chapter  43
4 Pages

Semiotics: Lois Tyson

ByLOIS TYSON

Here’s a simplified summary of Barthes’ semiotic analysis of professional wrestling: He argues that professional wrestling (the brand of wrestling in which the contestants use pseudonyms like Gorgeous George or Haystacks Calhoun, dress in costume, and orchestrate the match in advance) can be viewed as a sign system. It can be interpreted as a language with a very specific purpose: to provide the audience with the cathartic satisfaction of watching justice triumph in a situation that (unlike life) makes it very clear who is good and who is evil. This purpose is revealed in the structural similarities of the matches, regardless of who the contestants are: for example, (1) each wrestler is a clear type (clean-cut All-American, mean-tempered slob, barbarous evildoer, and so on); (2) each match contains contestants who, by their type, their behavior during a particular match, or both, can be clearly identified as the “good guy” and the “bad guy”; and (3) each match ends with the triumph of goodness over evil.