In thinking about the “spectacle of wrestling” that Barthes mentions in his essay, The World of Wrestling. We clearly get the point that there is a division between good and bad. Of course the bad guy is usually characterized by a grotesque physicality or deformity. Also, we have the idea of distributing what Barthes refers to as justice to the bad guys. This to me is highly reminiscent of super heroes of today, Super Man and the like. However, for these purposes, my mind was set more to Batman. Batman himself is a spectacle. While distributing vigilante justice, there’s that word again, he feels it necessary to costume himself and utilize all sorts of intricate gadgetry. And it is because of this spectacle, which produces justice, that we are drawn to him. We like his costumes, we like his sleek tools and gadgets, we even like it when Batman physically inflicts retribution onto the bad guys, or the suspense when they manage to cause him harm. Essentially, I’m comparing pro wrestling with cartoon vigilantism. I’m saying that I find a lot of what Barthes was talking about right here.

As far as that goes, digging ever deeper into the spectacle, we run across the bad guys of Batman. They are the embodiment of what Barthes addresses in his essay. They are the classic bad guys according to Barthes. Firstly, they have obviously evil intentions, which in the whole of the spectacle is fairly obvious. They also, usually employ the tactic of “cheap shots” that Barthes mentions is something the crowd craves retribution for. Then more than anything, they are classic in the way that they all are usually somehow physically disfigured or at least altered, at times genetically. Sometimes this alteration is done via mechanical equipment. At other times the disfigurement is psychological, manifesting itself via costuming. But the motive or idea of ill intent is still obvious to us. Think of Mr. Freeze or Poison Ivy, for mechanical and/or genetic alteration. Think of the Scarecrow and Cat Woman, or even the Joker to exemplify the mental scars manifesting via costuming.

All in all, I have seen an enormous amount of what Barthes applied to wrestling here in the world of batman, though it could be said of most any other Super or Action Hero. They all seem to adhere, though perhaps not always verbatim, but somewhat closely to these ideas of morality, the icon of the bad guy, and seeking justice put forth by Barthes in his essay, The World of Wrestling.

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One response »

  1. Michael K. Johnson says:

    The comparison of superheroes to wrestling works pretty well. I like the point you make about the physical disfigurement of the villains.

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