"The virtue of all-in wrestling is that it is the spectacle of excess."
--Roland Barthes, "The World of Wrestling," Mythologies (1957)
< Pro-wrestler Sami Zayn [his Twitter]
I am not, nor am I likely to become, an actual pro-wrestling fan––
that is, someone who watches wrestling––
but I've been greatly enjoying my friend J.J.'s posts on wrestling at The Spectacle of Excess:
"a collaborative blog that explores the art of professional wrestling through cultural criticism, creative non-fiction, memoir, and other such writerly points of view."
It's a medley of modern fandom, nestling on a bed of semiotics.
J.J. is an academic whose relationship to wrestling reminds me of mine to Star Trek--entirely unironic, enthusiastic and childlike (in the best sense), and seriously thinky.
I used to feel that it was intellectually suspect to be a Star Trek fan––correction, a Trekkie––and while the rise of Media & Fan Studies maybe makes it more academically acceptable, I actually hate most things I've read about fandom by academics, even when the writers are actual fans, (which, weirdly to me, they aren't always)––it's a little too much like
"National Geographic Visits the Natives".
Or else it's show-offy without being smart.
J.J.'s entirely NOT like that.
Her project is to chronicle the telenovela-worthy history of wrestlers Sami Zayn (the guy with the giraffe) and Kevin Owens, in partial fulfillment of her vow "to watch everything these two astonishing people have ever done together and understand it all."
I'm enjoying her writing so much, I went on purpose to the K-Mart three blocks from my house to buy a Sami doll >
I like this guy a lot––(actual name Rami Stephen Sebei, born in Canada in 1984 to Syrian parents)––
he is smart & funny & anti-Trump, and he looks like a red panda (one of his unofficial nicknames).
But I have not taken this toy out of the box---introducing a new toy can be like introducing a new cat into a household of cats--you have to keep them separated for a while.
I'm not sure if this toy is going to fit in... so he's still on trial.
Here's a good place to start with J.J.'s writing––with her experience as a shy, white American attending wrestling matches in Japan:
"On Spectacle and Being Spectators in Japan".
Red pandas wrestlers, for real:
Also, from the fun introductory essay by the founding blogger, Andrea,
"On 'The World of Wrestling' by Roland Barthes (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Blog About Professional Wrestling)":
"I first read Barthes’ wrestling essay in a graduate literary theory class as a creative writing MFA student and was thrilled, just thrilled to discover a canonical theorist taking professional wrestling seriously!
I was living a double life that only a couple people knew about — teaching English classes, writing my novel, and working on my degree all week, and spending the weekends at indy wrestling shows and hanging out with a pack of smarks and indy wrestlers who were some of the most fun people I’ve ever made friends with.
Back then I didn’t try to explain to people in the MFA program that I was snubbing their parties and boring as hell poetry readings to go to a garage in a light industrial/strip club district west of the Vegas strip to watch young men in colorful pants flex their muscles and toss each other around. They ended up thinking I was snobbish, too cool for you and your incoherent poetry.
Which I guess I was."