Thursday, July 7, 2011

Relationship Tips from WWE

While we study the pictures of Miz and Alex Riley working each other at this week's Monday Night Raw (two guys once so close to each other and now ... well ... even closer), let's think about relationships.

The Miz has bounced from partnership to feud before--John Morrison being the original case--so this business with Riley just continues the pattern.  That feuds in pro wrestling are coded love stories is a point I've raised before and tried to understand better by writing about it.  Look at the video and notice how the camera cuts periodically to tight close-ups of Miz's face as he gazes over at his opponent, Alex.  Sure, the conventional interpretation of that look is exhaustion and stress, but tell me if you don't agree that in another context, say a romantic comedy, this same expression might be described as "puppy-dog eyes." And does the word "longingly" spring to anyone else's mind?

Yeah, I over-intellectualize. What else is a blog for?

When I speak of relationship "patterns," I am not talking about just The Miz. Obviously, many people's relationships run like this--passion divided between bonding and feuding. Not all relationships are the same, of course. In my life I have seen many kinds, most of which fall into one of two broad categories, opposite ends of a spectrum: the civilized partnership based on security, maturity, comfort, settling down, social and economic commitments, and the education of children, and, opposite, the caveman partnership based on animal magnetism, lust, possessiveness, quarreling, make-up sex, fatal attractions, and heated, frenzied angry fucking. The former is the basis of law and order, spiritual peace, morality, and civilized behavior--but the latter is the stuff of bedroom farce, S&M, grand opera, rock-and-roll, and wrestling.

Sometimes one kind of relationship turns into the other. It happens all the time. Civilization cannot long resist the pull of nature. And then, later, people recoil from the excesses of nature and turn to stricter rules of order to reclaim calm and balance in their lives.  It's in the interest of society to encourage the first kind of relationship, and tax benefits, church doctrine, and Hollywood happy endings all reward the triumph of order and reason in love--against wild, impetuous, never-boring appetite.

The second, though--the unruly, potentially violent relationship--is the expression of romantic individualism, revolution, and liberty, the one that wrestling can be interpreted to mean. This kind of loving relationship is volatile--horses giving each other love bites, Shakespeare's comically savage The Taming of the Shrew--or (yikes) Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray shooting each other through the hearts in Double Indemnity.  It or its mirror image is what fans consciously or unconsciously seek in pro wrestling.

In the WWE and elsewhere, successful tag partners are usually torn apart in the end by jealousy, betrayal, ambition, miscommunication, and the like, the same hazards that often trouble romantic love. And then come the fiery feuds, so much more exciting than the technical efficiency of functioning tag teams, and far from being the opposite of love, easily enough achieved by simply cutting an ex out of one's life forever, they come to symbolize (for me, anyway) another form of love--obsessive, volcanic, biochemical, unpredictable, and sometimes tragic--uncivilized love--the unbridled life force--inconducive to the work ethic, chain of command, and common decency. Feuds recreate the primal drama we all recognize deep down and, to greater and lesser extents, yearn for, from time to time.

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