January 31, 2008


$6 for gas at EZ-Stop

Analysis of American Gladiators

American Gladiators Episode 100 – What does it mean?

The American Gladiators show, to use Roland Barthes words, is a “spectacle of excess?. Strobe lights, large flames bellowing from the floor, repeatedly showing participants splashing into water, sweat, swinging arms, muscles flexing, a booing crowd, the howling of Wolf, are some of the images and sounds one is subjected to. “Battle with the greatest athletes“, “they’re bigger and badder than ever?, “bigger. faster, stronger, Gladiators? with names like Venom, Stealth, Fury, and Militia are what “ordinary men and women? are up against. These "contenders" compete for “more than just the money – the honor.? One contender couldn't wait to rip their opponent “to shreds?. Terms like “grueling?, “brutal?, as well as “quest, “fun game?, and “opportunity? are used to describe their task. One contender wants to make her children proud; another wants to make a better life for her parents.

The audience comes into play during the more emotional moments, such as when a contender is “injured? (looking on motionless and speechless), or upon failure (booing and thumbs down gestures).

All of this is reminiscent of the Roman arena where gladiators fought to the death. Many of those gladiators were in fact slaves of the Roman Empire. One could say that today’s 21st century gladiators and contenders might be slaves of corporate capitalism.

In roman times, these gladiators kept the masses of people occupied which in turn kept them from turning on the emperor. To paraphrase Karl Marx, these spectacles of excess then and today serve as the “opium of the people?.