PBS’ Wrestling Documentary A Champion Of A Feature

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Professional wrestling is one of the most popular spectator events around the world.  Wrestling events are attended by millions every year and watched on television by just as many.  The history of professional wrestling goes back many decades.  And the history of its Mexican counterpart, Lucha Libre, goes back just as far.  Now thanks to PBS, fans of this popular theatrical event finally get a thorough look at what makes this decades old entertainment so popular even today.

Tales of Masked Men: A Journey Through Lucha Libre is a win for PBS.  It’s a win because rather than simply looking at Lucha Libre as some pop culture phenomenon among Hispanic communities, it examines it from a purely historical and sociological vantage point.  Perhaps one of the most intriguing comparisons made in the feature is that of the wrestlers in Lucha Libre being real life superheroes of sorts, pulled right from the pages of a comic book.  With their flashy in-ring attire (masks included) and their personalities, they become subjects for whom audiences can either root or boo.  As noted in one interview, Lucha Libre presents its audiences with a definitive good guy and bad guy.  It’s made obvious through the noted attire and personality.  This alone makes for a rather interesting discussion point.  Everybody needs a hero.

The need for a hero leads into another interesting aspect of this near hour long program.  Audiences will be introduced to wrestlers the likes of “El Santo” and others for whom Mexican audiences have cheered through the history of the “sport.”  “El Santo” is a prime example as he showed in both life and death, he was a national hero.  He proved to be a fan favorite because he exemplified everything for which his fans did.  That applied to his persona both inside and outside the ring.  As noted, he knew his success was the result of his fans.  So he showed that inside and outside the ring throughout his life.  So when he died, his funeral became essentially a national event.  That shows how important these real life superheroes are to their fans, which lead to yet another interesting discussion raised in the program.  It’s more of a sociological discussion.

The wrestlers of Lucha Libre are obviously very important to their fans.  That connection to the wrestlers leads to the discussion on the fans themselves.  While there is a general stereotype of wrestling fans even in Mexico, the reality of this world and its fans is quite different as audiences will see.  Director Carlos Avilla presents with this feature a spectacle that is rooted in Mexico’s working class.  Fans root for their favorite wrestler because he (or in some cases, she) emulates the same standards for which they themselves stand.  That fans have always been able to relate to a given figure makes it more personal for them, thus making the “sport” that much more special for its legions of fans.

As one can already see, Tales of Masked Men: A Journey Through Lucha Libre offers fans a very thorough look at what makes Lucha Libre so popular among its fans to this day.  The discussions raised in the course of its near hour-long run time are expertly assembled throughout the presentation, making it easy to follow. They are just part of what makes this presentation an interesting feature whether one is a fan of wrestling or not.  There is also the mention of professional wrestling’s roots in actual Greco-Roman wrestling, despite the largely theatrical nature of the event today.  Along with that, Avilla and company also include actual photos of past Lucha Libre greats and interviews with professionals with quite the insight into Lucha Libre.  To sweeten the deal, PBS has offered the entire presentation not just in English but in Spanish as well for Spanish speaking audiences.  Combined all together, everything that went into bringing this documentary to life makes it one that any wrestling fan and social scientist will enjoy.  It’s available now and can be ordered online direct via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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