I’m sitting here on a bright and sunny day at Furman University, way down in the depths of the library, with the intent of knocking out reading for one of my three history classes. However, a predictable dilemma has arrived; I’m sick of reading. While that concerns me in the long-term, this short-term reader’s block has inspired me to start on an article idea that I’ve been pondering for sometime. Why not incorporate some of my collegiate studies into my passion for professional wrestling? So sit back, and let’s hopefully stimulate your mind and earn some of your precious spare time at It’s Raining Meng University (don’t worry, thanks to Ben Pasco, we’re not a dry campus)( Editor’s Note: Fuck You Will)
Sociology 101- Ethnomethodology and the Pro Wrestling Villain
Ethnomethodology is a concept that was taught to me this spring while I was taking a Sociology 101 class. My professor, Dr. Redburn, (who has a fantastic mustache, but tests very harshly) defined ethnomethodology as the study of the way people make sense of their everyday lives. The term was coined by a man named Harold Garfinkel, who was interested in how people reacted in their daily interactions amongst the vast melting pot of others in society. Now, in order to study the full scope of these reactions to interaction, sociologists encourage people to break the rules, and see what happens.
With that in mind, a light bulb went off in my head during class. Who fits the bill of an ethnomethdologist better than professional wrestling villain? In the ring, they will break the rules, and out of the ring, they’ll see what happens. It made so much sense to me, that my notes had wrestling’s villainous term “heel” as shorthand for the lengthy polysyllabic word “ethnomethodologist”. But as I thought about it more, one particular heel was actually an amateur ethnomethodologists by another name.
For instance, take a look at wrestling’s effeminate gimmick. You have wrestlers like Rico, Billy (Gunn) and Chuck (Palumbo), Lenny (Lane) and Lodi, Goldust, Adrian Adonis, Adrian Street, etc. But a man by the name of George Wagner turned not the only wrestling world, but the world-at-large, upside down with his revolutionary flamboyant character of “Gorgeous George”. When George entered wrestling, it was viewed as merely sporting competition, and nothing else. The draws of the time were based on men viewed as the best wrestler amongst the general public; guys like Georg Hackenschmidt, Ed “The Stranger” Lewis, and Frank Gotch were viewed as the true definition of the word “wrestler”. However, George saw money in an untapped facet of wrestling: entertainment.
George decided that it was time for an overhaul of his character, and proceeded with his vision of a charismatic, flamboyant villain that relied on not only the classic devious tactics in the ring that he employed, but his revolutionary antagonistic personality that he employed outside the ring. George was breaking the mold of how villains were supposed to antagonize wrestling fans, and merely waited to see how fans would react. As luck would have it for Gorgeous George, fans reviled the brash new character, and came out in droves to see George get his comeuppance. Packed houses followed him throughout the 1950s’ and, with the aid of a new invention called television, George entered a pantheon of stars like Bob Hope and Lucille Ball to become one of America’s entertainment icons. George’s groundbreaking approach on how the fans perceived wrestling is something that lives on in every professional wrestling gimmick today, and truly defines him as the perfect example of a professional wrestling ethnomethodologist.
Phew! It was nice to get away from a subject that’s over-bearing me like history, even though it is self-inflicted and is my scholastic passion. Nevertheless, that concludes the first lecture of Sociology 101 at IRMU. Now, if only I could find a history class that’ll let me write something with a cupcake topic for a change, like GG Allin or the Sex Pistols (Editor’s Note: Fuck You Will). Until then, just call me the Chris Candido of academia; “No Bibliographies Needed!”
Dr. Will Hoefer, Ph.Meng
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