WWE brief explanation about Masculinity
For many years, I have been fascinated by the rise in musclebound male stars who appear everywhere on TV and in film.
Although musclemen have been around for a long time in pop culture, their roles were limited to a few archetypes. These included the brawny action hero and the snarling henchman of the main villain. These days, big men have been playing a variety of roles in movies and following Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lead. John Cena is just as comfortable as an antiheroic hero with a bad father as he does as an overbearing father who gets involved in his daughter’s sexual life.
Cena, along with fellow hulking hunks Dwayne Johnson and Dave Bautista rose to fame first as a professional wrestler. The more I thought about Cena’s vulnerability, I realized that the extreme shenanigans, violence, and humor of the wrestling ring may be what made him so popular. In the 21st Century, wrestling has made its wrestlers’ private lives a platform for storytelling. This creates a need to authentically, and even vulnerably, perform oneself.
Is there any truth to this idea? Sharon Mazer, a professor of theatre and performance studies at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, was my first question. She wrote the Professional Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle book. She explored the changing nature of wrestling and how it has influenced society’s notions about masculine performance.
The conversation was edited to be more concise and clear.
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Since I was a kid, wrestlers have attempted to become movie stars. Hulk Hogan was the greatest wrestler when I was a child, but he failed to make it big as a movie star. Dwayne Johnson, Dave Bautista, and John Cena are all having real success in movies. Are these men better actors than Hulk? Is wrestling better suited to star in movies?
When you consider the evolution of wrestling from the 1980s glam years, Vince McMahon, [WWE CEO] has a lot of questions. Vince brought cameras into the arena in an even closer and more calculated manner. He also brought in scriptwriters in a more intimate and calculated manner. The result was that wrestling began to lose its carnival roots and its improvisatory structure. It became more scripted towards the end of the 1980s and definitely into the 1990s. It’s now very tightly controlled and contained. It is mapped for cameras. Live spectacles are much more controlled and contained, and are aimed at the cameras.
It was fascinating to see the difference between the wrestlers who could use the camera and those who couldn’t. Also, to see how adept technology was in picking up the action and getting closer to the action than it was before.
In my opinion, this has led to naturalization in the persona of wrestlers, particularly male wrestlers. We hear about their spouses and their children. There are stories where one wrestler is attacking his wife and chasing the other. This is not the same storyline as the triangle that existed between Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth in the 1980s. The cameras are allowed into their homes, or the homes they were intended to be.
Performances that are now mobile have evolved from the squared circle to the world of film and television. This is a shift from a socially presented wrestler’s persona to a highly individualized, very personal persona.
These guys are almost unaffected and appear to be straight. They are usually wearing basic shorts and maybe a nice robe. They are so straight in their presentation as wrestling champions. They are just strong men. It’s not an exaggeration for them to be let go. They are presented as working men. They have muscles, but they also have the same working abilities as other guys.
It makes me wonder if Arnold Schwarzenegger is their true role model. His bodybuilding experience made it easy to transition to film, but he was also a more extreme bodybuilder. But Pumping Iron, the documentary that made Schwarzenegger famous worldwide, shows that he was a genuine person and works well on the screen. He was a natural talent for it.
These guys are believed to have been drawn into the game by a humanist appeal. Dwayne Johnson can be seen when he is working. When John Cena works, you can see his true identity. One generation above them, the group that grew up in the 2000s and ’90s, start to look more normal. The least looking-like-a-person wrestlers right now are Vince McMahon himself and his son Shane.
It makes me wonder if they have added an element to their vulnerability and allowed them to show some of themselves on camera. Although it is heightened, it does not alter their true nature.
One of the biggest innovations in the early Vince years was the introduction of cameras backstage. There would be wrestlers racing backstage and sometimes racing into the streets. Cameras have become more portable and people carry cameras everywhere with them all the time. This has made it easier for people to stage themselves and see themselves as such.
Wrestlers had to learn how to dial it back as cameras entered the ring. They are more patient. It’s easier to tell the difference between when they are presenting a persona and when actually performing the thing live. They must deliver the same show in every city, no matter where they are in the United States.
The world in which this whole generation of wrestlers grew up is very different from the one in which Hulk Hogan or Macho Man Randy Savage grew up was a completely different place. They’re also different men in general. Men have changed and it may just be changing the norms of masculinity. They are still exaggerated compared to what we might see in daily life, but not in a similar way as they were 20-30 years ago.
While I don’t know the extent of the evolution in masculinity, the shift towards more personal stories in wrestling, from the days when Hulk Hogan and whoever feels like a part of something bigger in the culture,
There are many competing masculinities in the US. Every war, no matter how small, is being fought over definitions of masculinity at the base. Whose ideology will prevail in terms of masculine performance?
There are many assumptions we make about the 1950s, and 1960s, homophobia, masculine dominance, and how it was an oppressive time. You have Gorgeous George, a wrestler who is a villain. He fluffs his hair, and his robe, and does his fancy thing. He was hated by the crowd. He was hated by the crowd, even though he did cheat in some of his matches. But, you can always say that he was a good wrestler. You’d also see Ricky Starr, a Greenwich Village ballet dancer, dancing in ballet slippers and throwing them into the crowd. They loved him! He wasn’t so small that he could jump on the back of his opponent and win.