On the (Rest of the) Net.

The Dolly model search is back and seeking 13-year-old girls for their looks. Oh, and, like, a great personality and stuff. [MamaMia]

We need more men like THIS, who speak out about the blatant turning of blind eyes to violent and entitled footballers. [MamaMia]

Gloria Steinem urges voters to re-elect Obama, as he’s the only candidate who really cares about actual women’s rights. [Jezebel]

Rick Santorum used to work for the WWE?! Yikes! [Mother Jones]

Bristol Palin writes about President Obama and Sandra Fluke. I hate to say this about a Palin, but she makes a good point… [Bristol’s Blog]

Forced pre-abortion transvaginal ultrasounds, from a doctor’s perspective. [Jezebel, via Whatever]

Following on from last week’s article by Gala Darling on feminism and high heels, Jenna Sauers voices her own concerns on our sartorial choices dictating our political stances. [Jezebel]

On lady writers profiling “tall, brooding famous men with lots of money” for men’s magazines. [Gawker]

Jess McGuire on Jackie O’s Sunday Life profile. [The Vine]

The beauty politics of Snog, Marry, Avoid. [MamaMia]

What it’s like to be an executioner. [MamaMia]

Image via Perth Now.

In the News: September 11, 10 Years On.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 YEARS since two planes crashed into the World Trade Centre, the enduring image of the Twin Towers collapsing burned into our memories. Not to forget the additional two planes which crashed into the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

I was 13 at the time of the attacks. I’ve grown up in the “age of terror”, where conspiracy theories, airport security, racism and top-television-moments countdowns are influenced by the event.

At the time, I couldn’t really care less. I was a teenager, consumed with adolescent angst and lost interest about five minutes after I first saw the shocking footage on TV. A testament to the desensitivity and limited attention span of my generation, I suppose.

We weren’t allowed morning television in our house at the time, so I’m pretty sure my parents were none the wiser as to the attacks the following day. My mum was telling me something about some environmental issue in California (a Google search for news results around that time produced little enlightenment).

I got on the school bus and someone said, “Did you hear what happened in America?” I was like, “yeah, totes, something environmental in California”, or something to that effect (and yes, I know “totes” wasn’t a word then. Some would say it isn’t even a word now.). I was received by puzzled looks.

That’s really all I remember from that time. Oh, that and the thing that consumed my life at that time, World Wrestling Entertainment (then World Wrestling Federation), was the first live televised event after the attacks. WWE SmackDown! was originally scheduled to be taped the night of September 11, however was postponed til the 13th, and was seen as somewhat of a patriotic (ST)FU to the terrorists. Below is a tear jerking clip from the opening scene of the show.

The following year, however, I was fully immersed in my love for the USA, and considered donning full Uncle Sam garb to school that day! Since September 11, I’d been known to bust out an American flag item of clothing here and there, and even had one made for my birthday that year.

Again, it’s just so hard to believe it’s been 10 years since then. In some ways, we’ve come so far, but in others (the fact that 20% of Americans believe, wrongfully, that Barack Obama is a Muslim, the violent disapproval of a mosque being built near the Ground Zero monument, the niggling feeling we get when we see Muslims at airports)… not so much.

Where were you on September 11, 2001, and what do you think has changed since then?

Below, some links published in tribute to the almost 3,000 people who died on that fateful day 10 years ago.

Elsewhere: [Washington Post] Poll Shows More Americans Think Obama is a Muslim.

[New York Magazine] The Encyclopedia of 9/11.

[New York Magazine] Day’s End.

[Time Magazine] Timeline.

[The New Yorkers] Video: The Skyline Redrawn.

Image via Yahoo News.

Movie Review: Green Lantern*.

When I met my brand new roommate Eddie about a year ago, we bonded over Green Lantern, amongst other things.

I’m not a huge fan of the comic book series, other than the fact that Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are in the big screen adaptation, released last Thursday in Australia to the similar lacklustre reviews it received in the States. My only exposure to the superhero before I met Eddie was that he was professional wrestler Gregory “The Hurricane” Helms’ favourite superhero, revealed by his Green Lantern symbol tattoo and the t-shirt he gave Stone Cold Steve Austin during his “appreciation night” storyline back in 2001.

Even though I wasn’t super keen on the latest version, especially after seeing the previews (why must every movie be about aliens?! Super 8, Thor, Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens… Perhaps some fodder for a potential blog post…?), we’d bonded over it.

Going into films with low expectations usually winds up with me enjoying it much more than I thought I would, and this was true with Green Lantern.

As the comic book nerd to rule all comic book nerds, Eddie pointed out some holes in the plotline and amalgamations made especially for the movie that don’t exist in the comics, like Reynolds’ Hal Jordan’s nemesis Hector Hammond being able to read minds by physical contact after contracting the powers of Paralax.

As a non-comic book nerd, I thought some parts of the movie weren’t resolved, like Jordan getting beat up in a parking lot behind a bar he was having drinks with Lively’s Carol Ferris at, but nothing coming of it (Carol coming to his rescue, the cops arriving, any arrests being made) apart from being the catalyst for Hal to use his willpower, the energy that the Green Lantern Corps use to fight space crime and whatnot.

I was initially excited about Lively’s role in the film, but she’s as boringly saccharine in this as she is in Gossip Girl. The only part of the movie where I see a glimmer of potential in her acting abilities is when she is approached by Hal, in his Green Lantern costume, and exclaims, “You think I wouldn’t recognise you because I can’t see your cheekbones?!” It was both funny (perhaps the funniest part of the movie, which isn’t saying much) and the closest Lively’s ever going to get to an Oscar nomination any time soon.

