Wrestling with the Real
Politics, Journalism, History in ‚Frost/Nixon‘, and the Complex Realism of Kayfabe
Pages 11 - 31
In an unlikely interdisciplinary dialog, this paper uses professional wrestling’s concept of ‘kayfabe’ to discuss the ‘realism’ of two different symbolic practices, journalism and politics, as portrayed in the 2008 feature film Frost/Nixon. It argues that questions of realism, understood not as a mode or epoch but as a semiotic problem, constitute a focal point of contemporary discussions on the politics of representation, discussions that are led with particular urgency in journalism and in politics, and it reads Frost/Nixon as an artistic engagement with these debates. Dialoging this configuration with scholarship on wrestling then brings to the fore a distinct (and distinctly American) genealogy of negotiating and theorizing realism, it perspectivizes the realisms of journalism and of politics, respectively, and it throws into relief the film’s cultural work—its ability to offer a mass audience an intellectual toolkit by way of which the binarisms that underlie realist representation get destabilized in the very moment of being affirmed.