Saturday, January 1, 2011

You Can't Say That on the Internet

Wrestlers and fans have a rocky relationship, but one cannot exist without the other. That rocky relationship probably goes for fans and the performers of just about any form of entertainment, but I think the tension grows with wrestling because of how close the fans are... or think they are.

I got into the middle of a debate on Twitter the other day about the subject of respect when someone claimed that the "insider" terms aren't for fan use. Fans shouldn't say things like "heel," "face," "work," or "shoot" because they're not in the business and haven't earned the right to use those words. As a lifelong fan of George Carlin, I naturally take issue with anyone who tells me what words I can and can't use, but that probably just fueled the fire more.

Fans, specifically those "in the know" within the Internet Wrestling Community, are often disrespectful towards wrestlers and the wrestling industry itself, but when it comes to the use of those special words, wrestlers have no one to blame but their own industry for making them public knowledge. It's not a magic show anymore, simply saying "heel turn" isn't the same as walking up to a magician and saying "you use animatronic feet for the saw-the-woman-in-half trick." The toothpaste is out of the tube, the industry has been telling us for thirty years that it's not real, and in the 90s, went to great lengths to show us how it was all done through books, DVDs, reality shows, documentaries, etc. During the wrestling boom, exposing the business was big business.

Now, there is a certain level of "playing along" in wrestling, it would be incredibly disrespectful to yell "YOU'RE NOT BEING A GOOD HEEL!" in the middle of a match or something like "YOUR PUNCHES LOOK SO WORKED!" but that's not because of the use of "insider" terms, that's just being a douchebag. The words aren't some secret code, at least not anymore, but that's probably why more old school guys take issue with their use than the new batch of workers, err... I mean wrestlers! Today's wrestlers grew up in the boom, all that stuff that exposed the business (and every promotion did it) was probably part of what got them hooked in the first place. Modern wrestling has always been scripted entertainment, but now companies are open and up front about it being just like any other TV show you watch. Perhaps a bit of the magic was lost in that transition, but you should've gotten over that around age six when you found out there actually weren't any turtles of the mutant ninja variety living in the sewer.

There are plenty of things fans do to wrestlers that are incredibly disrespectful, go to any dirtsheet or copy & paste site any day of the week to see that on full display, but terms are just terms. You can't seriously expect to limit access to the inner-workings of wrestling when it has been readily available to anyone with a computer for almost 20 years now. Are there certain things that only wrestlers can actually understand about their profession through years of experience? Of course, but I don't need to learn how to play guitar, bass, drums and be able to sing to know what kind of music I like. Roger Ebert doesn't make movies, but he knows enough about them to be the world's foremost film critic.

If wrestling wants to get out of the carnival sideshow days, it can't keep this curtain on whenever it's convenient. We know how movies get made and there's nothing wrong with knowing how wrestling matches work. The entertainment value isn't determined by the mystery, it's determined by the quality of work, just like film. As far as respecting those within the industry, the mere usage of "forbidden words" has nothing to do with it, it's all about the context in which they are used. When interacting with those who put their bodies on the line for your entertainment, just follow a simple life rule: don't be an a-hole.

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