Where I come from, they don’t like Americans much. Think they’re so loud, so tasteless and so out of touch. – Joe Jackson
Just a few moments ago, I signed out of my e-mail account to be faced with the following headline on Yahoo’s home page: WWE Hall of Famer George “The Animal” Steele dies at 79. I am more than a little embarrassed to admit that I felt a twinge of sadness at reading those words. As a kid, I was never a fan of professional wrestling, mostly because even at that age, I couldn’t understand the entertainment value of watching a bunch of steroidal actors pretend to be fighting each other. But many of my friends (and even more perplexingly, their fathers) were die-hard fans of the make-believe sport so I often found myself watching this televised spectacle along with them. The one character in these poorly written wrestle-dramas that always caught my attention was a fat, hairy Neanderthal who went by the name George “The Animal” Steele. When his name was announced, he would come lumbering into the ring with intentionally gorilla-like movements, greet the audience with a flash of his green-painted tongue, and proceed to rip open the foam-filled turnbuckles with his teeth. After the bout, while being interviewed by Roddy Piper or Vince McMahon, “The Animal” would respond to questions by making guttural sounds or speaking in Tarzan-inspired monosyllables. I hope it is as redundant as I think it is to point out that all of this was so utterly ridiculous as to be nearly physically painful to watch. And that, I suppose, was the appeal.
Obviously, churning out entertainment tailored to the lowest common denominator is one of America’s cultural points of pride. We are so keen to absorb utter stupidity and crassness that we just elected one of the crudest jokes American pop-culture ever created to the presidency. That’s right, world: we don’t fuck around when it comes to celebrating all things trashy – we elevate the trashiest to the status of commander-in-chief. We are willing to risk the very continuation of the human race in order to enjoy our self-produced garbage. It’s THAT important.
So that is why I have to put my figurative tail between my legs and give a self-conscious shrug when I admit that I feel some nostalgic sadness at the passing of George “The Animal” Steele. But I ask for some sympathy and understanding, dear reader. Had I been born and raised in a culture that values art and thought-provoking entertainment, this post would never have been written. And maybe, just maybe…that tiny piece of me that finds someone like this: entertaining is what continues to make life fun.