Monday, February 3, 2014

Vital Criticism, or Never Turn Your Brain Off, Ever

Criticizing this isn't superfluous, but essential
Photo Credit:
A WWE superstar who wished to remain anonymous sent a letter to "Internet fans" via F4WOnline. Said letter was behind the paywall, but PW Mania transcribed it. Since that site has ghastly, invasive ads, I recommend against clicking the courtesy link, and instead, reading said letter here, emphasis mine:
Internet is so funny. You all read the sites so you all should know the ‘plans’ for Mania. None of those plans have Bryan in a title match so the internet exploding at the end of the show is beyond laughable. Plus dont hate on Rey, he didn’t book himself as #30. The way most of you were acting the company should have called an audible and put Brooklyn Brawler as #30 just to piss you off even more. over 50,000 mania tix sold and a network that will change your life for ever is about to launch, so just relax and enjoy the product the company gives you. By the way, didn’t you all shit on the wwe for the Sept – Nov ppvs last year and said you were done, but turned around to watch/buy the Rumble? Pittsburgh you were an awesome crowd and it was an honor to be in your building last night.
Firstly, the fact that the writer wanted to remain "anonymous" raises several questions. At the very least, this commentator is supremely craven hiding behind his mask. Still, this person made a salient point in that Rey Mysterio shouldn't have been held at fault for his entry into the Rumble. However, the rest of this missive was steaming hot garbage.

Putting aside the ridiculous framing of every "Internet" fan as a fickle boycott artist or giving credence to leaked plans about Mania that oftentimes change, the most damning thing stated was the part I bolded. What this phantom is advocating is that you, the fan, should shut up and keep forking your money over to Vince McMahon regardless of how happy his product makes you. Of course, this idea flies in the face of how capitalism works. If WWE isn't holding up its end of the bargain as a content producer, you have the right not to support them financially. More importantly, if WWE is veering off a path of satisfaction, you, the consumer, have the right to voice your concern. Whether WWE listens to those complaints or not is out of your control, but at the same time, the wrestling business for years has worked on instant feedback. Cheering and booing is not just a means to an end, but it is one of the ends valued by any wrestling promoter in the last half-century or better.

Art is not an entity that requires universal praise just for existing. In order for art to be taken seriously, critics and consumers need to be able to accept the best of it and reject the things that don't pass muster. Since consensuses are hard to reach in general, debate must remain open. Some folks have made the argument that WWE doesn't produce art. I disagree with that notion, but I understand that promotions in the independent ranks probably fit the profile better.

However, even producers of indie content oftentimes show thin skin towards criticism. Even in response to National Pro Wrestling Day, I've seen problems voiced by various fans and critics, and folks within the Chikara fold have broken out the "HATERZ" dismissal. This attitude is even more egregious on the independent level because discussions can enact more change due to the compressed size of the fandom and the louder the voice of the fan is to a promoter like Mike Quackenbush rather than to a corporate American denizen like Vince McMahon.

The truth of the matter is that all informed opinions are valid. No one is entitled to their own facts, obviously. For example, bashing the Colt Cabana/Drew Gulak match for having "multiple botches" is completely off the mark because the first and only botch I saw in the match happened well into the third fall. The fact of that matter is that the style worked by the two wrestlers was more "loose" and was supposed to look less fluid and choreographed than, say, a lucha-libre inspired match like the bonus main event. However, the response to someone who might say "I don't like that style, I would like to see more lucha libre," is not to call that person a hater or to ignore them without second thought.

Constructive criticism and exchange of ideas is how any artistic venture grows, especially one that is proprietarily given over for consumption as part of the narrative. That exchange only works if you, as a viewer, never shut off your brain and always give thought to the thing you're watching. Whether the content is a high-test independent concept promotion like Chikara or the Michael Bay-production of wrestling in WWE, you should never, ever let something you voluntarily want to watch insult your intelligence, no matter what those producing the art say on the matter.

For WWE employees to come out and call out the "Internet" is the worst of the worst offenses, given that they stand to benefit the most by the discontent of the more vocal fans. Unless that anonymous source was a member of the office or someone like John Cena or Randy Orton, the rank and file would benefit from ideas given by the more sane members of the hardcore fandom. Letting McMahon control the narrative, especially since he's totally lost the creative fastball that may have been overrated from jump, would hurt everyone involved.