Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Simplistically Critiquing Critics for Simplistic Criticism

Posted by Sean Hull on March 23, 2017

Though the assigned readings focused more on the relationship between fans, producers, and their modes of interaction with each other, the overarching societal issue of Pro Wrestling being interpreted in a simplistic and demeaning manner, and these notions’ parallels with other forms of criticism are the topics I will explore.

Though the reasons for constant misinterpretation of Pro Wrestling are perhaps unique to its medium, what with audience Kayfabe creating a façade of gullibility that may be taken for legitimate on a cursory exploration, some specific criticisms leveled against Pro Wrestling seem reflective of critical attitudes towards media throughout all of history. (I will admit I am over-simplifying things in this critique of critics, but for the purposes of this blog post it should do.) The notions that Pro Wrestling promotes dangerous behavior, and is unworthy of consideration due to its lack of nuance, are reflections of the two types of dismissive, simplistic criticism I often see applied to any form of media which goes against current critical standards, be they the critical standards of professional critics or society at large.

For example, I can remember these exact forms of criticism being brought to bear against video games to an absurd degree during my childhood, though this may be unique to my conservative small-town upbringing. Though perhaps less pronounced, questions of video games as “art” or as “too violent” are still widespread questions, unfortunately often posed with a subtext of foregone conclusions against them. Looking further back, this form of criticism can be seen applied to Rock and Metal, which were often maligned as overly simplistic, or, from a religious perspective, perhaps even destructive and Satanic.

Can I dismiss all of these criticisms entirely? No, but neither do I see them applied to media to an appropriate degree, either. Too often these forms of criticism are but the tools of reactionaries who forego robust investigations of their targets, and this is something I cannot respect.

Returning to the subject of Pro Wresting, it is interesting that attitudes toward it don’t seem to have shifted as significantly as those towards media such as Rock and Metal music, or video games. Though Pro Wrestling’s immersive story world and use of Kayfabe give it a unique aspect, it may be this perpetual façade that contributes towards Pro Wrestling’s inability to escape the critical lens from which other forms of media more rapidly remove themselves.


3 Responses to “Simplistically Critiquing Critics for Simplistic Criticism”

  1. nathanpowers22 said

    It’s interesting you bring up this contrast in the acceptance of media once critically derided (don’t forget Dungeons & Dragons before video games, or even Elvis Presley before the rock/metal bands you describe). Something else I think Sam brought up in class on Thursday, which might have even been a direct response to your post, is this idea that maybe fans don’t even WANT pro wrestling to be accepted by critics. I feel like this a strong possibility considering the widely blue-collar audience. These individuals could perceive the cultural critics that attack the WWE as mere snobs, and as such wear the high-minded disdain from that group as a badge of honor that solidifies their own positions as loyal fans of a niche community.

  2. cameronbrooks3 said

    I totally agree with you. Just for the simple fact that I can’t even take WWE or any Pro Wrestling event seriously. Promoting violence to me is just a waste of time and money, and it is not even real unlike boxing and UFC mix martial arts.

    • Sean Hull said

      Oh dear, I must not have expressed my point in an ideal manner.

      Though as I said, I cannot dismiss such criticisms out of hand, the purpose of my post was not to apply them to Pro Wrestling, but rather to discuss the reactionary attitude of critics towards new forms of entertainment, who will often assault new media sans in-depth analyses. Pro Wrestling seems an interesting example of such a phenomenon, with my speculation being that the medium attracts the amount of reactionary criticism it does due to Kayfabe preventing an accurate cursory analysis.

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