Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wrestlemania III -- Professional Wrestling's Quality Event -- Writer's Poke #388

Wrestlemania is WWE’s annual sports entertainment spectacular. The show itself is typically four hours long, and event usually sets attendance records for whatever stadium that houses it. Wrestling fans know by heart, for example, that Wrestlemania III attracted 93,000 people to the Detroit Pontiac Silverdome. This event was headlined by Hulk Hogan defending his heavyweight title against Andre the Giant. Hogan even managed to body-slam the 500 pound giant, but the effort it took to do so almost destroyed his back.

Not surprisingly, wrestlers usually didn’t try to body-slam Andre, but it had been done before and would be done again. And yet, nobody talks about Kamala or Big John Studd or Ultimate Warrior slamming Andre. They don't even talk about Hulk slamming Andre at other events. All people remember and all they talk about is Hulk slamming Andre at Wrestlemania III. Something about this slam was different and special. Something about this slam could only happen at Wrestlemania.
But if Wrestlemania is such a special event, why is it held just once a year? If you like professional wrestling, between WWE and TNA, you can watch at least 7 hours of new content each week. Both brands have monthly pay-per-views, which adds another 6 hours of available wrestling entertainment each month. Altogether, then, a wrestling fan can watch up to 436 hours of body-slams, bad comedy, and sensational drama each year, and yet, the 4 hours of Wrestlemania are still valued. The event itself is still special.

Pay-per-views themselves used to be special, but now fans often complain that they are no better than the weekly episodes of Raw or Smackdown or Impact that they can watch for free. Why pay $50 for a pay-per-view if it’s the same content that you’re used to seeing? But how much different can one event really be over another? In the end, the whole idea about professional wrestling is two men (or women) pretending to fight. The potential matchups are limited, and so the writers must continually find new ways to keep the fans interested in the same people fighting.

Would it be possible to run Wrestlemania monthly? Weekly? What is the tie between quality and the sense of how “special” the event is? What is the tie between quality and time (or how often an event is offered)?

“I believe that given the audience attention level, we could do an even more compelling 90 minutes.” – Vince McMahon

Monday, April 30, 2012

In Defense of Propaganda -- Writer's Poke #387

Propaganda is a rather discredited term, but not necessarily a discredited concept. Probably best recognized in politics (and generally called “spin”), propaganda has its origin in the Reformation. Back in the 16th century, the Catholic Church was trying to keep the faithful from turning Protestant, and so they developed a propaganda office to forward their cause.
Even today, some people try to defend propaganda by suggesting that all it is, really, is a way for activists to promote a position. As long as propagandists allow the facts to speak for themselves, refrain from omitting some details and exaggerating others,  and avoid purposely using logical fallacies, then propaganda is good.
The problem is: the term “propaganda” is no longer associated, if it ever was, with “good argument construction.” Propaganda is associated with manipulation. The propagandist has no interest in letting the facts speak for themselves; rather, the propagandist wants to direct your thinking in a specific way -- to close your mind to further inquiry.
This is different from a person who simply wants to provide information. Someone who provides information may not have a specific agenda. An information-provider simply wants to give people the opportunity to make informed decisions. Likewise, a propagandist is not in any real sense an “educator,” because true educators hope you will continue to ask questions -- to keep your mind open even after you have reached tentative conclusions.
How good are you at recognizing propaganda?
“By skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even a heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.” – Adolf Hitler