The first time I remember hearing the question “is it real?” was when I went as a young boy to see a traveling show put on by “professional wrestlers” one summer evening in the gym of the Forks River Elementary School in Elmwood, Tennessee.
The evidence that it was real was palpable: “They’re really hurting each other! That’s real blood! Look a’there! They can’t fake that!” On the other hand, there was clearly a script (or in today’s language, a “narrative”), with good guys to cheer and bad guys to boo.
But the most unusual and in some ways most interesting character in these dramas was the referee: Whenever the bad guy committed a gross and obvious violation of the “rules”—such as they were —like using a metal folding chair to smack the good guy in the head, the referee always seemed to be preoccupied with one of the cornermen, or looking the other way. Yet whenever the good guy—after absorbing more abuse and unfairness than any reasonable person could tolerate— committed the slightest infraction, the referee was all over him. The answer to the question “Is it real?” seemed connected to the question of whether the referee was somehow confused about his role: Was he too an entertainer?
To read the full story, go to: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/climate-of-denial-20110622