Considering Green Lantern was one of the most anticipated premieres of the year, it failed to live up to the hype. Not only was its release date almost two months behind the U.S., which is unheard of these days, Reynolds was supposed to attend the Melbourne and Sydney premieres, but pulled out at the last minute. (We were going to stalk him at Jam Factory!)

A sequel has been greenlit (get it?), which is promising, as the Green Lantern saga has a lot more to offer. Three more human Lanterns, a black Superhero, a heel turn (sorry, wrestling speak; good guy turns into a bad guy) from one of the main characters, the scene that sparked the Women in Refrigerators feminist movement. Let’s hope the second instalment brings some of this to the table.

 

 

 

*It has come to my attention that I give away too much in my movie reviews, so the asterisk will now serve as a blanket *spoiler alert* from now on.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Super 8 Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Thor Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Problem with Serena van der Woodsen.

Elsewhere: [Women in Refrigerators] Homepage.

Image via IMDb.

Chris Benoit Double Murder–Suicide: Four Years On.

A few months ago, I blogged about the disgrace of Charlie Sheen and John Galliano, and how Two & a Half Men  and Christian Dior were right to fire the men and disassociate their brands from them.

In that post, I also wrote about professional wrestler Chris Benoit who, four years ago today, committed a double murder–suicide, strangling his wife, Nancy, and their 7-year-old son using chokeholds, then killing himself using a weight machine.

At the time, the mainstream media had a field day with the tragedy, especially when it was speculated that steroids and their side-effects—specifically ’roid rage—played a role. Outspoken, right-winged commentators like Nancy Grace and Bill O’Reilly had no shortage of perspectives on the case, and used “expert” witnesses (some credible, like fellow World Wrestling Entertainment stars John Cena, Chris Jericho, and Bret Hart, and some not-so-credible, like former WWE wrestlers Marc Mero and Steve Blackman, who both had axes to grind with the company) and opinions to bolster their arguments that pro-wrestling is nothing but a homoerotic display of extreme violence and degradation of all that is good and right in American culture by a bunch of ’roided-up, “fake” performers.

Books such as Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror that Destroyed a Family & Crippled a Sport  by Steven Johnson, Heath McCoy, Irv Muchnick and Greg Oliver and Matthew Randazzo V’s Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit & the Fall of the Pro Wrestling Industry have examined that case and divided fans on the topic.

When I originally wrote the article below for a university paper, then subsequently re-edited it for a wrestling website, I struggled to reconcile the “family man” and 20-year pro wrestling veteran that fans and co-workers loved, with the monster who orchestrated a horror weekend involving domestic violence and obvious mental illness on Benoit’s part.

I have to admit I’m still biased, and still don’t feel as badly about Benoit as I should and do feel about someone like Charlie Sheen. As I wrote in “Minus Two & a Half Men:

“On the one hand, I felt his legacy as one of the best professional wrestlers ever to grace the squared circle shouldn’t be forgotten, however, Benoit took three lives…, sullied the reputation of professional wrestling and sparked a debate on steroids and drug testing that raged for years; the smoke of which still lingers today…

“Benoit was obviously seriously mentally ill; the (not-so-) funny thing is, his friends, family and co-workers never picked up on it.”

So, without further ado, here is a version of the article I mentioned above, originally written in 2008, with regular edits thereafter. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Over the weekend of 23rd and 24th June, 2007, the world of professional wrestling was rocked by the double murder-suicide involving World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar Chris Benoit, his wife and seven-year-old son.

Benoit was scheduled to appear at a WWE pay-per-view on the night of Sunday, 24th June, but had to return home abruptly a few days earlier, claiming that his wife, Nancy, and son, Daniel, had food poisoning. Suspicions arose when Benoit sent five odd text messages to co-workers and friends, repeatedly stating his “physical address”, which door to his suburban home was unlocked, and where his dogs were tied up. When repeated phone calls from the WWE went unanswered, and inquiries into local hospitals in the Atlanta, Georgia, area proved fruitless, WWE contacted authorities, who had a neighbour search the home, finding the bodies of Nancy, 43, and Daniel, 7. The body of Benoit, 40, was found hanging from a weight machine in his home gym.

At first it was thought the gruesome body count was the result of a triple-murder, and WWE ran a special three-hour tribute edition of their flagship show Raw, dedicated to the memory of Benoit. However, about 26 hours later news broke that it was actually Benoit who killed his family and himself. All mentions of his name were banned from WWE programming, and repeats of the tribute show were cancelled in international markets.

Doug Frattallone, a television producer, reporter and anchor, and author of the “Professor Wrestling” column on The Pittsburgh Channel website, says, “If there’s police tape around the home of one of your employees—and your employee and his family is inside, deceased—that might be a signal that there’s foul play. It’s certainly not the time to immortalise someone [with a tribute show]”.

The media, particularly in the US, had a field day with this story as more aspects of the crime came to light. Bad press has surrounded sports entertainment pretty much since its inception, and has only increased as the juggernaut that is WWE becomes more popular on a global scale. For example, when the Chris Benoit tragedy was revealed, US news programs, such as FOX’s controversial OReily Factor, were quick to point out that four prominent professional wrestlers had died since the book Wrestling Babylon by Irv Muchnick was published in 2007, adding to the industry’s negative profile. In the tome, Muchnick reveals 2002 and 2006 studies that focused on the premature deaths of 62 power lifters and 3, 850 National Football League (NFL) players respectively, and how the bigger men and men suspected of using steroids died at rates much higher than their non-drug-using counterparts. These findings lend themselves to the theory that Benoit committed his crimes while experiencing “’roid rage”, which I will return to later. But, Muchnick says, little attention has been paid to “the mortality rate of pro wrestlers…” because “…they’re just, you know, wrestlers”, and “are not actual human beings”.

