In reading "Pinning Down Fan Involvement: An Examination of the Multiple Modes of Engagement for Professional Wrestling Fans," I was really surprised at the difference between fan representation in the article as compared to the fan representation in Wrestling with Manhood and Wrestling with Shadows. Obviously there was some bias in the depiction of the fans in the documentaries, because they were both using fans to further the agenda of the documentary (fans as anti-Canadian and fans as bullying, base devil-spawn), but I really expected there to be at least one or two total dullards picked out of the crowd. While it was interesting that all fans perceived at least some of the other fans as thinking wrestling was a shoot, none of them had any illusions of it themselves. They also are able to engage with the wrestling text on several different levels, four out of the five pretty cerebral.
Most importantly, in the continuing to tie what we're reading into the problems with wrestling we've been grappling (wrestling humor) with over the past few weeks, none of the wrestling fans interviewed responded that they enjoyed professional wrestling because of the promotion of bullying, misogyny, bigotry, or violence (outside of a cathartic sense). They frequently referred to it as theater or feats of athleticism, and these responses really speak to the shortcomings of the writers who are analyzing wrestling without taking into account the sensibilities of the fan. I was pretty convinced that despite all the wrestling fans I know being pretty intelligent people, the average fan would be a few wrestlers short of a royal rumble, if you know what I mean. However, this study points towards a more intelligent and discerning "average" wrestling fan. At the same time, I think it may be the norm to assume that the fans around you are less intelligent, as evidenced by many participants in the survey saying they participate in the action so that the audience members that do believe wrestling is real will persist in this illusion. One respondent likened it to Santa Claus, likening wrestling fans to the mental status of children, believing in the fantastic despite common sense.
If the fans have such a low opinion of each other, it's small wonder that non-fans are so quick to question the intelligence of a wrestling enthusiast. Despite the prevalence of wrestling culture for decades, despite the blatant absurdities of the attitude era, despite Vince McMahon testifying in court that wrestling was a work, fans are still asked if they believe wrestling is real. How is this the case? Is the belief held by non-wrestling fans that fans think wrestling is real, and the subsequent shaming of fans by non-fans and accompanied guilt, perpetuated by those fans who justify their fandom to the effect of "Well, most fans think it's real, but I know it's fake."? As someone who has had to answer this question of their friends, roommates, and even parents, it needs to be established somehow that everyone who has ever heard of professional wrestling knows it is written and choreographed, regardless of interest. It would let the air out of a lot of the arguments presented against professional wrestling as a corruptive influence, help dispel the stereotype that wrestling fans are of an intelligence level that necessitates censorship, and help non-fans to look past the "well it's fake" excuse for not giving it a proper chance. It's 2014; vaccinations are not bad for you, eating before you swim won't give you cramps, wrestling is predetermined. And it rules.