Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tickled: WTF? Plus the gayness of wrestling

 I used to wrestle in high school, a little. I sucked at most sports - and in fact lost out the one fight in the one inter-school wrestling tournament I attended, to someone stronger and more aggressive than me, because wrestling a total stranger was too disconcerting (and because he was a better wrestler, of course). But among my classmates, among people I knew and had relationships with, I felt comfortable letting my aggression out, and it was really, really fun to try and pin them, or to refuse to be pinned myself. These guys could kick my ass in soccer, kick my ass in football, kick my ass in any ball sport, where for most of my years in high school I was reconciled to being the guy who got picked last (or second last) to be on the team - a regular humiliating ritual that I bet some idiot thought would motivate unfit kids to get stronger, but in fact just sent the message to us that we were unwanted and unworthy (I wonder if they still do that in high school?). But get me on the wrestling mat and something happened. Part of it was the release of aggression, part of it was being able to use my size to my advantage, and part of it was being able to show these guys that I wasn't such a wimp after all - but - I remember thinking this while ON the mat, my mouth pressed into some dude's armpit as we rolled about - part of it also may have been sublimated sexuality. It was very, very physical - flesh to flesh, grunting, straining, bodies twined around each other, pushing into each other, working...  Since I retained my virginity well into my 20's, this was as close to sex as I got. No doubt a lot of the guys on the team were in the same position. So maybe there was something just a little bit gay about wrestling? Just a little...?
Tickled, opening this week at the Vancity Theatre - website and trailer here - deals with a New Zealand journalist, who happens to be gay, who enters a very strange, dark, and initially hilarious-seeming rabbithole when he begins investigating the world of Competitive Endurance Tickling. The trailer has a very, very funny line in it, where - shocked at the rather homophobic-seeming response to his query to the organization behind the sport - he quips (over images of muscular young men being tickled) that he finds their reaction funny, because there's something quite gay about the whole idea. I've seen the trailer twice now, going to Brian De Palma films at the Vancity Theatre, and both times, the trailer itself has drawn laughs at this moment; but it also promises entry into a very dark and disturbing world, where fit young men are drawn into this odd new sport and then - or so it is said - are strongly discouraged to leave (one of the quotes from the press shown on screen says how no one is laughing by the time Tickled is over). The film looks like Michael-Moore-ish guerrilla journalism tactics were employed, looks like the tickling people were pretty hostile to being filmed; apparently there have been odd legal repercussions, too, people trying to stop the film from being shown.
Suddenly I'm fascinated, and must know more.  There are three more screenings at the Vancity. I must go to one. Even overheard some guys at Videomatica yesterday saying that there have apparently been incidents of "tickle people" showing up at theatres trying to disrupt screenings... Part of me wonders if there's an element of hoax in all this - I didn't believe the whole Catfish thing, for instance, thought that particular documentary was fake through and through - but I don't mind: I have to check this film out. 

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