Although not a wrestling fan at the time of Owen Hart’s death, a fatal accident that occurred during a pay-per-view where Hart was involved in an entrance via a cable from the rafters, I can only imagine the bad press generated at that time. And at the end of 2005, Eddie Guerrero, a second-generation wrestler and one of Benoit’s best friends, died of heart failure resulting from heavy drug use earlier in the wrestler’s life. This death didn’t cause as much controversy as Hart’s and Benoit’s (The Los Angeles Times newspaper dedicated almost ninety times as much info on Benoit as it did on Guerrero’s death), however there was some debate over drug use in sports entertainment once the toxicology report was released. WWE have overhauled their Wellness Policy, in which wrestlers are monitored on and penalised for drug use more stringently.

Kevin McElvaney, Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine and WrestleZone.com columnist, shares his thoughts on the Wellness Policy:

“Chris Benoit was obviously either allowed to ‘slip through the cracks’ or somehow circumvent the Wellness Policy through a loophole or with a cheating device… There was a recent change implemented in the Wellness Policy which addresses the possibility of cheating in urine tests. Wrestlers must now lift their shirts and pull their pants down to their knees while giving urine samples, while a representative of the testing team observes. Some people were probably using urine filtration devices to produce clean samples, and it’s possible that Chris Benoit did the same thing… One problem with the… policy—at least as of June 2007—was that doctors notes excused plenty of drug abuses that would otherwise have been punished…”

Fellow WrestleZone.com reporter Keelan Balderson echoes McElvaney’s concerns on the legitimacy of the program:

“…There are a few major loopholes that wouldn’t be allowed in the Olympics, for example… If you have a legitimate doctor’s prescription for a substance… it’s allowed to slide”.

Benoit had a doctor’s prescription, from the corrupt Dr. Philip Astin, who was charged with 175 counts of illegally prescribing drugs to Benoit and others, and has been sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

While I don’t believe Benoit’s actions were in any way justified, and I am disappointed that they may have jeopardised Benoit’s chance to be recognised purely for the tremendous athlete that he was, I don’t think it’s right that the WWE has ostracised one of the greatest wrestlers ever from the WWE family. “He will never be in the Hall of Fame. Vince [McMahon] said it himself: ‘you will never hear the name Chris Benoit mentioned on this show again’ (at least words to that effect)”, Balderson says.

Yes, I acknowledge that Benoit’s actions were selfish, heinous, and deplorable, but I can comprehend the desperation he felt, too. Consider the way the body of Daniel was arranged in his bed and the how killer took time to place a Bible next to each of his victims. This says more about the state of mind Benoit must have been in, and that the public shouldn’t be so quick to shun him, than if he had stabbed them to death in a violent rage. It doesn’t change the fact that three lives have been eliminated, but maybe in the future we can celebrate the life of Chris Benoit, rather than focus on the tragic circumstances surrounding his death. [Early Bird note: Four years later, I have changed my mind and I do not feel it is appropriate to "celebrate his life". But wrestling fans will always be able to separate the wrestler from the murderer in discussion and debate.]

When reading the many farewell messages on the websites of Benoit’s peers and fellow wrestlers at the time the news broke, it seemed that some of them subscribed to the above school of thought. Former WWE Champion and current commentator for the SmackDown! Brand, Booker T, said on Houston, Texas, news program KHOU:

“I feel like the human life is a delicate piece of equipment and everyone has their breaking point. We don’t know what his breaking point was… We’re all human. I just think it was a huge malfunction and whatever it was, we may never know”.

Controversial former WWE Superstar Bret Hart, brother of the late Owen Hart, was interviewed extensively in the wake of the tragedy, saying Benoit was a locker-room leader and never expressed any signs that could have signified the events that occurred. “It knocked you off your feet the second you heard it…”, Hart said, “I can’t imagine Chris killing his son…”. In fact, Hart revealed that as a child, Benoit “reminded me of my own little son…”

Rob Van Dam, a former WWE Superstar who is known for being outspoken, holds Benoit in the highest esteem:

“Chris was truly a role model’s role model. You simply had to respect him and admire his focus and unmatched discipline. If I ever got asked a question about who I looked up to the most in the business… it’s Chris Benoit—in the ring and in the dressing room and with his family”.

However, there are others who view Benoit’s actions as unthinkable. Former WWE Diva Victoria, who chose to vent her feelings on MySpace, said the murder-suicide was “selfish” and “hurtful”, fearing that the high profile of Benoit “glamorises the situation”.

And of course there’s the official statements from WWE and Vince McMahon (whose WWE character and alter-ego “Mr. McMahon” was involved in a murder angle in the weeks leading up to Benoit’s death, which was immediately abolished in light of the tragedy) who appeared on US morning show Today, and his wife and WWE CEO Linda McMahon on Good Morning America. In Vince’s interview, he said that Benoit doesn’t represent what the WWE is about (although when he was alive, many people in the company, wrestling insiders and wrestling fans would say that Benoit was exactly what the WWE was about, or should be about), and that there was “no way of telling that this man was a monster”.

The WWE knows how smart their fans are in terms of knowing what goes on outside the ring, so why not incorporate some of that into the product? As Balderson mentioned above: Chris Benoit will never be mentioned on or in WWE programming and publications again. However, to my knowledge Benoit has been mentioned twice on WWE programming since his demise [up to May 2008]: once in an onscreen address from Chairman McMahon the night after the Raw tribute show aired, saying that references to their disgraced employee will cease immediately, and during Ric Flair’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech (which has been edited out of the forthcoming WrestleMania XXIV DVD, on which the ceremony is a bonus feature). Due to the sensitive nature of the crimes it’s obvious why they haven’t been used to bolster the product.

