Hello! My name is Jon Parikh, I’m a Film & Media Studies and Economics double major, and in an ideal world, I would be a professor in media studies. My interests tend to skew towards commercial narrative forms (cartoons, adventure movies, comics, wrestling) for which I maintain a great deal of interest and respect. This is my first foray into research, something that I hope to be doing for many years to come. I don’t know what I’m doing, but everyone has to start somewhere, and that’s here for me! I’m honestly so stoked because my friends and family are generally sick of hearing me talk about wrestling, and, for lack of a better term, don’t understand what the big whoop is about.
This Summer, I’m working on a project called “Pro Wrestling, Sports Entertainment, Semi-Nude Combat: Sports, Art, and What Entertains US” with Professor Christopher Maverick as my mentor. What this comes down to is doing a lot of reading and deliberating over what constitutes a sport as opposed to what constitutes and art-form, and how those different mediums interact with an audience. That might seem cut-and-dry initially, however, like most things involving definitions, once you get down tot he nitty-gritty of examples, it gets a little more interesting. Dance is an art, certainly, but most people consider dancers to be athletes, and rightly so. Is what the Harlem Globetrotters do still basketball? Does it matter? Hockey is a team sport, they’re competing to get the most points and win the game, so that’s a sport, right? Easy. Hockey is a sport, but when you think about the way it interacts with its audience, it seems to be less a competition of skill. Players are encouraged to rough-house and enact violence on the ice, not because it’s good for the game, but because it’s entertaining for us, the crowd. And we love it!
The next reasonable question is why professional wrestling which has to be the lowest art of the low arts if there ever was one and a “fake” athletic competition at best. For starters, an art-form’s cultural clout is not indicative of either its quality or import. More people have been impacted by Hulk Hogan than Monet’s Water Lillies, which may be unfortunate to some, but is not untrue. For anyone who knows a little bit about professional wrestling, it can be viewed as either or some combination of a narrative theater and a sporting event (that’s what my research is focusing on), and the people who are involved in it have told some incredible stories in their time. Pro wrestling is particularly suited for this topic of art and sport because it lies at the intersection of those two disciplines, and because people involved in the wrestling industry have been having this argument of classification for decades. It’s a unique form of entertainment that uses its on specific working parts to create a story. Where movies have actors, lighting, scores, and mise-en-scene, pro wrestling has wrestlers, props, entrance music, ring gear, and kayfabe. Scripts, plays, and promos are all more or less the same thing, and can all be analyzed in the same way. If nothing else, the people in professional wrestling, the fans, coaches, wrestlers, and commentators, take wrestling extremely seriously, even if much of the public doesn’t. This is an institution where “blading” (cutting oneself, usually on the forehead to draw “color,” “juice,” or blood) is common practice, where it’s normal to see someone thrown through fire or into a pile of thumbtacks. I have seen death threats issued over professional wrestling, from esteemed members of the community no less, not just rabid fans. People dedicate years of training and hours of watching to this thing, this weird amalgamation of athleticism, gymnastics, theater, fantasy, and martial arts, because it is interesting. It’s worthy of attention and scrutiny because it’s popular, because it’s cool, because it can give us insight into broader philosophical and aesthetic concepts, and because it is rather singular among all the kinds of performances that we’ve come up with. Where else am I supposed a wizard of the dead tag team with a billionaire against some sort flamboyant ex-philanderer and capital G god? Or just see two guys who really don’t like each other halfway beat the living daylights out of one another while mugging for the cameras?
Here’s a video of my advisor wrestling some 20 years ago. I dunno if he’s going to see this, but my immense gratitude to you, sir.