December 5, 2009

Face/Heel Portrayals and their Contradiction to Societal Norms

As the title may lead you to believe, this is my most in-depth post ever. I will be talking about why faces and heels get cheered and booed for their actions, how WWE sets up situations for said reactions, and talk about societal norms and how they are contradicted by actions of superstars.

To start, let's look at the terminology. A "face" is the good guy. He is the hero of the fans, and is usually good looking. He is also the company's cash cow in most cases. A "heel" is the bad guy. He is despised by the fans, and want to see him get destroyed by the face.

On to the question at hand: Why do faces get cheered for their actions, and why do heels get booed? The simple answer is because the WWE makes us want to like the faces, and hate the heels. We show our love of, or disgust for, wrestlers with these reactions. This is where things start to get complicated. Why do we cheer a face when he destroys someone's car, in an act that would land anyone else in jail? Why do we boo heels when they walk away from a fight like the bigger man?

The answer to this is because once it is instilled in us that a man is a face, we will follow him religiously and think anything he does is cool. The reverse is true with heels. We despise everything they do because he's bad, and anything he does can't be good.

Faces also tell the fans what they want to hear, no matter how outrageous it may be, fans buy into it. Heels state the often ugly truth about either the fans themselves, other wrestlers, or wrestling in general, or other popular topics. We don't want to face reality, no matter how much we know it to be true.

For example, John Cena will rant and rave about how good he is, and how he's going to win and yadda yadda and so on. He'll then spout a catchphrase or two, and toss some piece of merchandise into the crowd. The fans love it, because they're told to.

CM Punk reaches a life of not drinking, smoking or doing drugs. Outside the ring, he would be a perfect role model. But in the ring, the fans loathe him. This goes back to WWE making us want to hate him, even though he has a good message.

In short, we will cheer for lies and boo the truth. We follow along like sheep with whatever the WWE happens to puke onto our screens 4 days a week.

I mentioned that WWE creates these situations, and they damn well do. Think about it: a face confronts a heel, BEGGING the heel to punch him. If the heel does what the face asked him to, he'd get booed for attacking a "helpless" man. Yet if he walks away like the more mature man would, he gets booed as a coward.

WWE throws the heels into these situations on purpose, because no matter what the heel does, the desired effect is achieved. At the end of the night, the heel gets booed and the face gets cheered. That's all WWE cares about. They manipulate their fans like puppets on a string, and the fans don't realize it.

The more intelligent of the fans will look past the face or heel label and see that a wrestler is good or bad based on other factors, such as how believable is their portrayal of a face or heel, or how well they do in matches (and I don't mean winning. Wrestling is scripted, even 8 year olds know that. Okay, the 8 year olds that aren't Cena fans. Okay, maybe 8 year olds don't know. But smart people do).

Societal norms teach us that destroying another man's car is wrong. They teach us that there are consequences for our actions. They also teach us that life is not fair, and whining and complaining won't change that. Yet why is it that fans cheered Kofi Kingston when he destroyed Randy Orton's brand new Car?

The fact is, some of us secretly have a desire to smash the belongings of assholes in our lives. Yet we can't do it without serious repercussions, or we are too damn pussy to do it. So when we see someone acting it out on TV, we cheer them on because we know that they are living out our fantasies.

When people booed CM Punk because he held an intervention on Smackdown, it was because they all knew he was right. It was a truth that the fans did not want to face. They didn't want their vices exposed on national television by someone like Punk.

We get told that someone is good or bad, then we look for reasons to prove it one way or the other. Even though we're shown something that is normally bad, we'll say it's good because it was done by someone we like, and vice versa for bad guys.

This obviously has it's limitations, but it's proven 4 nights a week by WWE that it holds true for the most part.

Feel free to send me your thoughts on the issue. Shoot an email to and we'll be sure to post your opinions.

Peace out,


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