January 30, 2008

Barthes and the American Gladiators

American Gladiators serves as a contemporary version of professional wrestling. Many of the character traits that Barthes reveals in his essay still hold true to these characters.

Barthes discusses the obviousness of the characters as soon as they step in the ring. With the new American Gladiators, this obviousness begins even before that. It starts as soon as the show begins by introducing the gladiators with booming music and flashing lights. When they first introduce the contenders, they do so with a personal interview with each in a quiet pre-recorded set with lovely piano music playing in the background and a heartfelt story as to why they want to win. The game hasn’t even begun yet and everyone is portraying their role already.

The obviousness is still present but now with American Gladiators they try to make the audience cheer for the contenders even more by telling their story and trying to convince the audience that these are everyday people. As if all of the subtleties weren’t made obvious enough, the announcer even states that it’s the battle of David vs. Goliath. As if the lights, sounds, clothes, and appearance of the gladiators wasn’t enough, now we have the announcer flat out telling us that the gladiators are the monster, or in the words of Barthes, the bastard.

Barthes states that “it is therefore in the body of the wrestler that we find the first key to the contest.? (pg. 17) This not only still holds true but I would say that it is pushed even further. The contenders are everyday people, but they are still pretty large for being normal everyday people (especially considering we live in a country with such a high obesity rate). The gladiators, however, are so ridiculously large they make the contenders look tiny. Not only are their bodies gargantuan, their costumes or clothes also reveal their physique even more. The gladiators’ outfits leave very little to the imagination when it comes to their physique, revealing that yes, in fact, every inch of their body is sculpted from head to toe. The contenders’ outfits are a bit more discreet as they don’t have quite the muscle mass as the gladiators. The build of the gladiators compared to the contenders is clearly going to make the audience want to cheer for the contenders because they will be seen as the underdog.

The other obviousness about the costumes is the color. The contenders are of course wearing patriotic red and blue while the gladiators wear black and silver. Good versus evil, or in this case an almost instant association between America versus anyone.

Nearly everything Barthes stated in his essay so long again can still hold true today when looking at a contemporary version of wrestling. The only difference may be concluded that with American Gladiators, the audience does care about the outcome to some extent. As the contenders compete against each other, it is obvious that one of the contenders will win in the end. However, during each event, the audience still wants to see the contender conquer the gladiator they are facing.


After a delay of about 3 weeks I have finally decided to do laundry...basicaly just because I was out of socks. It's the first time I've done laundry in my apartment. It's nice because it's just in the basement and the same prices as my old apartment. 1.50 for wash, 1.00 for dry. 2 loads each: $5.00