Posted by A. But instead of looking to the classic myths that gave rise to western society, Barthes examines the cultural milieu of mid-century France with unrepentant scorn. Barthes main critique, with the exception of wrestling for which he had a cheery fondness, is that mass culture numbs the mind while feeding the mouths of the bourgeoisie. In other words, the new opiate of the masses is the insidious religion of mindless consumerism. Barthes criticism of mythology is based on capitalistic consumption. As a consumerist society we are trained to desire that which is owned only by the cultural elite.
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I begin today with essay 1- wrestling. Barthes begins with wrestling exactly because of the transparency of actions and symbols. It is a spectacle of excess. Every single action has to be exaggerated, and has the character of the ancient Greek theatres. What makes it like the ancient Greek theatres? Firstly, it is the seating and lighting, the character of the view.
This lack of reservation is also shown in the outfits, particularly the masks. As with the masks of ancient Greek Theatre, they represent the internal life of the character. Barthes goes as far as to say that the end of the fight is unconsciously clear within the opening moments of the fight.
The wrestler is an expert theatrical craftsman. Each action and gesture is a symbol corresponding to the character and story of the match. Every action has to be exaggerated, and every action is culminative- the defeats of the villain are more exciting, the wins of the hero are increasingly vindicating. These theatrical expressions are perfect examples of semiological iconography because wrestling, unlike other sports, is about each moment.
In boxing, the matches are played in rounds, the wins and loses are clear, and judged through binary categories. In wrestling, it is the moments which give the audience what they want, not the outcome. As the audience, we impose the story, and the actions of the wrestlers are the moments in that story. Each moment in wrestling is a paroxysm. A win is the vindication of good over evil. The suffering is an enactment of a crucifixion, a veritable putrefaction.
When the winner wins, everyone cheers, when the loser loses, everyone cheers. Wrestling is a social institution, an exercise in moral or political values. The symbolic Bastard transgresses the rules of the match. The Bastard abides by the rules only when the rules suit them. The Bastard is unpredictable. Therefore, when the hero defeats the villain, there is a parallel in which we see the symbolic saving of social order.
Predictable actions are heroic actions. When the audience cheer the final paroxysmal cry of the villain, the world is again their world. Euphoria is the mood of every match because in life symbols are ambiguous, but in wrestling the symbols are of perfect clarity.
For the space of a match, we can securely feel that good and bad are clearly cut. What we learn from this essay is that we observe a spectacle in the hope of seeing our shared worldviews solidified.
In this perfect spectacle, every action is exaggerated to deliver the ultimately desired pathos which the spectator so voraciously descries.
The object is not in winning or losing, it is in saving social order. Thank you for reading. This post is in series. Share this:.
The Spectacle of Excess: Roland Barthes, Wrestling, and the Eucharist
Myth today[ edit ] In the second half of the book Barthes addresses the question of "What is a myth, today? The front cover of the Paris Match magazine that Barthes analyzes Following on from the first section, Barthes justifies and explains his choices and analysis. He calls upon the concepts of semiology developed by Ferdinand de Saussure , who described the connections between an object the signified and its linguistic representation such as a word, the signifier and how the two are connected. So with a word or other linguistic unit the meaning apprehended content and the sound come together to make a sign. To make a myth, the sign itself is used as a signifier, and a new meaning is added, which is the signified. But according to Barthes, this is not added arbitrarily.