Monthly Archives: October 2013

Wrestling, kayfabe, and only labels

Work, Identity, and Wreck-It Ralph

In 2012, Wreck-It Ralph joined The Incredibles[1] as an animated film that deals with those most adult of themes: vocation, work, and the meaning of life. Where The Incredibles deals with one’s choice of work and the freedom to use one’s gifts, Wreck-It Ralph deals with the complex relationships between image, identity, and vocation .

Wreck-It Ralph is a video game villain who spends his days destroying an apartment building that is then relentlessly rebuilt by the game’s hero, Fix-It Felix Jr. Ralph feels trapped in his role and longs for something more. In the brilliant opening scene, Ralph attends a meeting of Bad-Anon, a support group for video game bad guys. Attempting to help Ralph see himself in a better light, a zombie tells him, “Good, bad — only labels.”

Work Identity and Self Identity

This might sound like a position of moral relativism, but none of these “villains” are truly bad in a moral sense. They’re entertainers, playing a role given to them by the game designers. Being a “bad guy” is best understood as part of the video game kayfabe. Kayfabe is the depiction of staged story lines of professional wrestling, in which some wrestlers are “good” (“faces,” as in “babyfaces”) and some are “bad” (“heels”). They are all actors, not actual heroes or villains. In the ring, two wrestlers may act like die-hard enemies. In reality, they are coworkers in the same wrestling company, perhaps even good friends. Their wrestling personas have been assigned to them by their manager, all as part of the entertainment. Continue reading Work, Identity, and Wreck-It Ralph

Good is not enough

Feelings of Inadequacy

Last week, instead of publishing a post about feeling inadequate, I missed my self-imposed weekly deadline. How’s that for timely?

The week before, I heard Dick Gordon, on NPR’s The Story, interview a woman who had worked for many years at a chicken processing plant. Her job was putting stickers on chicken wings to mark their quality – A-grade, B-grade, or X for discards. The chicken wings came by on a conveyor belt, and she put stickers on them.

“That sounds like an easy job,” Gordon said, just as I was thinking the exact same thing. The woman laughed and described the conditions in more detail. She was required to tag 25 wings per minute — about 2 seconds per wing. The conveyor belt never stopped moving during her shift, and her shift might last 7 to 8 hours — maybe longer if the plant had more chickens to process. What I had thought sounded like an easy job, now sounded brutal in its difficulty.

If a job sounds easy, it’s probably because you either don’t know enough about it or don’t care enough to do it well.

Called by God…and Not Good Enough

Several years ago, Darrell Johnson spoke at Regent College on the subject of calling. He had just concluded a study of every person recorded in the Bible as having received a call from God to perform some task. He wanted to discover what they had in common, whether there were any patterns to their calls that he could learn from. As you might expect, they had several things in common, but the first surprised me: they all felt inadaquate. Continue reading Feelings of Inadequacy