Rourke wrestles again

In what’s either a brilliant bit of marketing for an art house film or just another chapter in an increasingly bizarre Hollywood story (or maybe both), actor Mickey Rourke appeared at Wrestlemania last weekend, sparring briefly with pro wrestler Chris Jericho. Rourke’s appearance had been rumoured as early as January, although it was fervently denied by everyone involved — one theory held that the actor had pulled out for fear that such a stunt would hurt his chances at picking up the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler. He didn’t win anyway — shame on you, Oscars — but now that he’s actually stepped into the ring, it’s worth wondering why he’d be worried.

No doubt about it, wrestling is widely looked down upon. The silly costumes, soap-opera scenarios and cheap titillation all scream low culture, and even though everyone involved is well aware of the theatricality, wrestling fanatics are generally stereotyped as, well, dumb.

Still, everyone has their pop culture vices. Some people use the term “guilty pleasure,” but that guilt is unnecessary — there probably isn’t a person alive who hasn’t laughed at a good old-fashioned dick and fart joke at some point in their life. Even Shakespeare laced his plays with bawdy humour, and there are artists in almost all mediums who’ve spent the last several decades trying to eliminate distinctions between high and low art. Really, is Rourke stepping into the ring that much less dignified than him appearing in an Iron Man sequel, as he’ll reportedly do next year? Both are flashy, violent and full of grown-ups in silly costumes, but no one would ever wonder if Iron Man 2 would kill an actor’s chances of being taken seriously.

It’s hard to say whether Rourke’s appearance was a lark, a bit of self-promotion or an orchestrated move to promote a low-budget critical darling, but it’s equally hard to see where the harm is. After all, despite its subject matter, The Wrestler isn’t exactly the kind of film that’d be on the stereotypical wrestling fan’s radar. Exposing a top-notch movie to a wider audience while indulging in a little bit of crass fun — sounds like a win-win to me.

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