I was excited about showing Wrestling with Manhood for two reasons: first, it raises some good questions about politics and gender roles that we cannot ignore in a class on pro wrestling; and, second, it provided a stark reminder to question academic methodology.
Mick Foley said in the epilogue to his book that we read earlier this semester that he was amazed no journalists questioned the Indiana University study. Does that mean that we shouldn't discuss violence on television? No. But a nuanced discussion is needed. Similarly, I'm amazed by how little academics question videos like Wrestling with Manhood. I wanted to show it here in a setting where a lot of wrestling fans were in the room where, even if you must agree that some of the issues they raise need to be discussed in relation to wrestling, that the way that documentary was put together does not hold water anyone who actually knows the text.
Of course wrestling "fans" are going to be defensive of their show and their choice of watching it, but this was a case where the documentary-making tactics were unfair and untrue. And they rest on a media effects research that our department has problems with, anyway. As a journalist, one of the reasons I enjoy this text so much is that it's a reminder how "truthy" these texts can seem if you don't know the product, yet how ridiculous they are for anyone who knows the product at all. Many of you all have not watched pro wrestling outside this class, and you all were finding all kinds of holes in the argument as it went along.
Still, I know several of you are doing research that deals with race and gender in wrestling, and I think the piece raises some interesting points that we should continue talking about throughout the rest of the semester. Just remember, don't believe everything you hear and see. That's very true of anything that comes from the pro wrestling world, but it's even more true of academia.
By the way, I promised you some links to the story about WWE being associated with date violence. I wrote a blog entry about this, and Henry wrote a followup. Mike Wehrman also wrote about this. Check out these links:
Mike's editorial is here.
My editorial is here.
Henry's editorial is here.