|Wolfram J. Paulovich
From: Fat City, Baby
Since last post: 2638 days
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THE OBTUSE ANGLE
Orton III: Revenge of the (f)email
January 13, 2004
by Jeb Tennyson Lund
"There can be no kernel in this light nut; the soul of this man is his clothes."
All's Well That Ends Well
"God mend your voices."
As You Like It
I generally don't like dipping into the mailbag for subject matter, especially since my email tends to skew wildly from praise to lunatic abuse, with little in between. But every now and again a column seems to set a healthy number of people off. Whether the people themselves are healthy, I'm not sure. For some reason, my columns Randy Orton: Sickening Mutant Bastard and Randy and Me have produced a steady stream of angry response.
I don't gather statistics about the emails I get; basically I know that the majority of responses are positive. This is because most people who don't like something I write realize that writing me is a waste of time, since they already know my opinion on the subject. Most understand that four sentences of "You're wrong!" aren't going to change my mind on a subject I thought about long enough to produce six or more pages explaining my attitude regarding it. As such, most people write in to say, "Thanks for making me chuckle," or, "thanks for exploring something that I hadn't read before." And thank you, to all who have done so.
So it came as a surprise when the response to my first Randy Orton column was overwhelmingly negative. I wound up deleting most of those emails: after all, why write back and prolong the fight with these people? Even in the best of circumstances, we weren't going to agree.
Then, after my second Orton-related column came out, the responses were again overwhelmingly negative. This time, however, I was a little more curious about the negative phenomenon. I took note of the names, addresses and general tone of each person who wrote me. In the process, I discovered a critical similarity.
Of the over 25 negative responses, only one was not written by a woman. Of the positive responses, all were written by men. (The only response in an ambivalent category came from a guy warning me that if I were really a therapist and thus bound by doctor-patient privilege I could get my ass sued off.) What, I asked myself, is going on with women and these columns?
I could have come up with all kinds of reasons, some sexist:
Women don't have a sense of humor;
Women are easily thrown by a red herring (in this case, a joke) and too consumed by righteous indignation to see the content following it (in this case, further analysis or explanatory comments);
or some positive:
Women may be more liable to enjoy the work of any male wrestler because they don't have to battle with an internal sexual stigma related to simply liking watching a guy, no matter what he's doing;
Women may be more fair-minded and non-judgmental and thus less apt to take delight in some faceless commentator ridiculing a human being.
Personally, I would vote for either of the latter two options, if I didn't know better from documentation. But, like John Ashcroft, I read my email. And what struck me was that every single negative email contained the same word: jealous. Even the one from the guy.
I had no choice but to try to discover what I was so jealous of and how I got that way. My search was ultimately fruitless. In desperation, I turned to the insights found in my email inbox, of which there were as many as three or more.
I Want to Be Randy Orton
From what the readers tell me, this is what happened. I was watching Raw one night, and I saw this young guy. I then said to myself,
I wish I could wrestle just like Him. I wish I could get on the mic and wow a crowd just like Him. And, boy, is He ever pretty! So pretty that I am but the shade cast from a tiny pebble, beneath the glorious blazing star that is He. Now I feel like a goth. My life is a dark pit of darkness in the darker-than-dark darkness. Woe betide all who, like me, cannot taste even a glimpse or smell even a sound of His mixed-metaphor glory! He is so perfect thatI know! I must get even with him. I must ruin him, for His flawlessness spites me. Yes... I will go to the internet, where I can reach tens of people at a time! "Vengeance is mine," saith the Unpaid Columnist. And I will turn them against Him, until eventually all beings realize that I am the worthiest in Creation; and verily I say unto all that I shall reign above Him, until John Milton boots my ass out of Paradise.
Consumed by my desire to be Randy, I had to fabricate many reasons for why he wasn't as good as I, thus validating my own existence. If he were brutally awful, I could go back to feeling okay about my own moderate awfulness.
When I wrote the column, I didn't realize that apparently, now, your negative attitudes about any aspect of life, living and other people are always your own fault. The thing about which you feel negatively is of an innate unassailable value, and you are just some nutjob for having a differing attitude. This is a spectacular idea, one that revolutionizes American history and everyday life.
For instance, did you know that:
All abolitionists were really just bummed that they didn't have the cash for their own slave?
All prohibitionists were just lightweights who wished they could do the equivalent of drinking like Marion from Raiders of the Lost Ark?
Everyone who hated Gigli wanted to direct it?
People who make fun of how fat Roseanne Barr is wish they were fat?
People mock stupidity because they secretly yearn to be stupid, too?
Vegetarians want to be bred for slaughter?
