André the Giant
André the Giant – 7’4″ and 525 pounds.
This lady at work who watches professional wrestling with her daughter – she tells me all the old wrestling footage has been sold to The Peacock Network. This lady talks to me about professional wrestling cause I’ve told her how much I loved it as a kid. And I still do – the old stuff, at least. The blood and guts stuff from the 70’s to mid-80’s. The rough and bloody stuff, especially from the South – I’m endeared to it far more than the fluff and entertainment style of the wrestling from up North.
Anyway, she says all that old broadcast footage has been sold for billions to The Peacock Network which is a subsidiary of some mega-entertainment corp. She says they’re gonna air all that old rasslin’ on their network, but, to appease advertisers (maybe shareholders and our progressive gatekeepers of culture, too), they’re gonna have to scrub all that old footage of it’s objectionable content.
It got me to thinking that won’t leave that much to air since much of wrestling in the old days was the essence of what we regard as culturally inappropriate and insensitive today.
Like how, back in those days, midget wrestlers were midget wrestlers. Today, I suppose, they’d be more sensitively billed as dwarves, little persons or persons of short stature wrestlers.
And most villains back then were based on ethnic and national stereotypes. Like paunchy, middle-aged, dark-haired Italians portraying themselves as Native Americans, adorning themselves in feathered headdresses and moccasins just to prove how authentic and native they actually were. For fuck’s sake, talk about cultural appropriation!!!!! While a Canadian shaved his head and pretended to be a nasty, cheating Russian, even winning the World’s Title. Or Jim Raschke of the University of Nebraska morphing into the villainous, goose-stepping Nazi, Baron Von Raschke from Berlin. James Arthur “Sugar Bear” Harris from Mississippi morphing into “The Ugandan Warrior” Kamala, hailing from the deepest, darkest jungles of Africa, brandishing a savage’s spear and covered with nothing but a leopard print loin cloth. And the list goes on and on with the despised, flamboyant homosexual in the case of Gorgeous George (and later Goldust) and the trope of the treacherous Asian played by Mr. Fuji, who hailed from Hawaii in real life, not Osaka, Japan as he was billed. The only group that seems to have been mostly spared by wrestling was the Jews.
Between the cultural appropriation and ethic/national stereotypes, this is all blasphemous, heinous, gross and morally reprehensible by today’s sensitive standards of social decency.
So it got me to thinking, how far can our whitewashing of wrestling extend? And if it’s really all that blasphemous on the whole (as could be argued) then why not just wipe it off the cultural landscape altogether as we’ve done with minstrel shows? But I don’t imagine that’ll happen. Billions were paid for it and billions can be made, so we’ll put a healthier shine on it it and just pretend the other stuff never existed.
This lady at work told me about this attempt at cleansing wrestling’s sordid past. A past which I love, mind you. But, for the sake of its intent and consistency, it forces me to think. Forces me to think about things like André the Giant and if his character might be offensive and culturally inappropriate by today’s standards as well. André’s size was the result of an excess of growth hormone, which led to the condition acromegaly. André’s condition was serious, causing him physical discomfort his entire life and, though it led to fame and wealth, it also led to a lifetime of escapable, awkward attention no matter where he was in public. Much of André’s life was miserable – a misery hidden within the persona of the jolly giant. As much as he was an attraction, André was also a sideshow freak.
As Joseph (John) Merrick was more than an animal, André was more than a giant. It could be argued the labels “Giant” and “Eighth Wonder of the World” were belittling, given everything André endured in his lifetime. It could be argued that, as one of the world’s most famous sufferers from his hormonal condition, his label as Giant diminishes or disguises the suffering of others afflicted with the same condition. It belittles them into the categories and stereotypes of Jolly Green Giants and “Fe-fi-fo-fum” bullshit. “Giant” diminishes their pain and suffering. The Giant makes them one dimensional. It diminishes them as humans into some silly category that only exists in fables and fairy tales. It makes them cartoonish. In real life, there are no giants, there are men and women who suffer from hormonal imbalances. As such, it could (perhaps should) be argued the term “gigantism” go the the way of “retard”.
So when she said that about all the old wrestling footage getting scrubbed for cultural decency, that’s what I thought for a while about André. But then I realized, like most things, it’s probably gonna be a bunch of inconsistent, hypocritical bullshit like everything else. In other words, a bunch of nonsense like all the other nonsense of the world. And when most everything’s nonsense, what’s the point in worrying, caring or thinking about it too much? So I don’t worry much, I just think sometimes. See, I got a stockpile of that stuff in my garage. And I ain’t gonna pretend that anytime soon it’s gonna be demonized or confiscated like the most unlawful of pornography or folks freak out about their guns and ammo every election cycle. I ain’t gonna worry about it cause I’d be willing to bet most if this is just a bunch of posturing, pandering cultural nonsense, just like the bullshit with guns, taxes and medicine. It’s nothing anybody wants to take seriously, which is to say, address with any degree of consistency. If we wanted to take our self-professed “progressive” cultural standards seriously, we’d simply scrub the culture of this physical drama between insensitively conceived stereotypes. But there’s money to be made. And so long as you make a petty gesture at making it more palatable to the Overlords of Culture, they get to morally posture and preen while Peacock gets to make its coin. Everybody’s happy, so no problem. No hassles. But no consistency either, just like all the rest of our bullshit.
Besides comic books and soap operas, rasslin’ was one of those things that offered simple villains and heroes to the simple folks who enjoyed it. I wonder why it is today we can’t have that? For these tropes to exists today, do our fictional heroes and villains need to be more robust (while (ironically?) making them more than dopey tropes)? Is it all self-negating? Can simple heroes and villains even exist at all? I suppose there’s the argument that it’s all the WASP’s fault. That he’s the one that created all these nasty stereotypes, so if it comes back on him, then it’s his just desserts. No, I’m no more a fan of whitey than anybody else. He’s consistently proven himself to be as stupid, if not more so, than anybody else, with a regularity that may be his greatest attribute – his utter predictability for idiocy. Perhaps this attempt at making our heroes and villains more true-to-life is a noble cause. But, does the general public have the emotional or intellectual capacity for it? Subtly and nuance is a niche market. So what the fuck are we doing imagining all the Joe Lunchboxes and his Karen wives are gonna have more of an appetite for Long Day’s Journey Into Night than they ever will for Batman? Good fucking luck.
I wish wresting would be left alone. There’s a part of me that hopes it doesn’t become a casualty of all this culture war bullshit. But there’s also a part of me that doesn’t care since it’s all one big shitshow anyway. There’s a part of me that says it’s only rasslin’, just like it’s only Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head (how/why was (s)he ever identified with a gendered salutation while lacking the accessory of a cock or pussy anyway?) and Elmer Fudd. So fuck it all when we’re getting sodomized, but we’re too distracted with children’s books, toys and cartoons to care.