Many are wondering what drove Benoit to murder his wife and child and take his own life over the span of three days. (Nancy was killed on Friday 22nd June, Daniel on Saturday 23rd June and finally, Benoit on Sunday 24th June, according to medical reports.) Much speculation revolved around “’roid rage”; violence stemming from the use of steroids. However, the rage usually only occurs for a few minutes after taking the drug, and with the murders taking place over three days, ’roid rage seems unlikely. Balderson says, “…There have been no studies that prove it even exists and on top of this there was method in Benoit’s actions—you can’t kill your wife, son and yourself in one quick burst of rage”. Heath McCoy, writing in Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror that Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport, agrees: “… there was much about the incident that indicated deliberation, not rage”. Contributing doctors on the case revealed that withdrawal from steroids does cause bouts of severe depression, fatigue and mood swings, which seems a more likely scenario. But the abundance of steroids found in Benoit’s possession (Dr. Astin provided the wrestler with ten months worth of steroids every few weeks), isn’t evidence to support withdrawals. Though, “to be safe, I think steroids should be treated as the cause of the problem, but so should concussions, mental health, and personal problems,” says McElvaney.

From my point of view, the factors in Benoit’s life mentioned above may have contributed to the tragedy. Benoit suffered a broken neck eleven years ago, and if he was still feeling the effects of the injury, it could have impacted tremendously on his emotional and physical wellbeing. The travelling involved with being a WWE Superstar results in being away from home for long periods of time, which can take a toll on personal relationships. Reports surfaced that Benoit and his wife Nancy fought constantly for the wellbeing of Daniel who, it was alleged, had Fragile X syndrome, a form of inherited mental retardation that can be accompanied by growth problems (Benoit had apparently been injecting his son with Human Growth Hormone [HGH] in an attempt to counteract that) and autism. Benoit may have transferred his paranoia about his own size onto his son. It took the wrestler years to break into the mainstream American market because he was “such a small man”. Bret Hart says when he met Benoit as a teen, he “remembers him looking closer to nine or ten”. Balderson explains:

“I think all smaller wrestlers deep down feel that they need to be bigger to make it [in the WWE] because that’s how Vince [McMahon] likes it… Vince continues to push wrestlers… because of their size [as opposed to actual wrestling talent], so there is an ideology that to make it in this industry you have to be big, or at least ripped for your size.”

Which Benoit was. McElvaney goes on:

“…Chris was self-conscious about his own size and, apparently, insecure about Daniel’s size. The latter is completely unjustifiable, to me. I think the fact that Chris Benoit injected his son with HGH affects my opinion of him far more than the fact that he, himself, used steroids.”

Daniel’s condition had been pretty well concealed, as McMahon, Benoit’s closest friends, and even Nancy’s parents were not aware of it (they deny that their grandson suffered from Fragile X). As stated earlier, grief over the death of friend Eddie Guerrero may have been a contributing factor to the killings, or at least Benoit’s state of mind. Greg Oliver, another author of the book Benoit, was in contact with the wrestler at the time of Guerrero’s death:

“‘… I do not believe that I will ever find someone that I will bond with and be able to understand and be understood as I was with Eddie… My wife Nancy bought me a diary and I have started to write letters to Eddie…’”

Said diary was not found by the authorities.

Also, it surfaced that Nancy filed for divorce and obtained a restraining order against her husband in 2003, signaling that perhaps domestic violence was an occurrence in the marriage. (The divorce petition and restraining order were later dropped.) It had also been speculated that Benoit was to be demoted in the WWE. Just weeks before the tragedy, it was reported on many wrestling news websites (not WWE.com) that the WWE creative team didn’t feel Benoit had a strong enough on-screen persona or microphone skills to be a top Superstar or champion. However, the pay-per-view that Benoit missed the Sunday that he died was the day that he would once again be a World Champion. Chris Jericho weighed in on this at the time on Nancy Grace:

“… He was about to become the ECW Champion… ECW is more with some younger guys that are just learning, and Chris was a great trainer and so well respected, they wanted him to be kind of more of a trainer to some of these younger guys… So to move Chris to ECW, Chris would not see that as a demotion”.

His other stint as World Heavyweight Champion was at WrestleMania 20 in 2004, where Daniel and Nancy came into the ring to celebrate with Benoit. “… A hundred years from now, at WrestleMania 120, they’ll look back and see [that] Chris Benoit made Triple H tap out at Madison Square Garden…”, Benoit has said. No, he won’t. McCoy believes what Benoit did “to drag it [wrestling] down and scandalise it in the eyes of the public would have shamed [Benoit] to the core”.

Once again, WWE’s decision to pull all mentions of Chris Benoit from their product was the socially responsible and ethical thing to do. “Future generations will never know what a great performer he was, and that’s a shame,” says Oliver. “He epitomised what professional wrestling could and should be: hard-hitting, dramatic, serious action between high-calibre, exciting athletes”.

“We can… never forget or forgive these horrible acts… And that overshadows everything else in his life. But you can’t tell the story of pro wrestling without talking about Chris Benoit,” says Jericho.

Much like you can’t tell the story of the history of the world without taking the bad with the good. And, if turning on the nightly news is anything to go by, there’s still a lot of bad.

