Chapter 6: The “Other” Side
I was feeling aggressively uninspired as far as topics go for this edition of Notorious Notes. I could go more in-depth about the upcoming Project 42 show that I am main eventing, but that seems like a shill and a job for someone else. I could discuss cat dad things like how I discovered my cat, Poutine, plays fetch. But I find that very difficult to tie back into wrestling without stretching further than my body and mind will allow. I could discuss some of the anxiety I’ve been feeling lately (not much, except for when I took my cat to urgent care cause I thought she was having trouble breathing but she was fine), or skipping my ten year high school reunion after driving all the way back to my hometown because it was super lame and the ego boost I was looking for by going was achieved just by seeing the sad balloons outside the door. But again, those things don’t easily tie back into wrestling.
So I decided to crowdsource my content to the other side. I put out a call to arms via social media for potential topics I could discuss in this edition of Notorious Notes. I got a bunch of good material to chew on so I probably won’t discuss everything suggested (gotta save content for future writer’s blocked weeks) and I will not be giving out credits, but a sincere “thank you” to all that responded is definitely in order. Topics ranged from an analysis of “ethnic fluidity” in wrestling (or as I interpret it, the problematic nature of certain archetypes being villainized in wrestling. More on that later) to the crossover between geek culture and wrestling to a listicle about the top ten underrated/underutilized talents. You will likely see most of these topics at some point in the future.
For the purposes of this particular blog, I’ll address the first topic mentioned; villainization of certain demographics and archetypes really spoke to me because it is something I’ve used to my advantage a bit in my current incarnation but also something I’ve considered being able to break away from on the other side. As the bookish know-it-all, I am generally unanimously booed, especially in front of certain crowds. In front of a WCWC crowd in Salem, OR, I am seen as the absolute worst person because I carry a book. I do not need to say or do anything else. The fact that I carry a book to the ring and read it before my match is enough to make the entire crowd despise me. It is well-known that wrestling has a long history of playing on problematic perceptions of certain groups (usually non-white) to get a crowd to boo. The Iron Sheik character comes to mind, or more recently Muhammad Hassan, as non-white folks being villainized simply for the othering that has been placed upon them by the government at the time.
But it isn’t just people of color who are often problematically villainized. A long-running trope in media is the effeminate villain. Disney villains, for instance, are very often women; Cruella De Vil, Ursula, The evil Step-Mother, The Queen of Hearts, the list goes on and on. This villainization of the feminine gender serves to reinforce the patriarchal idea that women with power will misuse it, therefore power must be held only by men. This patriarchal coding doesn’t end at villainizing women either. If you look at Disney villains that aren’t women (Scar, Jafar, Shere Khan to name a few) they are all portrayed more effeminately. Once again, the idea is to show off that only straight men can wield power properly. This leads me right into one of the most famous examples of a queer-coded villain — Goldust. Goldust was often portrayed as vague, androgynous, and ambiguous. That literally means that he got booed because he was different. As time went on, Goldust would go on to portray other offensive character traits (like having Tourette’s) and would eventually tone down his portrayals and in a way become viewed as a hero for being a fluid character.
Goldust’s transformation from being portrayed as the villain to being seen as a hero for just being himself (in character) is a small example of how wrestling fans, and culture in general, are becoming more critical and conscious of the entertainment they consume from the other side. This is not to say we should start disliking the original cartoon “Aladdin” movie because the darkest guy in a movie set in the middle east was the bad guy, but to be able to acknowledge the things from the past that were problematic, address them and the things we’ve learned since then, and continue to learn. The documentary, “The Problem With Apu” addresses this very thing, by discussing how important Apu’s portrayal in The Simpsons was at the time he was introduced, despite being voiced by a white guy doing an accent. We now understand how that is problematic and could have been easily addressed by acknowledging the problem, recasting Apu’s voice actor to an actual Indian person and moving on (unfortunately that’s not what they did, but that’s another issue) on the other side.
Society is growing and changing. Yes, there were problematic things in the past and yes, there are still problematic things now. It is important to look at the things we enjoy through an educated lens sometimes. But thinking critically about something doesn’t mean you dislike it, to me it means you love it enough to want it to be better or have consumed it enough to notice small things. But the most important thing is to be able to start a conversation on WHY something is problematic and how they can change it. I am very fortunate to have a lot of wonderful people in my life who have shared their stories with me and helped me view the world through a different lens and even call me out if I do or say something problematic, which can still happen from time to time, which is okay if you acknowledge and learn from it on the other side.
- August 3: Project 42 – Seattle, WA
- August 4: Abbotsford Agrifair – Abbotsford, BC
- August 10: Reign: Pro Wrestling (Non-Wrestling Event) – Tacoma, WA
- August 17-18: WrestleSport – Portland, OR