Monday, September 29, 2014

Wrestling with Nature

Drawing Heat gets into some bizarre territory in the Night Bears chapter. I didn't realize bear wrestling happened in the 20th century, and the Wildman both benefitted and suffered terribly from it. The explanation for why this phenomenon would be so interesting to spectators was thought-provoking though. Freedman describes how southern Canadians reacted with fear that the wild animal would somehow escape and rampage through the streets and the northern Canadians met the bear with respect and recognition because they had them in their own backyards. Regardless, people look at a wrestling bear as a force of nature, and that completely changes the dynamic of the wrestling match. The match is no longer about a face, a heel and an incompetent referee, the struggle of the proletariat, but now the struggle of man to tame the wilderness, to assert his divinely-imparted dominance over the natural world. Again wrestling dips into it's carnival heritage and pulls a different sort of "freakshow" out for the amusement of the audience, but in delving into this demonstrates that there is more than one type of conflict that can be elaborated through the dramatic lens of wrestling.
In a way, this special attraction is evoking the only conflict older than the struggle between the haves and the have-nots, the struggle for primal man's very existence. In coming to see the Wildman wrestle a bear, the audience is coming to see a dramatic interpretation of mankind's rise from the primordial soup. Wrestling is amazingly and casually profound, and I wonder how many types of stories one can tell through it.


Gary said...

On a general level, I found this chapter amazing, my emotions going from concern for the characters involved to outright laughter when the bear bit off a finger, and the incident with the sheriff, or when the lady working at the newspaper, initially fearful, started feeding the bear candy--completely won over based on Wildman's interaction with her. This just cracked me up.

On a more profound level, I agree with Mike about the struggle and rise from the primordial soup, a struggle as old as the planet and man.

This is a latent witness for the survival of the fittest going back to man versus beast and the origins of wrestling. Society / fans knows they can never trust the bear, and they also know they can never trust a wrestler.

Sam Ford said...

There's something in the story of the bear, to be sure, who has the power to really hurt you but may be holding back...that echoes the story of the wrestler performer in every match he enters. Lou Thesz, Ole Anderson, and others have uttered that. When you allow your opponent to put you in a hammerlock, you are submitting to a position in which the other man could just decide to break your arm...and there's not much you can do to stop him at that point in time. That's another reason why I find the story of the wrestling bears so poignant, in the way that the story echoes the story of the wrestling man...without insurance or a social net, often without a fallback career if wrestling doesn't work out, at the behest of promoters who often act and speak abusively to them.

In any case, astute point, Mikey, that the bear simultaneously gets us back to carnival attraction but also draws on a different type of plot that still gets down to the inevitability of "forces beyond our control."