The conceit here is that I was jealous of Randy Orton, so I had to make up all these false reasons for why he sucked. At no point did I think that he blew too many spots, stumbled awfully on the mic and basically bored the hell out of me. No, I must have disliked Orton for emotional, deeply personal reasons, therefore I arbitrarily decided that he was in error. Never did it occur to anyone writing me that they had employed that same heuristic for deciding I was wrong: they liked Orton for personal reasons, therefore I was in error.
What has happened to public discourse when a group of people (who can read, and do so recreationally) decide that negative comments about someone they enjoy stem not from any possible insufficient aspects of that person but because someone else wishes to be that person? How is it that a denunciation of an idea or a man exists not because of the innate failures of the idea or man but because the critic himself perversely wants to be something else? Can nothing be wrong, can nothing just basically suck anymore?
If we follow the jealousy rationale to its inevitable conclusion, everyone who wrote in to piss on my columns wishes they could write like me. If any of those people thinks that's an asinine assessment, well, I refer them to the ideas presented in their own emails.
Randy Orton Is Sexy
Again, I might chalk up all this jealousy talk as the product of empathetic and understanding people trying to give Randy a fair shake while trying to get at the reason behind my own dislike. But, again, I read my own emails. And the only condition cited in them with as much frequency as "jealousy" was some variation on "Randy is so pretty."
"I think what you are is jealous because Randy Orton gets all the girls and you can't handle that."
"He is one of the greatest wrestlers to step foot in the ring and he is the best looking. You are probably just jealous of how... practically every girl who has ever looked at him adores him."
"Randy has the best figure of any guy in wwe and looks senstitive and strong and his entrance makes him look sexier than you'll ever be."
Of the comments I received, these are by far the most unique, most properly spelled and most devoid of the CAPS LOCK phenomenon we've all grown to know and loathe. But they do explain the "jealousy" conclusion rather well. From what I read, it's a foregone conclusion that Randy is sexy. (My wife, my female friends and OO Columnist Erin Anderson disagree. I think Erin's comment was that he looks like he spent his childhood walking face-first into doors. I'm probably wrong, though, since I recall Erin's comment was almost exquisitely brutal, and the "door" thing seems kind of tame.)
I realize now how the jealousy comments make perfect sense: I want to have sex as much as Randy does! And, according to the one guy who wrote to tell me that he hated the column, I also am "just jealous that [I] can't ever take Randy's big cock in [my] ass." (How did he know it was big? Or why would he imagine it was?) Oh, to deliver or receive the fecund abundant man-love that is Randy Orton in every waking moment!
This "Randy is pretty" argument along with the gender and comments of those who wrote to me would tend to support the rather inappropriate theory that the only people who like Randy are women and closeted self-hating homosexuals. But that's a rude joke that I don't believe in. Given the rudeness directed at me in the emails I received makes me not mind mentioning it, though.
On a more serious note, the almost ubiquitous comments about how Randy is sexy brilliantly contrast with the almost ubiquitous absence of any defense regarding any points I made.
Did anyone defend the proper execution, variety or psychological worth of his moves? No. In fact, no one mentioned a thing about his moveset, the crispness thereof, or the meaningful dramatic employment thereof. They just said he was "a great young wrestler."
Did anyone defend the quality of his mic work? No. Not one comment on his comfort while cutting promos, his originality, his ability to sell a match, a moment or a feud. They just said he was "a great young wrestler."
I will suggest that no one defended the former qualities because they are indefensible; and no one defended the latter because they are nonexistent. To explain this at length would be to repeat or reinforce my own previous column which doesn't seem necessary, since no one has yet to challenge it in any meaningful, arguable, non-arbitrary or non-teenage-crush-related way.
(Coincidentally, the bag of charcoal in my garage is "a great young wrestler." My criteria are just as valid. You propane-suckers are jealous of my charcoal if you say otherwise.)
All we need to know, I imagine, is that I wrote something because I was jealous. I was jealous because Randy is pretty. What I wrote was wrong because what I wrote contradicted the judgments of those who like Randy. Those who like Randy like him because according to what they said and what they didn't say he's pretty. Ergo, I'm wrong because Randy is pretty.
Fine, I'll play that logic game. On a related note, logic says that anyone who disagrees with me owns a spatula because Canada is north of Texas.
Finally, I'll ask this question: if fellow OO columnist Erin Anderson wrote that she thought the divas were a waste of time because their wrestling is subpar, their mic work is shoddy and they spend too much time on TV, do you think scores of men would write in to tell her she was jealous because she isn't as hot as they are? Would they tell her, "Get a boob job, and then it'll be worth it to hear what you have to say"?
If they did, do you think her statements would be less reasonable, less well-crafted or less worthy of consideration? Would you say Erin needed to look like a WWE diva to be able to say that they can't act, can't wrestle and can't cut effective promos?
I didn't think so.
