Monday, September 22, 2014

Professional Wrestling and Capitalism

In Jim Freedman's piece "Will the Sheik Use His Blinding Fireball? The Ideology of Professional Wrestling", the author makes a bold claim: that wrestling matches are a moral and political battle regarding daily affairs. Freedman summarizes this as the ideology of capitalism, where everyone has a fair chance and competition produces winners who do so on hard work and merit, versus the practice of capitalism, where unfair advantages often trump hard work and merit. The face represents capitalism as ideology, one who plays by the rules and fights to uphold a particular moral universe, while the heel frequently violates the moral norms, for example through foreign objects. When heels win, this upsets the moral vision of the audience, an audience who, by Freedman's account, would be quite aware of the capitalist distinctions in their day to day life. While this comparison at first glance may seem a stretch, Freedman compares this symbolism to Geertz' famous work on cockfighting in Bali. In both cases the performers (roosters in Bali; wrestlers in wrestling) are symbolic extensions of members of the crowd.

Again, this piece suggests the value of an academic analysis of wrestling, even if the author does make similar jabs  regarding the demographics of the audience (including a focus on one audience member's lack of upper front teeth).

1 comment:

Sam Ford said...

I find Freedman's book, Drawing Heat, more balanced in terms of the language he uses about fans. There are some "Look at these hicks" moments in this earlier essay he wrote...but I agree that he provides an illuminating analysis, accessible and grounded writing (focusing on a particular town and event and the culture surrounding it), and uses painting that picture to build his analysis. I look forward to discussing this!