Donald Trump Loves Wrestlemania
American Politics and Pro Wrestling
New Books Network 2022
Darts and Letters is a show about the politics of ideas, and this week we’re searching for progressive politics in strange places… such as pro-wrestling.
There have been 37 Wrestlemanias. That’s a lot of wrestling. And a lot of entertainment for the millions of people who enjoy watching wrestling, including our host, Gordon Katic. Maybe you’re a fan, maybe not. Fans and non-fans alike have often dismissed wrestling as frivolous. But there’s more to wrestling than meets the tombstone piledriver. Pro wrestling is like a Rosetta Stone for our politics; It brought us one President, and a recent poll suggests it might give us another. On this episode, we jump from the top rope into the wild, layered, complex world of pro wrestling and the folks who love it.
This is part of the week’s theme of “ideas in strange places”. Darts and Letters is doing a different theme each week until we launch the new season on September 18.
- First (@10:46), Steve and Larson are the hosts of Going in Raw: A Pro Wrestling Podcast. They break down the history of Vince McMahon as a boss, character, and more — including what happens when the lines between the two become blurred inside and outside of the ring. PLUS: the full unedited interview is available on our Patreon. Subscribe today.
- Next (@37:15), Brian Jansen is a lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Maine who writes on professional wrestling and labour. Wrestlers are workers, and as workers, face challenges shared by other workers — and some unique to their profession. And their fans, it turns out, are more progressive than you might think.
- Then (@53:06), the Spider Baby, Terrance Griep, is the world’s first openly gay wrestler. He wrestles in the Midwest Independent Wrestling Scene. He takes us into the world of wrestling, the building and presentation of a character, the immersive theatricality that is part of the experience for both wrestlers and their fans, and the “civil war” between the profession’s old and new guard.
- Finally (@1:09:30), Heather Levi is an anthropologist at Temple University who wrote her dissertation on lucha libre in Mexico. She even trained in lucha libre. She explores the fascinating world of a sport that is closely bound up with the country in which it thrives and finds a way of making meaning that brings together writers, wrestlers, and the public.
——————-FURTHER READING & LISTENING——————-
- Check out Brian Jansen’s article “It’s Still Real to Me: Contemporary Professional Wrestling, Neo-Liberalism, and the Problems of Performed/Real Violence.” (sorry it’s paywalled)
- Pick up Heather Levi’s book The World of Lucha Libre: Secrets, Revelations, and Mexican National Identity, and have a look at her co-edited volume Professional Wrestling: Politics and Populism.
- Go even deeper into the world of wrestling through the Professional Wrestling Studies Association, their journal, and their online conference: WrestlePosium. And be sure to follow the PWSA’s CarrieLynn Reinhard.
- Plus, read Jay Shah’s article on late Toronto mayor Rob Ford and pro-wrestling, from the Pilcrow Pamphlet, “Enough to Eat at Home.”
—————————-SUPPORT THE SHOW—————————-
You can support the show for free by following or subscribing on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or whichever app you use. This is the best way to help us out and it costs nothing so we’d really appreciate you clicking that button.
If you want to do a little more we would love if you chip in. You can find us on patreon.com/dartsandletters. Patrons get content early, and occasionally there’s bonus material on there too.
Darts and Letters is hosted and edited by Gordon Katic. Our lead producer is Jay Cockburn, This episode’s assistant producer is Polly Leger, and our managing producer is Marc Apollonio. The research coordinator was David Moscrop. Our theme song was created by Mike Barber. Our graphic design was created by Dakota Koop.