“For decades wrestlers would perform their characters at all times in public to preserve the illusion”

25 Mar

Dorky bald emotion, just out there whanging around. That is the core of pro wrestling. It shields itself from total purity of expression, of course, protects itself with over-enunciation and chewing-the-scenery facial expressions, with the strobe lights and costumes and intricate dramas recounted by the announcers — yet it outs itself by the physical fact of bodies doing crazy things to each other in front of an audience. Men (sometimes women, but come on, usually men) work cooperatively to build STORIES in an environment where competition is fake and ultimately irrelevant.

The audience, the fans, often seem to understand and accept that the fights are scripted, but don’t want to bring the idea into direct sunlight. Talking openly about the fakeness means either that you hate wrestling or you’re dumb. Pro wrestling used to treat fans like marks to milk for $$$, like the circus once did, like any occupation that operates in a reality substantially different from that of its customers. But pro wrestling is analogous to following a soap opera, or any long-running TV show for that matter. The heroes and the villains know their roles, and their roles are more important than whether they appear to win or lose. The performers sacrifice to meet those expectations, and over the course of many matches, they guarantee the audience justice. A pro wrestling fan has more emotional security than any sports fan, so is both less and more invested in the game. The whole thing seems vulnerable and sincere to a degree that is almost breathtaking. I don’t understand how it sustains itself without getting crushed by outside pressure.

If straight women were lumped into one “community” as often as gay men are, a community with “our” own icons who speak to “our” inclinations and sensibilities from across the void, I would want pro wrestling to be our Judy Garland/Madonna/Mariah Carey. Camp that somehow directly expresses what we feel we are, without actually coming from us or even being meant for us. It would be silly to start acting as though any one concept of “femaleness” is universal, but pro wrestling is a pretty direct and profound translation of my own experience of being a woman. Bodies force themselves into every story anyway, so just invite them in, recognize them, give them some love and understanding. At the same time, “people play games” “in life” and so on, but who says games aren’t stimulating. Set about with a playful spirit, they are fun. Real and fake TOGETHER til the end of time.

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