*

Three years after I wrote this article (with some edits I made just now), my feelings have changed somewhat. But if reading the copious amounts of literature on the subject of Benoit and questionable behaviour in sports entertainment (some of which I’ve mentioned here and, if you have any interest in this topic whatsoever, I advise you pick up. Perhaps I could even lend you a copy ;)), professional wrestling companies aren’t completely innocent in all this. One of the sections I edited out of the piece for publication on The Early Bird was about wrestling legend Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka who, in 1983 after a domestic violence incident, was suspected of murdering his girlfriend. Yet he still appears frequently on WWE television as one of the greatest high-flying wrestlers of all time. I guess it goes to show that domestic violence, drug use and all manner of other crimes are passable in the entertainment industry (sorry to bring his name up again, but Charlie Sheen comes to mind), just as long as you’re not found guilty of murder. Then you’re really done for.

[WTAE Pittsburgh’s Channel 4] Homepage.

[WrestleZone] Homepage.

[MySpace] TNA Knockout Tara AKA WWE Victoria (TNA Knockout Tara)’s Page.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Minus Two & a Half Men.

Image via Who’s Dated Who.

On the Net: Breaking the Mould.

A recent post on MamaMia by Rick Morton revealed that although he is a gay man, he has no sense of rhythm and cannot dance. He also liked sports. Anyone who’s seen the stereotypical gay man on Sex & the City, Desperate Housewives or Modern Family knows that gay men always have rhythm and hate sports. Therefore, Morton breaks the stereotype.

The post, entitled “What Stereotype Do You Break?” got me thinking about… erm… what stereotypes I break!

One misconception about me that I struggle with constantly is people thinking I’m dumb because of the way I look, dress, speak and the things I’m interested in. If people looked a little deeper, they would see that yes, I sleep in curlers, dress up to go to and from my workplace, at which I wear a uniform, am in tune with the “OMG” zeitgeist and am partial to a copy of Famous and a gossip session.

But yes, I also have a degree, a blog and a keen interest in secondhand book shopping. I also like to read books I pick up at secondhand bookstores. In fact, reading is my favourite pastime and is like oxygen to me. I love nothing more than bumming around the house in pyjamas and no makeup for days on end preferably. I also like guys who like these things. I am a feminist.

And yes, I have volunteered at the RSPCA scooping up poop for hours on end because I like animals and try to lend a helping hand to charities where I can. I enjoy cleaning, can’t stand listening to private school kids on public transport, and hate people who are entitled and who haven’t had to work for everything they have. I don’t really like shopping and if I’ve committed to more than two social outings per week, I start to get anxious.

I could go on forever about the many ways people prejudge me, and the many ways in which I let them because I don’t like letting people too close.

But the largest stereotype I break is that I’m an educated, girly girl (on the surface) who just happens to be a fan of wrestling. Those who’ve read The Early Bird Catches the Worm for an extended amount of time will know that I am partial to my wrestling; preferably World Wrestling Entertainment, but I will settle for TNA or some independent action. I have been to nine live events in Australia, met ten wrestlers, been within a metre of three others, and have scores of old school VHS tapes under my bed.

 

What stereotypes do you break?

[MamaMia] What Stereotype Do You Break?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] So Misunderstood.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Famous, February 14, 2011 Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Clunes Back to Booktown.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Book Now, Bendigo.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Girls Night In.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] United States of Ameri-Canada.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Nine Lives.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

“The Fashion Industry’s Anorexia Problem.”

Gala Darling offers an interesting take on pageantry. It seems not all beauty queens are vapid glorified prom queens with “miles of hair extensions, industrial-sized cans of hairspray and gallons of butt glue”.

Do you have to be a mother to be empathetic?:

“The reason Queensland Premier Anna Bligh was able to handle the flood crisis with such competence [is because she is a mother], according to a fellow mum. How true, how true, clucked a host of TV talk show mums the next day, as the commentators all agree that Anna won the ‘image’ war over Julia in the aftermath. Then of course she would—only a mother can cry with conviction for lives lost.”

90210: “The Sexist Postcode”?:

“So 90210 was an important early building block of enlightened sexism because it insisted that the true, gratifying pleasures for girls, and their real source of power, came from consumerism, girliness, and the approval of guys…”

My friend Anthony and I were discussing the benefits of cheap Coles milk when we paused and though, what exactly does cheap milk mean for farmers and why all the fuss? Rick Morton of MamaMia is here to answer our questions.

Also at MamaMia, the defence force sex scandal.

Speaking of, MamaMia’s 3.0 launch is the only blog redesign I’ve liked in recent months (Jezebel, I’m looking at you).

“Wait? What? This is where it gets interesting for me as a sex positive parent. My son just went from wishing he was sexy to shaming a girl for being just that? I rolled up my sleeves and got ready to do some unpacking.” The unpacking the primary school backpack on “Slut-Shaming on the Playground”.

This is just plain wrong: “The 15 Most Inappropriate Baby Outfits”.

The cigarette packaging reform.

Michael Cole, WWE announcer, tweets a gay slur. GLAAD faux pas or staying in character?

Are disability jokes really that bad? Or are we all just going PC crazy? (Just ask Laura Money and Kieran Eaton at their Unfinished Business stand-up show for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.)

The meaning of Sucker Punch according to io9:

“1. Insane people and sex workers are interchangeable.

“2. Women can only triumph over adversity in their dreams.

“3. Action movies spring from the imaginations of enslaved, mentally unstable prostitutes.”

“Do You Know What a Normal Female Body Looks Like Anymore?”

Francine Pascal as feminist literature pioneer?:

“In the beginning, that wasn’t enough for many booksellers, who deemed Sweet Valley too ‘commercial’ for their readers. The Times snubbed the series; librarians fought to keep their stacks free of the ‘skimpy-looking paperbacks,’ as one library journal put it. It was Pascal’s fans who defended her: buying a dizzying 250 million copies before the series published its 152nd and final title, in 2003. The series even became a case study in how to get young girls to read. ‘Sweet Valley changed the dynamics of the industry,’ says Barbara Marcus, who, as former president of Scholastic’s children’s business, published The Babysitter’s Club, Goosebumps, and Harry Potter. Sweet Valley spawned seven spinoff series, a TV show, a board game, and dolls. Not until Twilight came along have girl fans been so loyal.”

