The Scene, The Show, and The Spectacle
In the context of a theatrical performance, I think the show American Gladiators is an effective performance. The opening sequence reminds me of the movie Transformers. The sound of metal clanking, fire erupting everywhere, waves of water crashing against the speakers. The entire introduction was very attention-grabbing because of the use of sensory attracting elements—colors, sounds, words, etc. The colors are of a patriotic sense, red and blue. The opposing contenders wear these colors, red and blue. Why red and blue? Aren't we missing white? Or is the "white" found in most of the contenders themselves?
The words spoken were also loaded with energy and competitive force. "Epic...mortals...bigger...better...prevail...$100,000...honor...American Galdiator!" All of these words signify a much deeper meaning and connotation. However, the contrasts also exist, especially with the contender vignettes.
The first contender introduction sharply contrasted the opening sequence and host presentations. The piano music, the motherly character, the words of love and perseverance for her children. This quality of a story sets this contender aside from, well, the entire theme of the show. This contender's introduction seemed to suck the sympathy out of those heartfelt audience members for their support and understanding. Very contrasting, and effective.
After the first round, the injured contender is surrounded, and even physically supported, by the other contender. The opposing Gladiators also surrounded the injured contender, which could be an attempt to portray a motherly quality to their somewhat masculine and strong character. It was sweet to see, women fighting in a ring (minus the mud, sexy!) and the moment of an injured partner, they create a circle that reunites the underlying feeling of care and concern for their fellow show-mates. But, in light of Barthes' Mythological discussions, is this just all a show? It is real? Or, is it just a theatrical portrayal of "support"? Support our Troops.
On the men's side, the contenders also give a story of their own. "Skater, Chad, Dad!" The contrast is comical instead of heartfelt and motherly. Why does fatherly affection take on a lighthearted and funny approach, whereas maternal love is assumed as the cheezy piano-music, sympathy-drawing spectacle? I think the introduction for both the women and men contenders are highly stereotyped. There are many assumptions the audience will make based on the vignettes created for both woman and man in the show.
My initial reaction to the first event is this: Dodgeball. Nothing like a good old American game of Dodgeball. Oh, but it's SO much more than just a game of Dodgeball. A ring of limited contenders, clad in American-color men armour and women padding, running from one side to the other to put Nerf® balls in an erected yet soft basket. But it get's better because there are anti-contenders in the already-contender's way, ready to block and grab, kick and punch, headbutt and butt their asses away from the soft baskets. This can only get better. How? Add mud. For the men, it would be a spectacular spectacle. Women in mud? Oh, it'd be hot!
All of these devices make the show. The underlying themes and connotations doesn't create the myth, it isn't THE myth. These devices REINFORCE the myth, prolongs it. And by prolonging the myth, it is the stereotype that is consistently enhanced and perpetuated. The result: prejudism. Hasty assumptions. Even I am making prejudice assumptions by writing this essay. However shall I manage myself and my thoughts?
I must admit, every scene, every show, and the entire spectacle was very entertaining to watch. From beginning to end, I coudn't take my eyes off of it. It drew me in, kept me hooked, longing to see, "Who's gonna become the next American Gladiator?!" "Oh, that could SO be me..." Perhaps my reaction met yours and eventually, the episode has done its work. Success. What kind of success and is it a good one? Of course, if the myth exists, which I think it does, then I have, yet again, fallen into the deep crevice of American entertainment and prejudism.