Sunday, June 24, 2007

Kombat Kulcha IX

Here at Le Chateaux du Flash we have finally obtained satellite TV, a fine achievement given that for a mere $45 a month it gives us access to 68 channels of shit, and 3 extra sports channels. After it was installed I started flicking through these meaningless 68 channels, and within 30 seconds had stumbled upon some kind of game show involving a man ironing clothes while standing in a pool full of sharks.

Japanese TV.

So for the first 2 weeks we have more than 68 channels of shite, because all the non-adult channels are available for our consideration while we decide how much of our time we want to waste. Because we are in Japan, this list of channels includes the excellently named Fighting TV Samurai!, which gives unlimited coverage of fightin' sports for a mere $20 a month. This is too much money, but it doesn't matter; since we are in Japan, all the relevant fighting is also played on the mainstream entertainment and sports channels, so I won't miss much if I don't fork out the cash for Samurai TV. In fact, half of Fighting TV Samurai! is made up of Japanese Pro Wrestling (like WWF, only Japanese); the other half seems to be in equal measure repeats of old kickboxing fights, and a lot of Pancrase and other assorted nastiness. Pancrase seems to involve a lot of blood and gore, and isn't for the fainthearted.

In any case, while for 2 weeks we have this Samurai TV for free, I have been loading up on it. Why not? Tsuyu, the rainy season, is here, so there's not much better to do except sit at home waiting for one's teeth to mend watching other people losing theirs. So on Saturday morning I watched a very disturbing Pro Wrestling show, which I would like to share with you all.

As some of you perhaps know, I think these fake wrestling WWF type shows are almost as good a window into culture as porn. They were born in that crucible of High Civilisation, the Trailer Park, at about the same time as their haute couture cousins, Heavy Metal and Girls Gone Wild. So besides the enormous athleticism and hammy acting of their stars, they have a lot to recommend them. So much in fact that once I hosted a talk by Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff and Rowdy Roddy Piper with the topic "The Terminator 1 as Greek Tragedy." I'm sure you can imagine how this turned out, given these two scholars' ringside rivalry. In any case, when one sees the kind of analysis which WWF can bring to bear on modern social problems, one quickly concludes "bugger sartre" (and the rest).

On this basis, then, what does Pro Wrestling in Japan have to say about Japanese culture? In the manner of any foreigner in Japan, I shall answer this question by singling out one moment of interaction between 3 Japanese Pro-wrestlers, which I watched after breakfast on Saturday; and I shall then generalise it to the whole country. At least, I would generalise it if I could understand it.

After breakfast I turned on the fightin' TV to some kind of wrestling show from hell. I know everyone thinks these shows are faked, but I ask you: did Chomsky and Foucault fake their debate on human nature? No. So can the cynicism. In any case, I can assure you after watching this few minutes of bottled madness that this wrestling isn't faked. At least, the bits where they pull the splinters out of their arse aren't (and what is the meta-analysis of that, I ask you?) When I turned it on one of the wrestlers was lying on a table, already half-twisted and buckled, just outside the ring. The ring itself was a field of broken glass, and the wrestlers' opponent (I assume it was his opponent; just like modern humanities, the allegiances change fast in pro wrestling) was standing on the ropes, ready to leap. Which he did, landing squarely on the chest of his adversary, who bounced, and then landed on the concrete floor. The table suffered no further damage. This moment was no more faked than when Mr. Wonderful banged Roddy Piper's head on the concrete hallway leading to the changing rooms (and how's that for a rebuttal of the notion that the epistemology of scientific evidence is socially constructed, eh?) Stunningly the guy leapt straight to his feet, and rolled back into the ring, only to be whacked on the chest with a light fitting. Within moments one of his opponents had him in a choke hold using a fluorescent light tube, which he promptly shattered all over the (already splinter-shrewn) ring. The obligatory over-shoulder throw followed, with both men rolling around in the glass; and then somehow one of them got hold of a bundle of fluorescent light tubes and smashed them on the other guy. This was the source of the glass. There then followed the most berserk scenes I have ever seen on pro wrestling (aside, maybe, from the boogey-man eating worms, the only fitting thing to do given he's an adamant defender of the Keith Windshuttle view of history). Firstly, one of these Japanese chaps dragged a bundle of 6 or 8 light tubes out of nowhere and placed it on his semi-comatose adversary's chest; then the other wrestler climbed onto the ropes and leapt onto the tubes, shattering them all over his prone victim's chest and sending slivers of glass flying everywhere (thoroughly deconstructing Spinoza's theory of the subconscious at the same time). But this wasn't enough (it never is, when discussing Spinoza - Descartes is always at the edge of debate). So he climbed back onto the ropes and leapt again, no doubt intending to end matters in a suitably apocalyptic fashion; but his prone opponent rolled aside (defenders of Cartesian rationalism can be slippery); and our erstwhile hero landed full on his arse on a huge pile of broken glass.

Now, I don't look too closely (I'm not a philosopher, after all) but I'm pretty sure that these big boys don't wear any groin guards. So that chap is going to be picking shards of glass out of his masculine essentialism for quite a while to come. There was blood all over the three wrestlers in the ring, on the chest of mister light bulb and the arms and legs of his opponent; and the third chap was pretty slow getting up. By now the ring was pretty much carpetted with shards of fluorescent lightbulb (and that stuff is sharp). It was like they were wrestling in a prickly pear packing yard (say that 5 times fast while picking shards out of your arse!) And they hadn't even finished the debate!

Not that the debates ever end in pro-wrestling; it is a deep and insightful sport. But as I said, I am unable to pick the cultural generalisation out of this story; like the man ironing in the shark pond, it is too weird. I will leave it open to my reader(s?) in the comments; speak carefully though, my friends, for I have witnessed the wisdom of Oriental Philosophers!


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