Pop Goes the Culture
By Paul Tatara
Remember when the go-for-it tone of professional wrestling was a really unique thing? Back in the days before pro wrestling became Big Money, promoters didn’t budget for dry ice and showgirls, and most of the matches took place in rickety community centers littered with escaped bingo balls from the previous night’s old folks’ gathering. But when you were changing channels on a slow Saturday afternoon and stumbled upon some AWA wrestling, you simply had to stop and watch. Because the crazy people were back!
Wrestling was unlike anything else you could possibly experience at the time— all that yelping and turnbuckle eating and screaming and pointing and threatening and jumping off the top rope onto somebody’s Adam’s apple. Wrestlers displayed a sport-specific madness that made them seem almost alien to the average viewer. They had to be insane, you thought, for the very good reason that sane people don’t act like that.
But, today, everything is wrestling. Everything. If you can’t market yourself or your product as a variation on the Cobra Clutch Slam* or the Gorilla Press Gut Buster*, then you’re not allowed to participate in the no-rules cage match that is American culture. Crazy, in other words, is now the gold standard. So aim for crazy, and people will think you’ve got the goods.
Here’s just a few of the ways wrestling has manifested itself in totally contact-free aspects of our lives:
Political “discourse”: I’m always surprised when faux-informed, hate-filled, prejudice-mongering pig-people like Bill O’Reilly and Anne Coulter say something patently stupid and/or offensive, then everyone jumps out of their skin over it. Sure, they’re being hurtful. But what they’re really doing is challenging pundits who disagree with their intentionally exaggerated topical idiocy to a staged Texas Bullrope* match at the Civic Auditorium . . . except that the Civic Auditorium is Fox News, and Coulter’s screaming skull routine is even less appealing than Dusty Rhodes with snot and blood streaming down his face. Actually, given the choice, I’m pretty sure I’d do Dusty Rhodes.
Food: I don’t think I’ve been to the Olive Garden in about 15 years, but, based on the content of their nuance-free TV commercials, I have no doubt that many people are there at the moment of their death. Deep-fried meats served on a bed of wilted lettuce, covered in three kinds of cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and—just for you, America—four more kinds of cheese! You get to see them pour the goo over the salad in slow motion, too. I actually burst out laughing during these commercials. The ingredients are so over-the-top, they might as well hold you down and shove entrées down your throat with a plunger. I’m sure the referee would look the other way.
(I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Hardee’s Monster Thickburger: two 1/3 pound beef patties, four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese, and mayo on a buttered bun. If that’s not a sweaty redneck slamming his knee into your stomach in convenient sandwich form, I don’t know what is.)
U.S. foreign relations: “I AM COMIN’ IN AND COMIN’ AFTER YA, SADDAM!! I’M COMIN’ IN GUNS A-BLAZIN’!! SHOCK-AND-AWE, BABY!! SHOCK-AND-AWE!! YEEEEEE-HAAAAWWWW!! AT 5:43 A.M. BAGHDAD TIME!! MARCH 20, 2003!! I WANT AMERICA AND THE WORLD TUNIN’ IN TO WATCH!! THE INVASION WILL BEGIN, AND I WILL SHOW NO MERCY!! I WILL SHOCK YOUR ASS, AND THEN I WILL AWE YOUR ASS, SADDAM!! AND IT WON’T BE BUT A FEW DAYS AND (heh-heh), WELL, LET’S JUST SAY— THE MISSION WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED!! YEEEEEE-HAAAAWWWW!! AND ALL MY FANS IN IRAQ WILL THROW FLOWERS AT MY FEET, AND I WILL BLOW ‘EM KISSES!! BECAUSE I AM THE LIBERATOR, BAAAAABY!!”
Movies: Don’t get me started. There may not be a better barometer for the prevailing mind-set of a society than its motion pictures, and America has reached the point where its most popular movies are a high-tech series of One-Handed Bulldogs* and Sliding Forearm Smashes*, all in bone-rattling sound. Plus, you get a $12 tub of popcorn that can feed nine people, and a $6 cup of Coke so big you can soak your calcium-deposited elbow in it. And, in true ass beatin’ style, the seats make your butt hurt.
Take a look at the two top-grossing movies of 2007. Spider-Man 3? That’s wrestling. He’s even wearing a wrestling costume, complete with a mask and spandex tights. Shrek 3? All that galoot of a character has to do is take off his tunic, and you’ve got a big, green, stupid wrestler.
The trick with movies is that the studios have convinced people they’re getting what they want when they’re actually getting whatever the studios want to give them. In effect, these major corporations have us in a massive Testicular Claw Hold*.
Try getting out of that one without hurting yourself.
*Actual wrestling moves. Look ‘em up.
For more of Paul Tatara’s musings, visitwww.wallofpaul.com