Monday, April 28, 2014

Instant Feedback: Wrestling Is Art

The very definition of art
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I don't watch a whole lot of Oscar-nominated films. I just don't get the chance to watch any movies anymore, but even when I was going to the theater, I was dealing mostly with the popcorn flicks. It's not that I'm opposed to the critically acclaimed films; my entertainment passions have always been more associated with the physical nature. So I have always been more inclined to check out the high stakes sporting matchups and to delve more deeply into the critical annals of professional wrestling. But one year, I actually saw most of the films nominated for Best Picture.

In 2010, I saw five of the ten movies nominated. Four of them actually felt like they were Oscar-worthy films. Toy Story 3 jerked at my heartstrings something fierce. Black Swan was psychological and edgy. The Social Network was bland, but it was also ambitious and well-acted. Inception, my favorite of the group, was inventive, action-packed, well-rounded, and exceptionally intelligent.

And the movie that won was the most boring piece of shit of the whole lot, The King's Speech. This film's win in the face of the other four movies I watched (the other five I didn't get to see, so I can't really judge them) felt like the reinforcement of every stereotype against Academy judges. It was, for lack of a better description, a typical Hollywood underdog story polished up under the sheen of World War II England. World War II plus overcoming physical disability equals Oscar gold. Fuck, it even has a goddamn montage. A MONTAGE. Every cheesy coming of age/underdog story '80s film had a fucking montage to the point that it's a lampooning mechanism in spoofs and slapstick comedies. So with The King's Speech winning the Oscar over at least three more deserving films, arguably four (I still vacillate on The Social Network, even if I do think its scope and acting performances should give it a tiebreaker), well, the old criticisms of The Academy didn't exactly ring hollow.

What does any of the above have to do with wrestling? Well, pro graps is considered a bastard art, a cheap money-stripper for the working class filled with titillation without artistic merit. In some circles, it is considered below the latest productions from the Happy Madison company. Believe me, I've had to sit through Grown Ups. If Adam Sandler's recent output isn't rock bottom, it's only got a couple of inches left to clear before getting there. Generally speaking, the more sheen a wrestling company has on it, the more corporate it is and the more popular it is, the less of a chance it has of being something worthy of holding up and critiquing as art.

Yet, in the open of RAW, I saw John Cena, a hero with wavering doubt in his eyes, questioning the fans why they would forsake him and feed him to the wolves. I heard a children's choir hauntingly sing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" as foreboding. I marveled at the use of lighting and the shots that were captured by the cameramen. I was entranced by Bray Wyatt leading the children in their siren song, and my skin crawled when I saw the choir appearing out from the darkness in the lambs' masks. The opening of RAW tonight left me with a feeling of satisfaction that I get when I hear a beautiful song, watch a landmark episode of television, or take in a grand movie.

Watching great wrestling theater fills me with vindication, especially when WWE of all companies can frame a scene such as the one it opened RAW with. Furthermore, when the company can be that ambitious and fulfill all expectation how can it be called garbage? When it hits on every cylinder, how can it be looked upon with disdain in a world when polished garbage created to fit a tried and true formula is rewarded for its laziness?

Friends, wrestling is an art, and it is art with no modifier. Maybe no one else who doesn't understand already will see it that way, but fuck 'em. What passes for high art in cinema has no better or worse batting average than what the best in wrestling can provide anyway, and when tripe is celebrated, then maybe the social barometers are out of whack anyway.

That all being said, when the two media collide, sometimes the results are sublime. What I'm trying to say is in your spare time, why don't you rent The Wrestler from Netflix, okay?