The Wrestler: Fantasy and Gender

I really enjoyed this movie. The performances of Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei were brilliant. The direction was low-key and the scenes were gritty and felt real. Play the trailer:

There are a few topics that appear in almost all the reviews of the movie, whether they liked it or not. The most prevalent is the similarities between Rourke’s career and the careerof Randy “The Ram” Robinson, the character he plays. Another big theme in the reviews is that scenes were exploitative, such as Pam,or “Cassedy’s” Tomei’s character’s pole dancing. Or the gruesome wrestling match.

The movie makes interesting comments on the short life of celebrity. Certainly both of the lead actors know this well, having experienced career ups and downs. The movie comments on the ability to separate oneself from the public persona or not being able to do so and the effects that not being able to do so has on your family life and your own internal life.

But what is most striking to me is what the movie shows regarding what is takes to be on display. For males like Randy “the Ram” you need to look like an exaggerated version of the behemoth “He-male” which requires the use of steroids and constantly lifting weights. For females like Cassedy you need to look like an exaggerated version of the hour-glass siren which requires dieting (perhaps using pills), and cardo exercise. Each look becomes more difficult to maintain as a person ages without more artificial supplements.

And who are these looks created for? The movie demonstrates that each look appeals to male fantasies. Divorced and single men are the people you see in the sparsely populated scenes at the strip club. Men with a variety of disabilities or afflictions make up the small crowds the circle the wrestling ring in these small gymnasiums and VFW halls. Is the fantasy as direct as the woman is a sexual experience and the wrestler is a violence and power experience? The wrestling match contains a good guy versus bad guy component that is part of the audience’s experience. What is the parallel for the experience at the strip club?

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2 comments so far

  1. Mari on

    I’m addressing your last paragraph.
    Are you just talking about Hollywood’s perception of strippers or real life strippers and their image? I can’t help but to compare the image of Hollywood street walkers vs the streetwalkers seen in the Shaw neighborhood and over by City Vista (before construction was done). Likewise I wonder if RL exotic dancers differ from the ones presented on the screen. I do know who to ask, however I think he’d be too ashamed to discuss the experiences with me.

  2. bla2222 on

    Great question. Think I’m focused on the version of strippers and wrestlers that they showed in the movie. I’m curious if men enact some kind of morality play when they go to strip clubs as they do when they watch wrestling.


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