At first, I wasn’t sure what the connection between the two readings we were assigned for Fandom this week was. “Buying In: The Pretty Good Problem” and “From Smart Fan to Backyard Wrestler: Performance, Context, and Aesthetic Violence (WWF)” seemed like very different subjects. Looking at the subject of next week’s class made it come together– we’ll be looking at Authenticity of Fandom. With Professional Wrestling, the fandom revolves around its inauthenticity, and authenticity differentiates companies with the Pretty Good Problem. In this way, the two readings complement each other.
It could be said that the wrestling fandom revolves around the authenticity of its inauthenticity. It’s comparable to reality TV in that it is widely perceived as fake and trashy with stupid fans, but that’s a facile line of thinking. All fans of reality TV and professional wrestling knows that it is fake and manipulated, with crafted storylines and personas. Playing along is part of the fun, and the most devoted fans regard themselves as smart and are cognizant of the ways the performances are manipulated. Smart fans may even seek out leaked results and still enjoy the outcome.
The primary focus of the article is about backyard and indie wrestling leagues, which authentically replicate the inauthenticity of professional wrestling. Like professional wrestling, they have storylines and characters, and tapes are recorded and sold. As leagues get bigger they may even pay for rings and promotion, and copy the inauthentic techniques of professionals, such as ‘blading’, intentionally cutting yourself to appear as if you’ve lost a lot of blood. These leagues, as well as professionals, focus on making a good show with as little pain as possible; they shy away from the extreme moves that might actually put them in danger. The priority is to put on a good show, but well within established standards of behaviour. It’s authentically inauthentic.
Contrary to this, the “Pretty Good Problem” reading concerns the inauthentically authentic. A good chunk of the reading is about Ecko, a brand embraced by the hip-hop world, but founded by a suburban white man whose closest ties to the street were viewing old graffitied subway cars in Trenton. Ecko grew into its hip-hop stature because its founder was able to recognize the potential market– he sold ads in black magazines and hired black tastemakers to promote the brand. It wasn’t authentic to begin with, but as people on the street started to buy it, it became authentic in some sense. Similarly, Ralph Lauren wasn’t born into the monied class, but selling to them made his brand an icon of them.
The one part of the reading I wasn’t sure about in the end was the Hello Kitty portion. Hello Kitty is meaningless, so what does it have to do with authenticity?
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