I went to Cedar Point this weekend. Although I had a good time with my friend, I was more than just a little disturbed.
Earlier this year, I sat in an Indian restaurant in New Castle, England. Upon learning that we were U.S. citizens, our waiter immediately engaged us in conversation. He shared with us his incredible passion for the World Wrestling Federation, and his favorite wrestler, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Having some familiarity in the matter, we made small talk with him, discussing the current good guys and bad guys, who was aligned with who, and the like. Our waiter learned almost everything he knew about current American culture from watching WWF and Jerry Springer. It disturbs me immensely that these are two popular export items for the U.S.
I have some minor concerns with the fact that American youth rarely bother to distinguish fact from fiction. It bothers me greatly that so many people are so keen on the WWF. As I walked about Cedar Point, I saw more Stone Cold Steve Austin and Goldberg tee-shirts than I care to count. And then there were the guys who chose not to endorse a specific wrestler, but showed their support of wrestling in general by wearing a WWF NWO shirt.
Our English waiter made it very clear to us that he thought the whole thing was ludicrous - he knew that the fights were staged, and that the enitre thing was just a money making entertainment business. He was a little unsure about the veracity of the Springer show, though. He would like to believe that the bulk of the guests on that show are paid actors, flaunting their broken home lives in order to allow folks in lower social stations to have someone to mock. But he can't be sure. To be honest, neither can I.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, I saw an A&E Biography special on Brett "The Hitman" Hart, of the WWF. This was a fascinating show. I was absolutely glued to the television, as I got to catch a glimpse into the life of a wrestler. Moreover, this guy had a lot of personal integrity and genuine concern about his function as a role-model to children. The marketing animal that is the WWF wanted to play up Hart's Canadian heritage. He played along, for awhile. The documentary showed people outside the stadiums, waiting for the wrestling match to start, burning Canadian flags and generally being extremely hostile towards Canada. When asked why, not one person could provide a valid reason. The only response was some half-hearted slander towards Canada, and Brett Hart specifically. I was literally dumbfounded as I watch the future of America curse our neighbors to the north for no reason other then they didn't like one guy.
I am absolutely appalled at the current state of wrestling. I remember, as a kid, staying up late to watch Hulk Hogan wrestle Jake "The Snake" Roberts on our local NBC station. They only showed the WWF on Fridays at midnight. Now cable shows the events what seems like every night. Bars and restaurants make a special engagement of showing a Pay Per View Battle Royale. People are spending millions of dollars on merchandising. Jesse Ventura is getting involved again. The craze is literally sweeping the nation.
I'm not so stuffy as to think that this is necessarily a bad thing. But it certainly is walking a fine line, in my mind. Here are grown men, slanderizing one another and resolving all their disputes by banging chairs over one another's head. The crowds are screaming in frenzied ecstasy at the mindless violence of it all. And then the theatrics of it have guys like The Undertaker simulating human sacrifice.
The WWF spokespeople no doubt contend that this is all just entertainment. Nonetheless, it disturbs me that our children are looking to these guys as examples. And so are other nations.