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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Harmless Entertainment for the Masses

Since I don’t have the opportunity to do it at home, whenever I’m in a motel room I scan through the cable TV offerings. You could say that I am taking the pulse of America; I would say that I’m zoning out in front of the TV. Even though I get little chance to watch TV, I can tell you exactly what will be showing. TV is a ritual, and the comfort in rituals is that they are static. This is why there is so little on television that is truly creative, because with creativity comes change, and change is the last thing people look for on TV. Anything different or changing scares the living shit out of most people. Anything outside the norm people find threatening.

The most static of all static rituals in the lives of Americans is religion. If ever there was a place to find the comfort of unchanging ritual, it is in religion. I found that there are two networks devoted entirely to religious programming. On the other side of the spectrum, I found a station that airs professional wrestling nonstop. I didn’t have to go back and forth many times to see a lot of uncanny and creepy parallels.

I couldn’t say between the wrestlers and the preachers who have the worst haircuts. Both groups probably spend more on their hair every week than their average constituent makes working at Wal-Mart. Maybe they all go to the same beauty parlor together. As far as the women of wrestling and religious programming are concerned, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone less tasteful. The amount of fake boobs and horrendous jewelry are about equal. The religious gals are a bit older, but if it ever came down to a gang fight, the safe money would be on the old broads. They probably wouldn’t know a fair fight if one tried to bite their ears off.

Preachers and wrestlers seem to have both graduated from the same school of public speaking. Their in-your-face style is identical. The tone, cadence, and volume of both groups are identical. They both employ a style of speaking that is grotesquely over-the-top dramatic and heavily steeped in mythology. If you didn’t speak English and you listened to both groups, you probably couldn’t tell which one had the message of eternal salvation and who was talking about smashing some punk’s head into the turnbuckle.

Both wrestling and the religious programs have fanatical live audiences. They looked to be entirely interchangeable. The religious people looked better dressed, but I’m sure that the wrestling hicks get cleaned up once in a while. Both groups show fanatical loyalty to their hosts. The most important intersection of these two groups is that their primary objective is entertainment. In this, the pseudo-blood sport and Jesus are partners, a ratings tag team.

I only tuned in for a few minutes and I heard two preachers bad-mouthing evolution. The Catholic Church has also been doing an about-face on its position on science. This is where religion and wrestling take separate paths. I found nothing outwardly anti-intellectual in wrestling’s secular message. No one at Wrestlemania advocated the assassination of a popularly-elected leader of a sovereign nation. If you are looking for entertainment, smart people avoid religion and stick to cage matches.

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