Other Arguments/Comments at Best Parallel to Reality
There is nothing more satisfying about being a wrestling columnist than receiving a compliment from a reader. But running a close second is getting berated by someone on a basis that bears no relation to what you wrote. For example, having someone tell me that because I don't know Randy Orton in real life, my saying that "he still blows too many spots" is wrong.
One email in particular exemplifies this kind of completely irrelevant argumentation.
To Jed or whoever it may concern:
If you ask me, You sound pretty jealous of Randy Orton. What you wrote on Aug 15th is completely untrue and very far from the true. Your words that you wrote of Mr Orton where completely out of peer hate. Let me ask you this. Have you ever met the MAN. Have you ever even watched him wrestle. He happens to be one of the best for a young wrestler. I must say I could't even finish your article it was so beyond stupid. Just because your a writer you think you have the right to completely demean someone that way. I hope there is someone out there who will write the same trash about you that you wrote about Randy Orton. Who is the greatest young wrestler the WWE has!
First, note that the initial comment is that I'm jealous. (She's on to something!) Why can't I ever get the email equivalent of former Attorney General John Mitchell saying, "Katie Graham's gonna get her tit caught in the big ringer.... We're gonna run a story on you"?
While you're near the top, also note the whole "getting my name wrong" thing. That feature is helpful in two ways:
1. I can ready myself to deal with someone who doesn't read very carefully (after all, she did have to click the "EMAIL JEB" link).
2. I can ready myself to deal with the shattering cruel blows sure to come from someone who deliberately got my name wrong. If it weren't for the fact that every stranger on the phone thinks my name is Jeff, John, Jed, Jim, Jan or Jet, I'd be devastated. Really. But what else do you expect from people who think that Randy Orton isn't the next Billy Gunn?
Okay, so let's get to the meat and potatoes of why I'm wrong. Sure, I wrote this thing out of "peer hate" which seems to contradict the notion that I'm not a wrestler or as sexy as Randy but let's ignore that. Here are the two main arguments:
1. Randy "happens to be one of the best for a young wrestler." (The best for what? A sparring partner? Food? An example of what not to be? Ballast? Gross nepotism? What?)
2. Randy Orton is "the greatest young wrestler the WWE has!" (But just a second ago, he was one of the best! He improves not only show-to-show, but sentence-to-sentence!)
The most important part of this email though, is the question, "Have you ever MET the man?" This interests me, because it's a common question in hate emails. Do I need to have shaken Randy's hand to notice when he blows a spot? If I'd played poker with him, would his heat-killing mic work be magically transformed into Henry V's speech at Agincourt? If he'd once wept on my shoulder while talking about his freshmen year of high school, would he suddenly have a larger moveset or better workrate than Charlie Haas? When you know Randy, deep down, is he a better all-around talent in Evolution than Ric Flair?
I think the more pertinent question is, have you ever met the man? I mean, really: if my deriding him is less substantial for my lack of acquaintance with him, surely another person celebrating him is equally less substantial for their not having him on speed dial. Hell, if I have to know the guy to tell you what's wrong with him, you'd better be on a first-name basis, too, to tell me how great he is. So let's toss that criterion out the window.
Finally we come to the most important question of all one that I have been asked countless times: "Have you ever even watched him wrestle?" This is a question I can only answer with another question: "Why do you think I wrote the fucking column?"
Non-Hatred for Randy Orton: the Truth About My Original Column
As more and more weeks pass, Randy is slowing turning into my personal Jesus. Not because I have some sick devotion to Depeche Mode, not because I'm a Christian, but because his fans drive me insane.
And I brought it upon myself. I did not then, nor do I now loathe Randy Orton. Read that sentence again. Yes, I'm not impressed with him, nor am I fond of him. But loathing, hatred or some personal agenda take too much effort, and they take too much away from the soul. Even if it were right, it still wouldn't be worth it.
But months ago I got so tired of reading the relentless "he's gonna be great" and "he has a lot of potential" comments from other columnists and all over message boards. For one thing, Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas both have a good look and a lot more in the technical-skill department. And both are just as awkward on the mic as Randy. But neither have the family name, and neither got The Push. What does potential have to do with them other than potential waste or misuse?
I was a little irked by the discussions, but I was actively provoked by the "Randy potential" groupthink that prevailed with few dissenting voices. It seemed as if everyone was so firmly sold on the idea of what Randy could be in two years' time that no one bothered questioning what he is now.
Columnists ashamed by their past savagings of Rocky Maivia tiptoed about Randy, terrified that their pissing on his essentially bland character and barely passable ring work would bite them in the ass if he ever metamorphosed into "The Rand." Hoping to see a larval version of The Rock, virtually everybody fell all over themselves extolling the benefits of the RNN Update segments without mentioning that almost any other decent-looking new talent would have been equally as good in them. All anyone would have needed was smarm and very little ring history like Randy.
