In brief: I watch professional wrestling. It’s one of those interests that I keep mostly to myself, having lost the conviction to defend my ritual habit of consuming NXT, WWE, NJPW, and AJPW content. When the subject, (never brought up by me) is discussed at a party, the same exhausting repartee tends to take place, whereby the nonfan acknowledges the viewer with a cynical, somewhat condescending tone, reiterating some variation of “but isn’t it fake?” At which point, my skin crawls with goose bumps and my eyeballs make a full 360 rotation behind my skull as I sulk out of earshot of the conversation, so as not to get involved. Discussing this interest, particularly with those who consider it little more than a facsimile of a sport, can just be so taxing. Linking the interest with my passion for film, even doubly so. But I get it: there’s a culture, there’s a fanbase, there’s a stigma associated with professional wrestling that makes it primarily a blue-collar, fundamentally thoughtless mode of entertainment intended to satisfy a certain kind of, ahem, fringe type.
Stephen Merchant’s Fighting with My Family attempts to dislodge the stereotype by embracing it, deploying a rote sports narrative as if to propose that professional wrestling is just like any other sport. The result is an innocuous, WWE Studios-approved exercise, intended for generic uplift that sacrifices specifics for something safe and anodyne. Brief interludes suggest something more profound or simply strange (so few films, even about wrestling, really examine how elementally bizarre the sport can be), but these asides are just too infrequent to leave a notable impression.Read More