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The world of wrestling


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One of the essays from Roland Barthes book Mythologies

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The world of wrestling

  1. 1. THE WORLD OF WRESTLINGby Roland Barthes
  2. 2. ‘’The World of Wrestling’’ is an essay taken fromRoland Barthes’ book Mythologies which consists oftwo sections, one containing a series of shortessays on different aspects of French daily lifewritten in a humorous journalistic style, and thesecond containing a longer theoretical essayentitled “Myth Today” that explores the methodsbehind the construction in greater detail. Barthesclarifies the layers of meaning that lie behindeveryday texts.
  3. 3. In 1957, the cultural theorist Roland Barthes wrotean essay, entitled “The World of Wrestling“ which analyzesand essentially criticizes many things from the world ofwrestling. One of the first things that will draw your attentionis that Barthes calls wrestling in the professional sense aspectacle and not a sport.
  4. 4. Barthes’ essay examines wrestling in light of the theatre,and wrestling being a theatrical act. Like theatre, wrestlingis based upon a sign system. Each element of wrestling,whether the wrestler’s physique or his gestures indicate an“absolute clarity, since [the spectator] must alwaysunderstand everything on the spot” (20).
  5. 5. In the theatre, the private becomes public; in wrestling the“Exhibition of Suffering’’ is the very aim of the fight (22).Like the theatre, the public watches wrestling for the “greatspectacle of Suffering, Defeat, and Justice. As in thetheatre, “wrestling presents man’s suffering with all theamplification of tragic masks” (23).
  6. 6. The comparisons to theatre continue as Barthes arguesthat wrestling is not a sport but a spectacle, one in whichthe audience is not concerned with “what it thinks but whatit sees” (23).
  7. 7. He compares wrestling to boxing and judo, which he considerssports, but unlike sports,wrestling, has no winner (19). It is notthe function of the wrestler to win, “it is to go through themotions which are expected of him” (20).
  8. 8. The bastard or villain is usually the sufferer in wrestling. Barthesdescribes how the body of the bastard sums up all of his “actions,his treacheries, cruelties and acts of cowardice” (23). “The physiqueof the wrestlers therefore constitutes a basic sign, which like a seedcontains the whole fight” (23). The costumes, like those of thetheatre, represent the tragic play of wrestling.
  9. 9. According to Barthes, Defeat and Justice go hand in hand.Defeat is not an “outcome”, but a “display” (21). Defeat ofthe bastard “is a purely moral concept: that of justice” (21).The defeated must deserve the punishment (21) which iswhy the “crowd is jubilant at seeing the rules broken” (21)as long as it is just.
  10. 10. “In wrestling, nothing exists except in the absolute, there isnot symbol, no allusion, everything is presented exhaustively”(25). Again, as compared, there is no question of truth, thespectator just accepts what is presented to them as the way itis and should be.
  11. 11.“ Roland Barthes’ Mythologies: A Summary“. 3 May 2013 Cited/ ConsultedBarthes, Roland. Mythologies France: Editions de Seuil, 1957.“Abstract of Roland Barthes’ The World of Wrestling”. May2013