(Now we have these "Support Randy Orton" presidential-campaign parody commercials. Jesus Christ. The only way you could get more overexposure is if you put a fat naked man in a darkroom and had him go crazy with a UV lamp. It's the RNN gimmick all over again. But now he has a belt, a stable and ten minutes every show. Why not give him his own helicopter and twelve eunuchs bearing tankards of vodka and Red Bull on a salver?)
To be blunt, the original column was meant to push every possible button. In every category in which Randy was given a compliment or just a free pass, I tried to say, "Now hang on a minute." It worked, at least in my tiny sphere of the internet.
Part of the problem is that it worked a little too well. Although I knew that there was a nugget of truth to some of my comments, I deliberately made many over-the-top claims. Partly, I wanted to imitate Somethingawful.com for just a paragraph or two. Partly, I wanted it to be so far to the opposite of the Randy-is-good spectrum that people would realize it was an extreme opinion, then try to reconcile the two extremes and come up with a fairer estimation of him.
Unfortunately, some people didn't see the inherent absurdity and deliberate falsehood of my claiming that Randy was guilty of telling lies to dogs, wearing white after Labor Day, designing the Cheap Tickets pop-up and being responsible for every part of World War II except those where the USA rocked. It's incredibly difficult to write anything analytical for people who take everything literally and have no sense of humor. Metaphor, just to name one tool, becomes absolutely impossible.
In spite of a few literalists, I still think the column worked. People questioned Randy a bit more. When you can support a wrestler after countering intelligent questioning about his talents, then your support is all the greater for the test, for the faith, for the rationale, etc. If I compelled one person to cease aping the consensus flattery of Randy, it is equally as positive as compelling one of his fans to praise him just as effectively in the face of a more comprehensive critique of his work. Either way, both people arrived at a more considered appraisal.
It's important to disagree about wrestlers and also to disagree about them in a variety of ways. Such is the stuff of good argument and good conversation. And any challenge to our entrenched loves and loathing offers us even the tiniest but also potentially the most fun chance to enjoy wrestling more, even in some way we didn't imagine.
I pushed people's buttons about Randy Orton to get them to wonder why they were saying what they were saying, or to get them to wonder why they were so incensed by what I said. I did it well enough that I chose to further infuriate people with the Randy and Me piece. To all those who took it literally, worried that I'd be sued, or asked me for more details, I'm sorry. It was fiction.
This verges on the most saccharine ending to any column I've ever written. Suffice it to say that the moral is: I'm glad when people agree with me and when they disagree with me. But it's more rewarding when they disagree with themselves. If anything, that means I wrote something persuasive enough that I unhoused someone's general belief.
I still dislike Randy Orton, but it's up to him to change my mind, not his fans. Contrary to what you might suspect, I hope he does. Being wrong makes you think, uncomfortably, about your own system of value and measure. In the case of Randy and the WWE, though, I doubt I'd mind. Nothing makes self-doubt go down easier than being entertained. In this vein, I wish Randy and, I suppose, myself the best.
And to all those who still feel the need to write to me, telling me that I am ugly, and want Randy, and want to be Randy, and my wife wants to be with Randy, you will receive my new form-letter response:
YOR RITE I WISH MY WIFE WULD STOP LOVING RANDY ORTON. SHE CANT STOP TALKING ABOUT HOW MUCH SEXXXYER HE IZ THEN ME AND THEN RUBBING HERSELF ON THE KNOB ON THE KITZCHEN COUNTER. EVRY GRRL LIKS HIM 2, SO I CANT EVEN PICK UP HOOKERS IN MY BIB OVERALLS N-E-MORE CUZ I DONT LOOK LIKE RANDY AND I CANT PAY AZ MUCH $$$$ AS HE WULD 2 DO THOSE THINGS 2 THEIR BUTTZ. I WISH I WUZ RANDY ORTON. ITS MY FALT HE DOZZNT KNOW MORE THAN 5 MOVES IN THE RING. I SHULLDNT HAVE TOLD THAT JIPSEE TO CURSE HIS TESTICLES (NOT LIKE STACY KEEBLER, LOL!!!!!!1). I M SOOO JELLUSS OF RAN-D. U R RITE. I SHULD BE RNDY ORTN. I WANT MAKE SEX TO HIM RITE NOW. THNX 4 RYTING 2 MEEEEEEEEE~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!!!!
Jeb Tennyson Lund has devoted his life to trying to switch from his unpaid non-job at OnlineOnslaught to an unpaid glorious non-job at 411Mania.com because he thinks that "Orange is sexy and 'the next Randy Orton.' " He would like to dedicate this column to Alexa.com and all of his special friends at the RandyOrton.net forums.