In this vintage post from the time of Jersey Shore’s debut, Irin Carmon discusses the cast’s views “On Beauty & Not Even Looking Italian”. Quite interesting, actually.

It’s time to go, Betty Draper.

Forget menopause; say hello to “manopause”.

First the video music world, now the movie world: Rebecca Black’s film debut in “Sunday Comes Afterwards”.

Porn WikiLeaks: damaging the reputation and safety of porn performers by publishing addresses, personal documents and hateful HIV diatribes (SFW).

The ugly step sister?

Images via Jezebel.

Event: Reality Star, Author… Wrestler? Snooki at WrestleMania XXVII.

Every year a token C-list celebrity is brought in to liven up the place and promote World Wrestling Entertainment to a wider audience. Somehow I think Jersey Shore’s target audience might already be WWE watchers… Just a thought!

But Snooki was actually very athletic, and ended up winning the match for her team, including legendary Diva Trish Stratus and John Morrison, against Michelle McCool, Layla and Dolph Ziggler.

In other wrestling meets reality news, Jenni “JWoww” Farley in apparently training to be a wrestler on WWE’s rival brand, TNA, on which Jersey Shore reject, Angelina, has already appeared!

Images via WWE.com.

On the Net: Nine Lives.

Tavi Gevinson wished she was a cat, so she could have nine lives to fulfill all her dreams:

“I would have a life to fulfill my fashion dreams, one to fulfill my acting dreams, one for guitar, one for writing, one for movie directing, one for photography, one for fine arts, one for a normal life, and one for teaching…

“Also I could poop in a box.”

Lately I’ve felt like I’m barely existing (and this could be attributed to Mercury being in retrograde), let alone fulfilling the copious amount of dreams I have.

I remember at the end of my first year of uni I wrote a list of all my dream jobs, in case writing didn’t work out for me. I’d been exposed to so many new things during that first year that I was somewhat questioning my decision to be a writer. So, instead of facing my future, I pondered the unreality…

Wedding Planner.

Being a wedding planner would combine my love of aesthetics, organisation, bossing people around, flowers, location-scouting and weddings in general. Matthew McConaughey is just a bonus.

Wrestler.

I’ve loved professional wrestling for ten years now. I never desired to be a pumped-up, over-inflated ring decoration until World Wrestling Entertainment starting doing their annual Tribute to the Troops Christmas show in war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq, and I saw the dedication and emotion that goes into the mission, by both the troops and the WWE Superstars.

I still have no desire to be a pumped-up, over-inflated ring decoration; I would much rather be an actual professionally-trained, fight to the death pinfall/submission, respected female wrestler. Except for the fact that I have asthma, am not flexible, and get hurt too easily!

Historian.

After reading over-hyped works of fiction like The Da Vinci Code and The Historian, I thought being an historian wouldn’t be so bad. You get to fight vampires and unearth “the greatest cover-up in human history”. Or I could just be a character in a Stephenie Meyer work!

Big Cat Trainer.

Tavi wanted to be a cat, I wanted to train them. Not your everyday domestic housecats either.

Mia Freedman.

Okay, so I can’t actually be Mia Freedman, but I can continue in my unadulterated admiration for her. In all seriousness, her current career as blogger, author and media commentator is highly coveted, in my opinion.

Australian Idol Contestant. (I guess that would be X Factor contestant now…)

So this isn’t really a “job” per se, and I don’t really have the skills for it, ie. a voice. However, I do have a mental catalogue of the songs I would sing if I did have said skills. “Need You Tonight” by INXS, anyone…?

Magazine Editor.

When I was still interested in working in magazines in Sydney, I thought being the editor of Cosmo was definitely in my stars. Fast-forward a few years: not so much. A lot of the magazines I envisioned myself working for have gone so far downhill that I think the blogosphere and freelancing are where it’s at.

Small Business Owner.

As recently as last year I wanted to have my own small business within the next couple of years. That’s not my focus anymore, but I do see myself owning some kind of business in the future. All that’s left now is to decide what line of business that might be. It’s a Romy & Michele conundrum.

Stylist.

I would die to be a Rachel Zoe wannabe, but from what little exposure to the fashion world I have had, I’ve drawn the conclusion that it is far too pretentious for me. As Whitney Port said, “They’re just clothes.”

Okay, so some of those are more within reach than others, and some aren’t actually all that impossible. It would be awesome to be something like a big cat trainer or a wedding planner, but in all honesty, I think of myself as a go-getter-type person, and if I really wanted to be an editor or an historian, I would be fighting tooth and nail (hey, maybe I wouldn’t make such a bad wrestler after all!) to be, instead of working away on this here blog.

[The Style Rookie] Dreams.

[Gala Darling] How To Survive Mercury in Retrograde.

Images via YouTube, All Movie Photo, Amazelabs, The Business Bakery, Purseblog.

Book Review: Countdown to Lockdown—A Hardcore Journal by Mick Foley.

Midway through Countdown to Lockdown, wrestler Mick Foley’s fourth memoir and ninth published work, the author says that “June 24, 2007, had been a disaster, probably one of the worst days of my year, possibly even my life” (p. 215). And that was before he’d heard the news that colleague Chris Benoit and his family had been murdered.

Of course, it was later revealed that Benoit had committed a double murder-suicide, murdering his wife and son in their home. Foley uses the tragedy as a cautionary tale to others in the business, warning of the affects of not only drugs, but the lonely business professional wrestling can be if you aren’t one of the lucky few to be on top of it.

