As I may have mentioned on this blog before, I grew up watching professional wrestling.
When I was around 7 or 8 years old, it was pretty amazing to see heavily-muscled, fantastically-named guys like the super-heroes I read about in comic books – whether good guys (The Dynamite Kid) or bad (The Mongolian Stomper, The Cobra) – battling each other on TV each Saturday afternoon.
I eventually realised wrestling was fake (the preferred term for those in the industry is “scripted”) but have continued to be a fan, off and on, ever since.
One of the reasons I remained a fan is that the sport offers all kinds of appeal beyond that childhood appeal to comic book reading fans. Though scripted, I enjoy the athleticism of the wrestlers. I enjoy the soap opera-esque storylines (some call wrestling “a soap opera for men” although obviously, the sports is enjoyed by many women too.) I like that it’s a sport where the participants regularly interact with fans, before, during and after matches and this interaction often becomes part of the show.
As I learned more about wrestling and the behind-the-scenes terminology, one of the concepts I came across was the idea of something being “a work” – eg. anything that is planned to happen. (In wrestling, the opposite is a “shoot” where somebody goes off script and says or does something that wasn’t planned in advance.) This also leads to the concept of the “worked shoot” where something is done to look like it wasn’t planned but actually was to add controversy or interest or whatever.
The point being that an early introduction to the skepticism needed to be a wrestling fan has helped give me tools to navigate our meme-driven, 21st century reputation economy.
A couple recent examples…
- My Facebook news feed lit up with people sharing a cool, artsy video of various people kissing for the first time. A couple days later, it was revealed that the video was an ad for a clothing line. Many of those same friends are now deleting their post or admitting that they were tricked. I didn’t post the video myself (I thought about it) but if I had, so what – I simply would’ve felt that I’d been worked which, in the pro wrestling sense, is usually a good thing – you bought into something so fully that you believed it and then realised that the truth was not what it seemed.
- Also on social media, many people were taken in by a recent hoax about the creation of a real hoverboard.
- a Google News search for “hoax” reveals all kinds of other examples.
Which is all to say that I’m not claiming that being a wrestling fan has made me immune to these hoaxes. But I do think it’s given me a level of skepticism that I realise everything is potentially a “work” as well as an ability to appreciate a good “work” – whether done by a news outlet, a web site, a clothing company or whatever – both useful skills to have.