Sunday, September 7, 2014

Good vs. Evil vs. Justice

In Steel Chair to the Head, Barthes contends that professional wrestling represents a mythological battle of legendary themes between good and evil (p 30). Barthes refers to the “perfect bastard,” who is asocial, unpredictable and only abides or accepts the rules when they become useful to him. He/she lives outside the mores of society. You know the evil bastard as the one who displays acts of cruelty or treachery within the boundaries of ring decorum by hitting his opponent while he is tied up in the ropes, or slugging his opponent while the referee is not looking, or using every other dirty trick in the book, sending the marks (audience) into a fit of verbal rage and passion.

Barthes mentions the “great spectacle” of suffering, defeat and justice. The bastard slowly extracts his torture and suffering upon his victim while the audience builds its passionate frenzy of this moral outrage into a crescendo beyond what the mythical gods could imagine. The marks want justice; they want revenge! The worse the bastard becomes, the more he must pay. He must be punished when the audience can take no more of his cruelty. The audience is looking for biblical revenge and justice—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth—and they get their justice and vengeance as the wrath of the vanquished hero rise up to defeat evil once again in a spectacle fit for the gods.

Do I believe in Barthes’ "spectacle of excess" and grandiosity of Greek drama and mythical themes of good and evil? Why yes, how would the world be set proper unless it is guided by truth and justice. 


Sam Ford said...

Great area to focus your remarks on, Gary. One aspect of Barthes examination I enjoyed was that it wasn't just "breaking the rules" that angered French fans at the villain...but, in particular, it was the inconsistency with which the villain acted with relationship to the rules. He pulls hair when the referee isn't looking, but he wants the referee to step in when his opponent pulls his hair. It is that manipulation of the rules that particularly draws ire from fans, and causes them to see what Erving Goffman described as "breaking the frame...," to see the face finally have enough and "fight fire with fire."

Timothy S. Rich said...

Good points. I find it particularly interesting that Barthes, written decades earlier and in another cultural context, remains relevant today.