Thursday, June 28, 2007

Familiarity Breeds Excuses: Misogyny & Pop Culture

I'm going to talk about something that I have no fast-and-easy answers for. It's just something I've noticed in regards to how I have been thinking about the recent Chris Benoit murder/suicide.

I'll start by saying that I've loved pro wrestling, like comics, since I was a wee lass. I grew up watching the antics of these performers. I know who "Hillbilly Jim," "Big Bad Boss Man," "King Kong Bundy," are. I'm a fan.

But also, I tend it get up-in-arms about stories concerning the abuse of women and children. I mean, it's pretty much a knee-jerk reaction with me.

Reading more and more about the Benoit case, the old depressing pattern of domestic abuse and restraining orders emerge. Wife is scared of husband, files order, later drops it, dies at hands (literally) of said husband.

Chris Benoit's wife was found bound hand-and-foot with blood under her head. The most likely scenario, according to the cops, is that Benoit hit her on the head, tied her up, strangled her to death.

Pretty henious, right?

And yet, because I am so familiar with Benoit's work, because I enjoyed his matches on WCW in the 1990s, because I respected him so much as a performer, I find myself more likely to make excuses for him.

Here is my reaction to a recent news story regarding a man who killed his pregnant girlfriend: "monster!"

Here is my reaction to Chris Benoit:
"he was a poor sick man bowled over by the pressures of his profession."

And yet they are/were *both* monsters.

And they are/were *both* sick men.

And their acts? Yes, both born, to an extent, out of misogyny -- misogyny in its most primal, wordless, vicious form.

Not to mention child-murder.

But I still find myself making excuses for Chris Benoit.

I make excuses because Benoit is familiar to me, a beloved entertainer.

And I make excuses because, to an extent, to condemn Benoit is to condemn the culture of pro wresting -- a culture which, in terms of its treatment and presentation of women, I have not nor want to examine. Because to examine it -- to really examine it -- might destroy some of the love I have for this "sport."

This is just an observation.


  1. I too am an 'wraslin' fan, and was a huge Benoit mark. No one was more intense or worked harder. I watched the tribute show on Monday and was moved to tears when one of his co-workers talked about him being a good dad.

    I am soooooo pissed off now.

    I spent Tuesday reading the horror show details of what actually happened and kept wondering if I can still be a fan of his work.
    Can I watch Mania XX again and watch him win the title and still get goosebumps? Will I only think 'you killed your mentally challenged son?'

    I know that Benoit will now be the 'he who will not be named' in the WWE, which is alright. I just want to stop thinking about this and go back to enjoying something that usually brings me happiness.

    If I can.

  2. roid rage is a terrible thing.

  3. I'm surprised at your reluctance to examine this form of entertainment. After all, you are clearly aware of the misogyny in mainstream American comics and often spend time examining just that, yet you still clearly enjoy the art form, no? Don't let your fears prevent you from exercising your intelligence and feminist leanings.

  4. Calling it "roid rage" is an oversimplification of a complex issue. I have no doubt that Benoit used steroids during his career and that they might have been a factor, but the facts released so far indicate that there were also major psychological and possibly biological causes in this incident. We need to let the investigators and doctors do their jobs, be patient, and wait for their factual conclusions.

    Also, have y'all heard that someone posted a reference to Nancy Benoit's death on Wikipedia about 13 hours before the bodies were found? ABC and Fox news have both reported on it. Hopefully it was just a prankster who hit too close to a tragic truth, but even so, it's unsettling to say the least.

  5. "have y'all heard that someone posted a reference to Nancy Benoit's death on Wikipedia about 13 hours before the bodies were found?"

    yep, this just about blew my mind. oy, another twist

  6. BTW, Valerie, the feelings you're experiencing are quite natural. It's very difficult for all of us to reconcile the "two Chris Benoits," the one we enjoyed watching perform for so many years and the murderer. And I'm sure what we're feeling pales in comparison to what his friends and family are dealing with. It's always going to feel different when the pain strikes so close to home than when there's no personal emotional connection.

  7. Yeah...I don't really fault people for not wanting to believe it. I commented on the phenomenon today,and I think it's kind of like an odd extended family for each celebrity and their fans. You and all Benoit's fans had one image and he's gone and shattered that. ALL you knew about Bobby Cutts was that he killed the woman pregnant with his child. I bet Bobby Cutt's friends and family didn't want to believe he might have murdered anyone, let alone the young woman pregnant with his child.

    It's human nature to not want to believe the worst in people we feel some kind of connection to.

  8. I'm not condoning your reactions, but I will say that while I admired Phil Spector's music, I felt nothing but revulsion for the death of Lana Clarkson more than four years ago. To be sure, Spector's track record (abuse of former wife Ronnie Spector, incidents involving the Ramones and others) made an incident like this almost something to be expected, unlike Benoit's background. But if the crime is sufficiently henious, even a Mother Teresa would lose a degree of my respect.

  9. I keep doing the same, making excuses for him and I'm not sure why. I kept saying, I'll wait for all the facts to emerge before I condemn him and yet we're pretty much there but I'm still struggling to admit he did it. I don't want to admit it. I didn't know the man personally, but I've watched him for years and years, and I even saw him when he came over here on tour. I'm still not sure what to feel to be honest. The crime itself, horrible, heinous and it saddens me deeply, but I don't want this to reflect on the sport. I think I'm just a bit numb.