Tuesday, June 26, 2007

When Is "Real" Fake?

Reality and irony have a fascinating relationship. They don't talk much at parties, when they're both invited. They don't exchange cards at Christmas, or share cookouts in the summer. But, just when you'd think the two don't have any connection, they team up for an intriguing moment or two. The results are usually, to say the least, notable. [I don't think I need cite any examples. Anyone who pays attention to the world probably has his or her own store to draw upon.]

In recent weeks, the travelling road show known as World Wrestling Entertainment has been running a story line concerning the mysterious "death" of its owner and president, Vince McMahon, in a car explosion. I confess that I haven't spent much time lately following the adventures of the scripted grapplers, but I'd guess that, to use the old cliche, speculation was rife as to the cause of the "disaster", and whom, if anyone, might have been involved. Yeah, I know; many soap operas have had more convoluted happenings than that, without the Nation suffering undue disquiet. It's mindless entertainment for its fans.

But see the genius of Reality & Irony at work. WWE star Chris Benoit, one of the promotion's main attractions, was found dead Monday, along with his wife and young son.Investigators are still piecing the circumstances together as this is written, but it looks like Benoit killed his wife and child, then took his own life. Speculation had yet to rear its ugly head, but, unlike McMahon's skit, there was no need to put quotations around the word disaster.

Why does all this bother me? As I noted earlier, I'm not troubled by the nature of pro wrestling. It's as honorable as any other form of entertainment (I remember the answer an announcer gave years ago, when asked if the "sport" was fake. He replied, "It's as real as Macbeth". Fair enough...). The purveyors gave up arguing that matter a while back, when they added the word "entertainment" to their name. If, after all that, those past childhood choose to take it seriously, that's their business. But, and, it's an important "but", the use of steroids in professional wrestling was so commonplace a few years ago that it led to a Congressional investigation (It was even reported that McMahon used them). In recent years, the WWE has distanced itself from illegal hormones. But the buzz has become an open secret that certain performers are using steroids, either to become or remain stars. The effects of steroids on the mental processes are controversial, but have been known to include uncontrollable anger [Oh, bother. There's that ugly-headed Speculation at work]. The investigation goes on, but for the sake of McMahon (Oh, he's not dead, for God's sake! It's just a "work".), he had better hope steroids didn't play a part.