Aside from the small portion of the book that deals with Benoit, death, drugs and Foley’s unhappiness with his final stint as an announcer in World Wrestling Entertainment in 2008 (which you can find some funny anecdotes about on pages 143–144), the rest is a riot, as are all of Foley’s efforts.

I’m going to relay some choice (re: hilarious) excerpts to really illustrate how talented Foley is:

  • “I think it might have been Al Snow’s fault. For looking so darn good. No, that’s not a misprint… Al looked really good. No, not his ring work, which continued to be sloppy and juvenile. Not his facial features, either, which strike me as ‘Village People cop meets generations of inbreeding’…” (p. 5, in relation to Foley’s “multiple disk herniations” on page 20).
  • “This was where testicular fortitude came in—and brother, if there is any one word that accurately describes my testicles, it is fortuitous” (p. 10).
  • “We’d taped some cool commercials for the book, centred around an unsubstantiated rumour that I was something of a name-dropper—a charge I’m pretty sure CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, who has interviewed me twice, would refute” (p. 11). Sounds a bit like another name-dropper I know love.
  • Foley has some wisdom for keeping your underwear on during a massage on page 14.
  • “I felt like such a phony, like a beauty contestant claiming natural Cs when the slightest feel, the most tender touch, the simplest tweak would have exposed the perfect, impossibly rounded, gravity-defying truth. This talk with Wolfie [Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank] seemed to be tweaking a nipple of its own: the nipple of my conscience” (p. 116).
  • “… I’d been accused of being a lot of things over the years, but a ‘college professor’ was a new one” (p. 148).
  • “‘… steel cage, ladders, tables, chairs, barbed wire, bats… lions and tigers and bears, oh my… it doesn’t really matter to me…’ I love, just love that lines from 1939 children’s movie are being used to promote pro-wrestling matches over seventy years after its filming” (p. 272).
  • “… Like every ounce of joy had been wrung out of life’s hand towel… “Life’s hand towel”? Pretty weak” (p. 290).

The bits about Foley’s kids are the funniest in the whole book:

  • “Like most dads, I’ve had my ups and downs when it comes to relating to my teenage kids. Well, not really Noelle, who’s like a straight-A angel, one of the least problematic kids around. See, witnessing those eleven unprotected chair shots from The Rock back in 1999 wasn’t so traumatic after all” (p. 81).
  • “Her on-camera look of surprise, disgust, and humiliation when Dad handed her a twenty to go clothes shopping was a thing of beauty” (p. 91).
  • Page 91–92 also deals with the time Foley, his wife and two young boys were watching Rocky and Foley decided to play a prank on the kids by leaving a message on the family’s answering machine as Rocky Balboa. The terror in the children that ensues is hilarious!
  • Wrestling My Family [the Foley family’s ill-fated reality TV show that never got picked up] seemingly had everything going for it. Humour. Warmth. A wrestling comeback match. That threat of paralysis…” (p. 95).
  • Wrestling My Family also had an irresistible vampire breakfast angle going on, in which former ECW star Ariel (you guessed it, her gimmick was a vampire) would come over for breakfast with the two youngest members of the Foley clan (p. 97).
  • “I looked at my children in the rearview mirror. Dewey and Noelle in the third row, listening to their iPods. Like most teenagers they found the thought of travelling forty minutes without some kind of personal entertainment device to be unthinkable. Mickey and Hughie were sound asleep in the second row—their childhood innocence shattered forever by the image of their dad in a black warm-up suit doing battle with the Coach [Jonathan Coachman]. Forget about those eleven chair shots at the ’99 [Royal] Rumble my older kids witnessed—this was real childhood trauma… That image if all my children together at the match for the first time was one I could live with gladly for the rest of my life… The Coach? A leprechaun? My own son booing me? Absolutely perfect” (p. 136–137).

Countdown to Lockdown is very much all about family, as are all of Foley’s books in some way or another. Another strong emblem of the memoir is Tori Amos. Odd, I know, but hear him out.

Foley was touched by “Winter” by Tori Amos, and it helped him get through one of his most brutal matches in Japan, in which he lost an ear via barbed wire hanging:

“And then there’s Mick Foley, who took the most beautiful song ever written and turned it into his own twisted ode to suffering and woe…” (p. 72).

Readers of Slate, Jezebel or this here blog from time to time will know that Mick Foley has been named man of the year by the Good Men Project, is a volunteer for Amos’ charity, RAINN and labels himself a feminist, amongst many other good deeds he’s used his wrestling career for.

I can’t recommend this—nor any of Foley’s books—enough. It’s got the perfect combination of violence and morbidity, family and fun, humour and intelligence, and empathy and charity.

[Slate] The Wrestler & the Cornflake Girl.

[Jezebel] Wrestling Star Mick Foley Blows Our Collective Mind.

[The Good Men Project] Top 10 Good Men of 2010: Mick Foley.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Ten Books I Wanted to Read This Year But Didn’t.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Loving… Mick Foley.

 [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Book Review: Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

After my Mick Foley rant last week, I’ve started reading his blog, Countdown to Lockdown, and I’m loving it. Here are some choice articles:

Remembering female pro-wrestling pioneer, Luna Vachon, who passed away on August 27 this year.

“That Time I Met… Tina Fey… and Alec Baldwin!”

“That Time I Met… President William Jefferson Clinton!” (I really love this one; some heart-warming stuff.)

“Mick’s Favourite Things: Top Ten Matches”, three of whichCactus Jack VS. Randy Orton at Backlash 2004 (above), Mankind VS. The Undertaker in Hell in a Cell in June, 1998, and Mick Foley VS. Edge in a Hardcore Match at WrestleMania XXII (that’s WrestleMania 22 in 2006 for you wrestling laymen)I 100% agree with.

