Monday, November 24, 2014

Good and Evil


I fetishize comeuppance in wrestling because I'm obsessed with an ideal: perfect justice. I'm not convinced there is any justice in the real world, perfect or imperfect, but the idea is strong enough and good enough that it is, like equality, wisdom, and beauty, worth striving for. My idea of justice has been shaped by my religious upbringing, since forsaken (or as forsaken as any early childhood imprint can be forsaken), and by Hollywood, probably mostly Hollywood.

Pro wrestling often depicts a struggle between good and evil. Often this struggle is handled in a very broad and ham-fisted way: a Johnny Hero versus Doctor Evil setup, or David versus Goliath. I am able to enjoy these scenarios if they are  done well, either in the squared circle or on a Hollywood soundstage. But they seldom have a deep impact on me. For me the perfect scenario is this: 
Two wrestlers enter the ring as equals--equal in physical strength, size, and, preferably, beauty. Neither is already pegged as the good guy or the bad guy. The setup could be a sporting contest between two friends, two brothers, or two tag-team partners. Two lovers, even. However, in the course of the match one of the wrestlers realizes that he cannot win the match fairly, according to the rules of fair play. He makes a decision. He fights dirty. 
At first, he becomes opportunistic, seizing openings that occur by chance, rather than through his own skill. For instance, if his opponent slips accidentally, he doesn't stand back and let the man regain his footing before proceeding. Eventually, he regresses to low blows and other dirty tactics, creating his own opportunities to hurt and humiliate his opponent. 
In the end, though, good triumphs. If necessary, the opponent fights fire with fire, giving the emerging heel a taste of his own medicine. The absolute best outcome for me, however, is that the opponent wins fairly and squarely, despite all the dirty tricks being thrown at him. Perhaps the trickster becomes ensnared in his own trickery, or, better, the virtuous wrestler's strength and skill prove ultimately indomitable.
Pretty corny stuff, I know. But it sets my pants on fire.*

The "heel turn" interests me more than the "perpetual heel." For me, the perpetual heel is mostly comical, even (especially) the ones that cloak themselves with menace and the mystique of darkness (the Undertaker, for instance). The heel turn is something that can happen in any match, to any competitor, even one who has been "good" in previous matches and turns back to "good" in subsequent matches. This brings the wrestling character closer to my experience of real life--sometimes we play the babyface, sometimes the heel. Circumstances often direct the course we take from one life event to the next. Our actions are not consistent, much less consistently good or evil regardless of external conditions.

* Having said that, I would not want to give the impression that I would want every single match to follow this pattern. I'm quickly bored by routine. One gripe I have about pro wrestling (underground and above) is that it finds an angle that works and then runs it into the ground.


  1. I'm amazed at how close that comes to my ideal scenario and how it connects with my own constructs.

    After finally breaking ties with my strong religious upbringing, I resorted to the arts and science to create a 'justice' construct that would serve as a moral compass. After the experiences I've had, I have learned not to think so much about fairness as a way to reach justice. Instead, I have learned to focus on balance.

    And by balance, I don't mean meeting good and evil at a half-way point, but I see it more as a movable point inside that subjective gradient that is defined by purpose and implications of a situation. To find balance, I think actions should contain proportional force. That means that anything goes: broken rules, selfishness and betrayal, but also sacrifice, selflessness or even neutrality.

    Just as the example you presented here, it's those scenarios that capture the struggle to find balance the ones that speak to me the most. The only thing I may not concur is having good win. The science part has taught me to be more appreciative of skills and potential instead of labelling good or fair as positive. The winner for me should be the one who has a better plan and execution to reach his vision of balance. A bit kind of taken from survival of the fittest.

    I'm sorry for the long comment, but I really enjoyed this one!

    1. The comment's not too long at all. I love your writing, Jose, and your thinking. As for good winning, I see your point. My Hollywood can't stand up to your science. But my Hollywood is old Hollywood, specifically M-G-M Tarzan Hollywood, which mixes simplistic happy endings with survival of the fittest. The phrase "let the best man win" applies to both views, and it still thrills me.

  2. Nice comments. Often, the lines can be blurred- the hero often showing signs of evil or injustice and the villain doing the wrong things but maybe for a good reason (even if in their own mind). I often enjoy a simplistic take- especially in old hollywood movies/ shows or the wrestling arena. I too enjoyed Tarzan movies where he battled a clearly defined villian (Banton Brothers or Tarzan vs the Ivory King) having to draw upon his skills to claim victory. I also enjoy the older wrestling matches- the modern story lines are too campy. Do you recall a wrestler who used the claw? The clean cut heros (Von Erichs, Backlund, etc. and the Spoiler, etc.) always got my interest. The last match i truly enjoyed was the Rock vs Brock Lesnar- the build up was great and the way Brock man handled the Rock was classic. Joe- thank you for this site. Great content and outlet.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...