Professional Wrestling, the Myth, the Mat, and American Popular Culture

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Provides answers as to why wrestling is so popular, and illustrates the symbolic functions of wrestling as an act of social meaning. Throughout the history of professional wrestling, its peaks in popularity can be directly correlated with the political, social, and cultural events of the time. The structure has traditionally been one of good vs. evil, fashioned after the traditional morality play, though this model has recently changed. Wrestling’s villains have always represented a threat to our nation state and our livelihood. The heroes have always been for, and usually of, the people, enacting our hopes and desires through their exploits in the ring. Through analyses of past wrestling matches and storylines, it is shown that wrestling acts as myth in the same way that other genres such as westerns have done.


“Leverette (media studies, Rutgers Univ.) provides a glimpse into US popular culture through the medium of professional wrestling--primarily the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE, formerly known as the WWF). After a brief exploration of wrestling's ancient roots, he offers his own perspective on American popular culture theory and the standard postmodern symbolic debates concerning culture, civilization, Marxism, feminism, structuralism, and semiotics (signs). He also explores the landscape and linkage concerning myth, propaganda, ritual drama, and
symbolic reenactment, using transnational professional wrestling characters ranging from Stone Cold, The Rock, and the Iron Sheik to Hulk Hogan. The text culminates in an exploration of professional wrestling's "low culture" pathway from the 1930s to the present, attempting to tie popular culture themes, social symbolic interaction, and professional wrestling into a descriptive case study.” – CHOICE

Table of Contents

Preface by David Lavery
1. Introduction: “What Myth ….Nowadays?” – Beginning at the Beginning
2. “Barbarians in Wonderland”: Perceptions of Popular Culture – Why Wrestling?
Communication Studies
Matthew Arnold and the Culture and Civilization Tradition
The American Post-War Mass Culture Debate
Structuralism and Semiotics
the Popular Culture Debate Today
3. Gods of The Squared Circle: Myth and Ritual in Professional Wrestling – The Mat as Media and Metaphor, or Finding the “Rhetorics of Illusion”
The Spectacle of Anything and Everything
Myth of the Mat, Ritual of the Ring
Are Wrestlers Heroes?
4. Towards a Mythology of Whoopass – 1930s
Conclusion: Ending at the Beginning
Appendix: Mapping Wrestling Nation

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