In defence of Buffy’s whining.

“To the Teenage Boy in Your Life”:

“An important thing to remember is that girls are not from a different planet, nor are they even a different species. They’re just people, they’re just like boys, except with vulvas instead of penises.

“Mainly you need to remember this when you’re trying to figure out what a girl is thinking. See, if you didn’t know what a BOY was thinking, how would you go about finding out? You might ask him, right? The same goes for girls.”

I’m a bit behind the eight-ball on this one, as No Make-Up Week was a month ago, but Alle Malice’s guest post on Rabbit Write goes over the reasons “Why We Wear Make-Up”. I especially like this one:

“It makes me look good in photos. Almost everything we do now is documented by someone and posted in Facebook albums for the world to see, because if you aren’t having fun on Facebook, you aren’t really having fun. And if you aren’t pretty on the internet, you aren’t pretty in real life. Enter makeup.”

Nick Sylvester, on Riff City, discusses “How Kanye West’s Online Triumphs Have Eclipsed Kanye West”:

“Maybe there are people working with him… but I get the sense that Kanye is generating the [sic] lot of these ideas. I imagine he likes being in control of every aspect of the production, the medium being the message and so on. Online he is a wise fool, first playing into people’s perceptions of ‘Kanye West’, then off those very perceptions, sending himself up, pulling back his own veil… Despite many attempts, Kanye West is incapable of being parodied, largely because Kanye West has already figured out a way to be a parody of Kanye West.”

Much like Megan Fox in this New York Times Magazine article. Could I even go as far as to say that blonde bombshell Pamela Anderson has employed this strategy? I believe I could. And for that matter, Lindsay Lohan sending herself up on Funny or Die and promos for the MTV VMAs are along the same lines.

Sylvester goes on to say that “artists like Kanye West have to be ‘good at Twitter’ in order to put a dent in the zeitgeist.”

Furthermore,

“‘Nowadays rappers, they like bloggers,’ is what Swizz Beatz says… Slowly the work itself becomes secondary, less ambitious; slowly people becomes ‘really proud of their tweets’.”

Is it “The End of Men”?

Disney’s latest offering, Tangled, based on the story of Rapunzel, takes us back to a time when the Disney Princess reigned supreme, according to io9.

Feminist Themes examines Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” clip:

“… the objectification, glamorising of lesbian fetishism, and excessive girl-on-girl violence… [are aspects of the video that] feminist Gaga fans can try to justify… as another example of how she subversively turns what we usually find hot into something that leaves a nasty taste in our mouths and therefore makes a statement, but if any other artist (particularly any male artist) incorporated this much objectification and violence against women we would be outraged. Is it any different just because it’s a woman, or because it’s specifically Gaga?

“… What sets Gaga apart from other sexpot pop stars for me is that I just can’t imagine men being honestly turned on by hernot because she isn’t gorgeous (she is), but because she is so avant-garde, aggressive and self-driven which takes that arousal and turns it into something atypical, uncomfortable, and threatening.”

Also at Feminist Themes, the cause of the she-blogger in “Why I Blog”.

In other Gaga news, The Cavalier Daily reports that the University of Virginia is now running Lady Gaga classes! This sooo makes me want to re-enrol in university in a post-grad, transfer to UV, and take this kick-ass class!

The Daily Beast puts forth two differing opinions on Glee’s stereotypes: Andy Dehnart discusses the show’s “Harmful Simplicity”, while Thaddeus Russell applauds the walking stereotype that is Kurt Hummel, as “history tells us that those unafraid to be ‘too gay’ won far more freedomsfor all of usthan those who dressed the part of straights.”

Beautifully satiric The Frenemy reveals the recipe to “The Teen Romantic Comedy”, which “does not work for Mean Girls, 10 Things I Hate About You, or John Hughes films”, unfortunately. The truth about Disney Princes is also profiled, in which Eric from The Little Mermaid “wanted to kiss a girl who doesn’t speak words and doesn’t know how to use a fork. What the hell are you, caveman?”, while Mulan’s Captain Shang is in truth, a “gay liar” who made young, susceptible viewers the girls who have “crushes on a lot of her gay friends. [A] big Will & Grace fan.” Hey, that’s me!

Rachel Hills discusses intersectionality in feminism:

“For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, ‘intersectionality’ is a way of talking about power and privilege that recognises that recognises that these things operate on multiple axes. People aren’t just female, or Black, or Asian, or straight, or working class, or trans, or a parent, or prone to depressioneveryone falls into a number of different categories that colours their experience of the world in specific ways. In the feminist context, it serves as a useful reminder that not all women have the same experiences, and calls into question the still dominant notion that the neutral ‘female’ experience is one that is white, heterosexual and middle-class.

“I’m also a fan because it just makes feminism a whole lot more interesting.”

Girl with a Satchel profiles Melissa Hoyer’s media career, which is a must-read for any budding wordsmith.

I am staunchly pro-choice when it comes to the abortion debate. In fact, I lean so far to the left that I’m borderline pro-abortion. (I’m sure that’ll ruffle some feathers!) But no matter what your feelings on the subject, MamaMia’s post, “The Couple Facing Jail Because They Tried To ‘Procure an Abortion’. Hello, Queensland? It’s 2010” is worth checking out.

Jezebel’s “5 Worst Mean (Little) Girls of All Time” includes Willy Wonka’s Veruca Salt and, from one of the most heart wrenching films of all time, A Little Princess, Lavinia, who looks a lot like modern-day mean girl, Angelina Pivarnick, from Jersey Shore.

“Why Strawberry Shortcake Was a Progressive Pioneer.”