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Language Log

Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022 - 8:19 a.m.

I have a friend who’s an indie wrestler. Sent me a video of his most recent show. I was subjected to WWF enough in the mid 90s to have a point of comparison and an appreciation for the genre. But watching the video of these guys, I thought, wow. First of all it was just adorable. But also art. A seemingly earnest yet (with all those flying metal chairs) winking lowbrow art.

The elements of the genre are really coming through here. The role of the announcer in spinning the narrative that makes it exciting for viewers and invests it with human meaning. Stories about conflict, masculinity, and racial/other types of stereotypes. I remembered my one professor who was a historiographer and worked on leisure activities, and the one grad student who was writing his dissertation on soccer and politics in some African nation. “I wonder what someone like that could say about this”, I thought.

And I’m sure someone has. But then I stopped, disturbed by my impulse to want to view it through the lens of academia in order to appreciate or understand it. To filter and distort the phenomenon into a form I find more digestible in some way. Why? Are there really things about it that can only be appreciated with the tools and explanations provided by historiography, theatre studies, anthropology? I don’t think so. I fear it’s the part of me that still wants to position myself as superior in understanding to the folks who buy the tickets and show up to these things with their kids and consume this entertainment as a simple, uninterrogated pleasure.

I think though that the delight one has in reading a good academic take on a popular culture product is a unique pleasure of its own, and valid. I just want to make sure all the elitism is scraped off of it.

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