Sunday, 25 August 2013

Vince McMahon, WWE and the Mainstream: The New Counter-Counterculture

The American Counterculture, Dr. Christopher Gair’s examination of the connections between civil disobedience and the youthful artistic boom that filled society in the immediate decades following the conclusion of World War II, is a captivating look at an influential moment in modern American history. Amongst discussing landscape-altering political events (the Vietnam War, the 1969 “Bloody Thursday” shootings at People’s Park in Berkeley, California etc.) and iconic figures such as Marlon Brando and James Dean, the author makes an intriguing statement regarding popular culture and its opposite, the counterculture.

“There is a slippery and often uneasy relationship between the mainstream and the marginal.”

Despite his comments addressing a much larger set of political and widespread social issues in society, Gair’s observation is also effective in addressing the pseudo-sport of professional wrestling and its most unusual affiliation with the world of mainstream culture.

Accepted and celebrated, dismissed and ridiculed several times over by popular culture at various points throughout its 100+ year existence, the pro-wrestling business, and the industry-leading WWE in particular, has always had an inconsistency when it comes to popular media and entertainment. In fact, the relationship between the two has altered and transformed so many times over the years that it is often a difficult task to accurately decipher the true status of the connection between the two.

At this present moment, WWE is arguably at its most mainstream-friendly position that it has ever been in. Indeed, if one is to look at the last 18 months alone, performers such as the charity man John Cena, the credible Hollywood superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and the legitimate MMA athlete Brock Lesnar have been positioned as the focal points of the product, seemingly in an attempt to attract as many mainstream eyes on its product as possible, not to mention the massive economic impact WWE events have had on numerous cities across America (WrestleMania XXVIII in 2012 reportedly generated a tremendous $100million for Miami and the Miami-Dade County area, via Hollywood Life).

Despite this and other continued efforts from WWE to cleanse the somewhat dishevelled image of pro-wrestling and transform it into the super-clean “sports-entertainment”, the relationship between the world of professional wrestling and mainstream media is still far from harmonious, and the McMahon empire, as of 2013, does not have the acceptance that is seemingly craves.

At a time when WWE is quite literally screaming out for approval from its cultural bigger brothers with attention-seeking ideas such as the move to PG programming, the constant barrage of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube posts and other platforms like the recent introduction of the WWE App, an examination of the relationship between pro-wrestling and the mainstream may be a beneficial look into the industry’s position within popular entertainment, and simultaneously provide a valuable analysis of the issues that both sides are struggling to resolve.  READ MORE

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