Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Big Men in Small Trunks

In Catherine Salmon and Susan Clerc’s, Ladies Love Wrestling, Too, the “why” women love to watch wrestling is explored. This is an area I have not explored before, and found the chapter most interesting.

The authors explore the transition from post WWII female fans, where females watched big men in small trunks, and had fan clubs, to where women utilized the more modern Internet age aspects to communicate between themselves, through chat rooms, blogs, forums, websites, email groups, etc. In short, women “have developed their own strategies for obtaining pleasure from the visual media” (p. 170).  Many forums and websites contain pictures of close-ups captured from screen shots, depicting unguarded emotional moments or smiles.

There seems to be a theme in the article as to why women are attracted to wrestling and how women express themselves. In addition to the sexual aspect, the themes depicted by the photographs of the forums and websites cover the need to have glimpses of happiness, emotion and vulnerability. The women fans are romantically interesting in the wrestlers, and the contrast between the hypermasculinity of the wrestler’s bodies and that of the moments of emotional vulnerability that of a smile, or candid moments or intense embrace, appears to be very evident. By the way, this is very true to form for any photojournalist who craves capturing the above moments.

The authors contrasts two common features in male and female wrestling sites, where the male wrestling sites contain role playing and fantasy bookings. Female sites are likely to write fictional stories and fill empty spots in story lines. Women create expansive character and meaning to the storylines in a personal way—“the softness of their hair.” A feature prevalent among female sites is the “desire,” where physical bodies and emotions are intertwined becoming the objects for desire.

I found this chapter most illuminating as it explores the female wrestling fan’s perspective, and this is something that has not been looked into before.


Sam Ford said...

I think the most useful takeaway for me from the chapter is the idea that the wrestling text privileges certain readings over others (focusing on the animosity between characters, on the matches themselves and the moments in the plot that most directly build to those matches, etc.) There are other aspects of these characters' physical lives that, thus, are not concentrated on nearly as much: the friendships and social relationships among the characters, the ways in which they GET ALONG, etc., because those things don't lead to matches. And it might be possible that fans reading from a "feminine perspective" (whether male or female in sexuality) would be curious to fill in the gaps about these issues...BTW, Gary, appreciated your bringing a photojournalists' sensibilities to this discussion.

Gary said...

Interesting take. I agree that the other aspects of the character's lives are filled in, as well as the possible sexual issues (male or female) would be further delved into, as it is human nature, in my opinion. The Internet has made this all possible, and on a much grander scale. Years ago, there were fan clubs, which you could participate in via regular mail or physically being there for meetings. Now, we have greater anonymous interaction, more immediate, almost instantaneous.

Melissa Smith said...

I know that I probably don't need to reiterate this, but please do not take this article as a generalization of all women. I can't help but get worked up every time this article is mentioned. I think part of the issue is that I don't want to be looked at in the way the authors portray women fans: ladies who go obsessively after each match and captures tender emotions for the Internet, or go and write/read fictional (I might even say slanderous) stories about wrestlers' private lives. I'm sure Katie feels similarly. In a class full of boys, we're the ones who have to represent women wrestling fans, but we are not the fans that the authors make us out to be.

Sam Ford said...

I think that there's a great danger in overgeneralizing any fan community's--or type of fan's--reasons for and ways of engaging with a text. Anyone who writes about a fandom risks doing so. And I think there's plenty of slippage here into an overgeneralization that is quite problematic. On the other hand, I do think this is interesting as a specific case study of a particular subculture of women wrestling fans who use the technical tools at their disposal to get what they want out of a text--in this case, for instance, the fleeting emotional moments that aren't as openly available to them from the focus of the primary text, as well as the ability to sexualize male wrestlers in a way that they aren't typically able to do so (despite sexualization of female characters being a large part of the show). We can debate whether we think it is moral, or ethical, to do what they're doing, as well as the legal lines it crosses (although, since these are public figures, this would be protected speech legally...), but I am particularly interested in the potential motivations BEHIND these niche communities.