Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What the Hell? Literally?

So last night I was watching WWE wrestling, and...

Oh. Right. First I should step back and give you the Pro Wrestling apology. Here it is. Well, first, my brother and I have been watching what was then the WWF since the days of Hulk Hogan's heyday--back when it was tame enough to show on Saturday mornings and before they admitted that it was "fake." I put 'fake' in quotes because there is a sense in which what these entertainers do is very real. Even though these are stories, like a soap opera, with fantastic stunt work--the stunts can still be dangerous. Just ask Stone Cold Steve Austin, Droz, or the family of Owen Hart how "fake" wrestling is. The upside, however, is that these all represent accidents. Horrible and tragic accidents, to be sure, but none of these men came to their fate as a result of intentional malice. Can we say the same for boxing? Football? I'd rather watch pro wrestling than these "real" sports most of the time. It's almost like the two arguments against pro wrestling cancel each other out. Some don't like how "fake" it is, others don't like how violent it is. *shrug* If the violence is fake, and we can distinguish between reality and fantasy, then where's the harm?

So yeah, my brother and I have been watching together for years. We could practically write for the shows now--half of what we do when we're watching is saying things like, "Huh, I wonder where they're going with that." and "I wouldn't have gone there, I would have had this happen instead..." We find it fun to analyze, the plots are mostly simple, almost archetypal, with the one complication of crowd reaction. If the best plot in the world doesn't elicit a reaction from the crowd, it'll get changed or dropped in a big hurry. ...or, occasionally, if a story goes too far it will get yanked right quick.

An example: The character Muhammad Hassan. I'm a little sad that they pushed the character and the story line too far, as it was kinda brilliant. Muhammad Hassan was a controversial heel (think "bad guy") who raged at, well, everyone, for the way that he, as an Arab-American, has been treated since 9-11. He managed to garner heal heat from his bad reaction to a sad reality. The character and his story line was a cutting piece of social commentary that walked a very, very fine line. A line that was crossed when, after a horrible match, Muhammad's manager was carried "unconscious" from the ring in a manner similar to the way Muslims treat the body of a martyr. I was a little shocked at the time myself, but as it turned out, the timing couldn't have been worse--the episode aired right after the 2005 London bombings. Well... to make a long story short, Muhammad Hassan was pretty quickly written right out of existence. (Powerbombed through an open section of staging... literally disappearing from sight--and the WWE altogether.)

Interesting, huh?

So what's happening now, is a story line involving long-time headliner Shawn Michaels and none other than Vincent Kennedy McMahon! Yes, that Vince McMahon. The chairman and majority owner of the company. It's not the first time he's been on camera in a story line, and he almost always plays a heel. He's really good at it, too. But now... I don't know what he's up to. You see, Shawn Michaels is a fairly vocal Christian, and so, to garner heel heat, Vince has turned to intentional blaspheme. In fact, last night, Vince claimed to be the creator of his own religion, "McMahonism," wherein he is the god of all sports entertainment. He then begged God to strike him down.

Uncomfortable, no?

I'm still not sure if what happens next is better, or worse. Later in the episode, Vince ties Shawn up in the ring-ropes, and goes to get a folding chair (bane of all pro-wrestlers). Only a series of pyrotechnic displays keeps Vince from re-entering the ring.

That's right, God uses fireworks to save God's faithful butt-kickers from receiving chair-shots.

Never mind the fact that the format of wrestling doesn't really allow for deep exploration of the Christian religion--cause who wants to watch stuntmen turn the other cheek? No-one, of course, stuntmen should be doing stunts, that's what they get paid for. (I think the origin of Austin 3:16 is in the Stone Cold Steve Austin article, go look at that as an example of what I mean.) Never mind, even, the natural discomfort associated with watching someone even pretend to be so intentionally blasphemous. Never mind the question I want to ask (What church let Vince McMahon film in their sanctuary?)

What bothers me is that the story has essentially reduced the Divine to simple parlor tricks.

It may be fun for an Undertaker story line, but I have a feeling it'll get a lot of backlash for a story line about God!

No comments: