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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

I’m embarrassed to be writing this entry. by Matt McGann '00

The one where Matt regresses back to being a 12 year old boy.

Yesterday evening at MIT had a fairly random pair of events:

First, pro wrestling announcer Jim “J.R.” Ross spoke at a colloquium hosted by the Comparative Media Studies (CMS) department. Later, there was a free advance screening of Blades of Glory by the Lecture Series Committee (LSC). I hope you don’t think less of me for going to a talk about professional wrestling followed by a sophomoric comedy with lots of crotch jokes.

Jim Ross lecture

I admit it; growing up, my brother and I watched pro wrestling. Later, we both did varsity wrestling in high school, which is a real sport and does not involve costumes or beating people with steel chairs. Regardless, when I heard that J.R. was speaking, I was quite intrigued.

When I came to MIT, I knew there would be lots of famous scientists and engineers who would give guest lectures. Over my years here, there have been lots of astronauts (including Buzz Aldrin), mathematicians (like Benoit Mandelbrot), CEOs (Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Jack Welch), technologists (Steve Wozniak, Jimmy Wales) — the kinds of cool people you’d expect to hear talk at MIT.

But there have been lots of speakers here on other topics, too. I’ve seen Mira Nair, the MIT Blackjack Team, Al Gore, Ralph Nader, Thomas Friedman, Orson Scott Card, and more. I’ve also missed talks by Kofi Annan, Zhu Rongji, Frank Gehry, and the Dalai Lama, among others. The talk by Jim Ross fits into the category of speakers I never thought I’d see, and certainly not at MIT.

Actually, there is an entire class in the CMS department this term devoted to pro wrestling: CMS.602 Topics in Comparative Media Studies. The class is taught by Sam Ford, who is also a licensed professional wrestling manager and performs for Universal Championship Wrestling in Kentucky. Courses in CMS frequently take an academic look at topics in popular culture. For example, this term the course CMS.922 Media Industries & Systems, looks at video games. It is taught by Chris Weaver, the founder of Bethesda Softworks — the company that invented the original John Madden Football and created the hit RPG The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.

As for Jim Ross’ talk itself, I came away thinking about the concept of storytelling. What does it mean to tell a story well? What makes a good story? How do you create a story that a broad audience can relate to? There was also an interesting thread of discussion about the role of gender roles and sexuality in pro wrestling, and how characters, both male and female, are developed. Of course, we also talked about the legitimacy of pro wrestling: is it “fake,” performance art, sport, spectacle? (This discussion being done with everyone having an appropriate understanding of how pro wrestling actually works)

Blades of Glory sneak preview

After the Colloquium, I ran over to Anna’s Taqueria with my friends Dan & Jeff for a quick burrito dinner, then we headed over to room 26-100 to get in line for a sneak preview of the new Will Ferrell movie, Blades of Glory. Blades of Glory isn’t due out in theaters until March 30.

“Sneaks” are a fairly regular event for LSC. A few of the sneaks from recent years include 8 Mile, Corpse Bride, I (Heart) Huckabees, School of Rock, and Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. There will be another free sneak preview in a couple weeks (just before CPW): Disturbia, which appears to be a bad remake of Rear Window.

One of the best things about watching a sneak at LSC is the crowd. The night starts with trailers for upcoming LSC movies. Before each trailer, there is an LSC slide informing the crowd when the movie will show, for example, “Next Friday and Sunday.” The entire crowd, in unison, then responds, “Next Friday and Sunday IN STEREO!” It’s pretty cool to see the whole crowd shout it at the screen.

The related LSC tradition is that if the movie audio or visual should fail during the film, one audience members shouts “LSC!” and the rest of the crowd replies “Sucks!” You can try this at any movie theater near a large concentration of MIT alums (Boston, Silicon Valley, Manhattan, etc.) at a movie that might draw a large MIT crowd. At a screening of Star Wars Episode 1 in Los Angeles on opening night, at the appropriate moment I yelled “LSC!” and got a reply from somewhere in the large crowd; it was pretty cool.

The crowd at the Blades sneak was particularly vocal. There was no “LSC… sucks!” moment, but the crowd laughed quite heavily at just about every laugh line. Maybe it’s because Spring Break is almost here.

As for the movie itself, it was funny, probably worth paying to see in a movie theater, if you like this sort of movie. It wasn’t as good as, say, Anchorman or Old School, but still pretty good. Ice skating fans with a sense of humor will particularly enjoy it (lots of cameos; the one from Sasha Cohen is the best).

Anyway, that was my Thursday evening.

11 responses to “I’m embarrassed to be writing this entry.”

  1. CambridgeBoy says:

    I know that this is childish, but FIRST!

  2. CambridgeBoy says:

    Now for the real post.

    I remember back in the day with J.R. announcing in the side of the ring as two massively built juggernauts pummel each other back to the paleolithic age. ahh those memories last a life time.

    Speaking of the topic of JR’s lecture, I believe gender, sexuality, and differentiate of male and female roles is interesting, and is even more interesting in the context of professional wrestling. He may be speaking not from the viewpoint of a celebrity superstar striving to amp up the audience with pre-rehearsed scripts and dialogue, but instead as an individual who works behind the scene of it all, as an person who has a deep understanding of what happens backstage where the real action is occur (whether they be real or not real, only JR knows!)

  3. Daniel '11 says:

    Will Ferrell is my hero!

  4. milena '11 says:

    Will Ferrell is amazing, but I think Ben Stiller is way way way better. (I’m a hardcore Zoolander fan!) But still, I might see that movie, if I have time grin

  5. Steve says:

    RALPH NADER! He was in Tampa during the 2004 campaign, but one of the 4 hurricanes we had that year came through the day before his speech, so I didn’t get to go.

    And, anyone who thinks wrestling is “fake” should watch Mankind vs. Undertaker at King of the Ring ’98.

  6. Al '13 says:

    Jim “JR” Ross is a legend in wrestling, he might appear as a ringside announcer to the general public but he actually has some creative power in the WWE and is a veteran of the wrestling world. I am not surprised to know that the MIT has a class on Pro Wrestling, Wrestling has played a major part in changing the entertainment world we know today even though it has been criticized by the public especially those who really dont know anything about wrestling.

  7. Lola says:

    Matt, one question: do only EA admitted students receive the “Tube”? Do regular action students receive the tube as well? It’d be disappointing if that were the case, the tube is so glorified ! I think everyone should be littered with confetti on one of the happiest days of their life. =D

  8. Al '13 says:

    Wrestling is scripted but the moves they do are real, they actually do jump from steel cages and the throws its not some kind of optical illusion, as for the blood it is real but they use razors to make themselves bleed. In a way wrestlers are better than athletes because not only can they do those moves but they can also act.

  9. Nick L says:

    Im working my way through the Enders Game series right now. I didn’t know that many non-sciency people talked at MIT… just another reason that makes it awesome.

  10. Deb '79 says:

    Amazing that they’re still yelling “LSC…SUCKS!”
    We were doing that 30 years ago. Anyone know when it started?

  11. nihiasebe says:

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