Slaphappy: Pride, Prejudice, and Professional Wrestling

Thomas Hackett, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (267p) ISBN 978-0-06-019829-9

This fascinating study uncovers a microcosm of America in its gaudiest pop-culture spectacle. Journalist Hackett steeps himself in the pro wrestling demimonde, from glitzy WWE extravaganzas to grungy, underground, hardcore matches where blood-drenched wrestlers grapple on mats studded with broken glass and barbed wire. He finds it a brilliant form of postmodern theater, tangled in intriguing contradictions; an elaborately scripted yet sincere imitation of athletic competition, its fakery simultaneously acknowledged and denied by fans and participants. Most of all, it's a lurid showcase for violent, heterosexual masculinity that also drips, like Jesse Ventura's trademark feather boa, with effeminate preening and homoerotic subtexts. As the wrestlers and their teenage male fans hurl elbows, chairs and gay-baiting obscenities—and endearments—at each other, Hackett observes, the athletes enact a primitive but potent rite of passage for a society eternally insecure about its manhood. Hackett mixes anthropology and critical theory with engaging reportage that is slightly appalled by its subject but always wry, funny, incisive and affectionate. If wrestling's confusions and paradoxes don't easily resolve themselves, he suggests, that makes them an apt symbol of a nation where heartfelt fraud is the soul of authenticity. Photos. (Mar. 7)

Reviewed on: 12/12/2005
Release date: 03/01/2006
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-06-202902-7
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-06-054247-4
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