Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wrestling and Aristotle, a musing

On Reddit I frequent the Squared Circle subreddit, which is all about wrestling. Today there was a post I really resonated with, so I replied to it. It was about someone introducing their girlfriend to RAW for the first time, and, as user righteyebrow said:

"... I convinced her to watch a match or two to see how she liked it.

First up it was Orton vs. Fandango. It was around the time when Orton hit the superplex she admitted wrestling was not as fake as she thought. When Orton then hit the DDT off the ropes she was convinced Fandango had broken his neck... By the RKO she was literally in tears. Like actual tears. I kinda felt bad.

So, after seeing some poor young dancer be absolutely decimated she didn’t want to watch anymore. But I convinced her to just watch one more match… which was Del Rio vs Dolph Ziggler.

After about the fifth time she thought Ziggler had been killed, I had to turn it off.

Yeah, so, my girlfriend hates wrestling now."

My reply: I remember going through that period. My husband introduced me to wrestling about 6 years ago when we first started dating. I was flabbergasted that anyone would put themselves through such pain and misery for a crowd. It took a lot of repeat watching to see the actual art behind it and how the wrestlers can make the product look so good... and also try so hard not to hurt their opponents.

It's scripted, and the wrestlers are 'fighting' but there's also a lot of trust between the guys and gals out there, from the wrestlers, to the refs, to the commentators. It all has to work just right for the viewers to believe it. And when real injuries happen, they're never planned, never scripted, and always terrible for the wrestlers.

It took a lot of time for me to be able to watch things like Foley's tooth coming out his nose without getting ill feeling. Now I realize that as much hell as Foley's put his body through, it is his job and he's proud of it. I could never do it, but that doesn't mean he can't find satisfaction from putting one hell of a show. Aristotle realized that theater is a way to purge ourselves of strong emotions, and to watch the wrestlers go through hell and back, to me, is a way to give way to the strongest emotions of triumph and tragedy. It is modern theater.

My husband and I talk a lot about how wrestling has more in common with the theater of old than some people would like to admit. Shakespeare has rowdy plays and I think if he saw wrestling, he'd love the drama of it as an extension of the plays he created.

We talk constantly about the catharsis, the purging of emotions, wrestling provides and how important that is. Only by watching shows where they are directed to bring out our strongest emotions can we release them. It's part of why wrestling hasn't been as popular these days as it was before, I think. They've taken a step back from the theater aspect and tried to be too "real." We need the vibrant characters that can act their parts completely and absolutely in the ring.

It's been 6 years now and I understand how frightening it can be to watch wrestling for the first time. They can make it seem so real that each impact hurts you and you can swear that they are really unconscious and they are seriously injured. 

But then... because you experience that worry over your favorite wrestler during the perfectly placed commercial break after a seemingly bad bump, when your loved ones are injured, you know what that worry feels like and you can move past it and get down to the helping your loved ones faster. You know what worry feels like because you've felt it. It's not an emotion that's unfamiliar. 

It's that purge of emotions that's so important. Wrestling is a theater. To deny it is to deny what makes wrestling such a core and necessary part of our society.

You can read the post here.

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