My fondness for Sherlockiana and my fondness for professional wrestling are almost a matched set in my life. Both glimpsed as a child, taken up whole-heartedly in college, and occasionally combined in writings as an adult.
On the surface, the two interests would seem mutually exclusive -- the raw physicality and simple conflicts of pro wrestling versus the bookish intellectual nature of detective literature. But one doesn't have to to dig to deep to find the commonality that makes me love both areas of endeavor when they are performed at their best level.
In wrestling, they call it "kayfabe." In Sherlockiana, we call it "playing the game."
In wrestling, it's the happy illusion that the events and outcomes of those dramatic battles between "faces" and "heels" is real. In the late 1970s, when I first saw live professional wrestling in a local high school gym -- Bobby "the Brain" Heenan versus Dick the Bruiser -- there were still a lot of people who actually still thought the illusion was real, even though my friends and I enjoyed the fact that it was obviously not. (And in one special moment with wrestling newbies, I even won a battle royal betting pool by just working out the best plotted result instead of gaging actual physical prowess.) But as time has gone one, almost every modern wrestling fan knows for a fact that the "sports entertainment" is scripted and staged . . . and they don't care. They still love it.
In Sherlockian scholarship, the happy illusion has always been that Sherlock Holmes was real, that Dr. Watson wrote those biographical tales about him, and Conan Doyle was merely Watson's agent. In Sherlockian circles, the worries that came up were always the opposite of those in wrestling kayfabe -- many a more serious fan thought that pretending Watson wrote the stories would actually discredit Conan Doyle, because some people actually would believe Watson wrote the stories. Having some more determined (and sometimes less artful) Holmes fans steadfastly stick to the "Watson wrote the stories line" even seemed to give evidence to that worry.
Attempts to push Sherlockiana as a serious "literary" pursuit and not just a fun fandom have intruded on the great game of Watsonian authorship over the years as well. Gleefully diving into Watson's work as an author without at least one aside to pay respects to Saint Conan just wasn't done as much, and Sherlockiana's entertainment value, for at least this commentator, suffered as a result. The early days of Sherlockian culture, when Doyle was current enough to still be viewed as a bit of a wacky celebrity instead of a revered historical figure, was a part of what created the Watsonian authorship game, and the best humor always contains a measure of frank disrespect, the needle to keep the too serious at bay.
As wrestling has evolved, the general agreement that it is "sports entertainment" and not "sports" has not hurt it at all, and its rise and fall in popularity depends solely upon the scripting and plotting of current shows. When I see the fun newer Sherlockians are having with "disapproving Doyle" snapshots and comments, it seems like the evolution on our side of the coin might be working in the favor of "scholarship entertainment" as well.
Me, I just like playing in constructed realities. Pro wrestling. Sherlockiana. Not all that different, really.
You may have something here Brad. DYK - I use to be an Indy Wrestling promoter for a group call GEAR Wrestling. A young Seth Rollins WWE (as Tyler Black) wrestled with us. Also DYK - Ross K, of No Place Like Holmes web-site, also writes wrestling columns on the web in his spare time. Wrestling has been called Shakespeare for the masses - but perhaps we could now change that to Doyle for the wrestling universe. Are you sure that you are not my brother by a different mother?ReplyDelete
You never cease to amaze, Howard! Ross's latest review actual indirectly inspired this latest post. I've been aware of the Trekkie/Sherlockian overlap, and the comics fan/Sherlockian overlap, but this new one is very intriguing.Delete
Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty were in to wrestling also.ReplyDelete
Where it is always 1985 . . .Delete
Where it is always 1985 . . .Delete