, but there's a lot more to unpack in that regard...

Omar said...

I would agree that Eddie's character was not meant to purposely make any social commentary or take a cheap shot at any specific cultural group. I too was rarely offended when watching his antics in the ring. Nevertheless, the impact he's had on the Latino is undeniable. I believe that this is what Serrato is trying to get at.

Though he is able to suggest many trends in the wrestling industry (many which paradoxically break with those of earlier generations) some of his claims don't carry as much weight to a more seasoned viewer or, really, a fan of the wrestling program (esp. a minority). You want to believe that Eddie really is just having fun. But as Sam has brought on occasion, the actions of wrestlers are inextricably linked to the society that exists outside the squared circle. I believe that it is from this standpoint that Serrato's appear most valid.

Sam Ford said...

Exactly, Omar. Even if you feel that Serrato is ultimately overstating his case, it doesn't meant that he has no point at all...Comparing his work to Seiter's just gives balance to both.

Brian "Louxchador" Loux said...

Totally agree with Stevie's post above. LAX is certainly the new generation of Latino wrestlers in America. They pretty much come out every week and live out Lou Dobbs' worst nightmare. It's almost always edgy, and most of the fans end up cheering them as heels because they really are exceptional. Loved it when they got to raise the Mexican flag over the arena!

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