Montageman: A dude who writes

March 25, 2008

Wrestlemania 24 (or why I still love WWE)

Filed under: barthes, wwe — Tags: , , , — montageman @ 12:15 am

I don’t watch wrestling as much as I used to.  Years ago, it was virtually impossible to get a hold of me on a Monday night.  I was constantly flipping between WWE Monday Night Raw and WCW Nitro.  WCW has been defunct for years after being bought out by Vince McMahon and WWE.  There is no longer a “Monday night war,” rather WWE has Monday to itself so the sense of urgency has decreased tremendously and the quality of the show has thereby fallen as well.  There are moments, however, when I am glad that I still follow wrestling if only a little bit.

Tonight’s Raw was the last one before Wrestlemania 24 this Sunday.  Wrestlemania is the biggest pay-per-view event of the year for WWE, so tonight’s show was the last push, or advertisement, for Sunday’s big show (no pun intended).  I didn’t see all of the show tonight, but what I did see made me want to order Sunday’s show badly.  Roland Barthes in “The World of Wrestling” discusses wrestling as spectacle – a sport unlike any other in that the outcomes really do not matter.  “Wrestling is the sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result, (24)”.    Storylines are written, outcomes are fixed, and there is never any intention of damaging another’s body.  The audience is more interested in the build-up and is quick to forgive if their favorite wrestler loses because tomorrow will bring another challenger and more build-up.

Tonight’s build-up for the Ric Flair/Shawn Michaels “Career Threatening” Match was incredible.   After nearly 40 years in the business, Ric Flair’s career might come to an end on Sunday.  He “hand picked” Michaels for this match.  While they are friends and both are baby faces (good guys), Flair has told Michaels repeatedly to give him what he needs on Sunday.  Flair is and always has been one of the best interviews in the business, so his build-up is always fun to watch.  Tonight’s was a rundown of his historical significance and all of the legends he has feuded with and defeated – Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Hulk Hogan, Terry Funk, Dusty Rhodes, Bruiser Brody, Sting – what matters most in these instances is not the result of the many matches fought, but rather the spectacle that led up to these matches.  The matches themselve are also important, since they are a pay off for the build up and the beginning of a new exposition, but all historically important matches take place within a particular contextual moment, not just on the fly.  Raw’s main event tonight was an 8-man tag match between Flair/Michaels/Cena/Triple H Vs Big Show/Orton/Umaga/JBL.  The end had Ric Flair force WWE Champion Randy Orton submit to the figure four.  An ideal way to lead into Sunday’s event – Flair showing strength and Orton showing weakness.  Even though the outcomes truly do not matter, it is important that these matches appear to be competitive.  Flair can beat Michaels – Randy Orton might lose his title.  But even if Michaels loses and Orton somehow wins, next Monday’s Raw might have build up leading to Michaels taking on Orton even though Michaels lost.

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March 6, 2007

Arcades & the Drift

Filed under: barthes, videogames — montageman @ 4:44 am

Going to the arcade as a kid was always a reward – all A’s on the report card, got all of my chores done on time, or mom was out for the night so dad would go for pizza and videogames as a night out.

Galaxy Family Fun Center

The logic of the arcade is not unlike that of the casino – loud noise and flashing lights emanate from the machines, which functions to give a feeling of discomfort. It is impossible to ignore the lights and sound, so rather than being bombarded by this sensual onslaught all night, you play a game. Arcades are, for the most part, public spaces. A place where people come together to compete in the arena of gaming prowess, Galaxy would always have the latest fighting game – back then it was Street Fighter 2. People would crowd around the game hoping to get a shot at the winner. Fifty cent buy in, but unlike a casino, there is no money at stake. Street Fighter supremacy is strictly a bragging right. There is a lack of pressure when playing videogames – playing a videogame is much different than playing Blackjack at a casino. Players can have fun learning to play Street Fighter, but learning to play Blackjack in a casino is a high stress job that inevitably will involve making others angry. Raph Koster: Fun is about learning in a context where there is no pressure, and that is why games matter (98).  While there is decidedly more pressure in a public space like an arcade, the economics of the arcade are far less stressful than those of the casino.

Additionally, if a player is not happy with his gaming experience at a particular machine, then he can move on to the next machine virtually seamlessly.  The arcade encourages the drift.  Roland Barthes defines the drift as the moment when we do not respect the whole (18).

September 12, 2006

Hermeneutic Code and Contextuality

Filed under: barthes — montageman @ 3:33 am

Last night on A&E an one hour special called Meth in the City aired. As the title so lucidly states, the hour was spent on enlightening the general population about meth and how it is no longer a primarily rural drug. Atlanta, in fact, is one of the central distribution hubs for meth. Ok, fine, meth is a problem in the city, but why? Throughout the program, former addict after former addict claims to have had a perfect life prior to meth, but after meth, his life turns to shambles. What caused the initial usage? Why meth? A girl claimed to have taken her 1st hit at 12 – how does a 12 year old find meth in the first place? Documentaries like the Meth in the City fail to contextualize the problem. Rather, it uses a rhetorical stance similar to the fear mongering the Bush administration uses to justify wire-tapping and the elimination of civil liberties. Instead of a historical examination of the problem, the concentration is on decontextualized events that distance the viewer rather than forcing the viewer to come to any sort of realization about the problem.

Working through Barthes’ 5 codes of S/Z, Elsaesser and Buckland define hermeneutic code as an enigma that the text establishes, holds in suspense, and the eventually discloses (153). Documentaries like Meth define the enigma but do not disclose enough information to bring the viewer closure.

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