Caricatures of Masculinity

James Hellweg, otherwise known as the “Ultimate Warrior” in the WWE world died too young and his death is tragic as is any man’s death before his time. He was an entertainer who was very good at his chosen craft. The probability is that we will find out his heart was damaged by years of steroid abuse although there is a small chance of some kind of inherent unrelated health issue. But I cannot salute his work or his contribution to the culture. Modern masculinity in America is deeply damaged and Men seek adventure, a cause to fight for, a battle to engage in, comrades to fight with. In our modern world men are neutered and tend to seek out vicarious and largely meaningless substitutes for this noble instinct. Most professional sports are a means to vicariously release some of this energy but in many ways they simply are like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in that living out your masculine journey vicariously through others as “fans” of other’s achievements breed shallow men, weak men, lost men. Professional wrestling is perhaps the worst of these because it is such a caricature of authentic manhood. The scripting and the bombasity makes the whole enterprise so much more destructive of the character of the men who live out their masculine journey vicariously through it. The tragedy is that young boys and teenagers and yes grown men idealize a form of masculinity that is in every imaginable way false. But in a culture where real masculinity is a rare commodity, where The General Norman Schwarzkopf’s are so much more rare than the Dennis Rodman’s, where celebrity is no different than fame, it is no wonder that the fatherless generation of boys in men’s bodies flock to this masculinity in hyperbole.
I enjoyed wrestling when I was eight or nine but soon outgrew it. The homoerotic aspects of the professional version of the “sport” are particularly notable because of the nature of the exaggerated masculinity that is so similar to a variety of gay fetishes. ┬áThe idea that grown men seek vicarious meaning by watching professional wrestling which is more scripted entertainment than sport is testament to the lack of any genuine understanding of masculinity by many modern males and the emptiness in most men’s lives and their desperation for some kind of adventure. The adulation given by seemingly normal men to these men whose bodies are obtained by obvious abuse of steroids in order to sculpt them into some kind of grotesque icons of a gay fetish ‘type” is equally problematic. To the men who watch this stuff I hope they eventually find a cause in real life that transcends the smallness they feel in their own lives that draws them to it and find a way to live out that adventure in a world of reality and stop deifying icons of masculinity worthy of little boys.