The Burden of the Public Eye: A Performer’s Social Responsibility

Creative performance is my driving inspiration. As a professional luchador, I become a character through my performance: my very persona is created by the nuances and broader actions within the ring. Ave Rex then is the end product of that which I create: it is the individual words I choose and the consistency of my actions which give shape to my identity and breathe life into the performance. [1]

Such creativity, however, does not occur devoid of a context, and thus it is imperative that creativity corresponds to broader ideas and conversations. Attention to such themes is of the utmost importance within creative performance, which is the arena for the unconventional expression of ideas.

Given this, the performer then is always already subject to the broader public dialogue. This burden ought not to be taken lightly, for just outside of the scope of basic criticism (e.g., how well she performed as a performer proper, how well she played the role, and so on) sits the epistemological critique, which bears down with a series of hegemonic expectations of normativity.

For example if she is a female, her performance is constantly—whether subconsciously or not—being scrutinized by the audience of how she performs “female” as such: she is always being compared to the idea of femininity. In other words, her performance as female enters the dialogue about gender performance, and her performance in and of itself is her engagement in that dialogue.

This is the unique challenge of the performer: she must be cognizant of her surroundings at any given time. Such attentiveness must include not only the minute (e.g., the immediate audience, the city in which the event is taking place) but also the broader discussions in the social milieu, such as current events, or cultural normative conventions such as race, class, and gender. Such cognizance makes for a more resonant and thus more striking performance.

Further it is her responsibility as a performer to take seriously this burden, as her voice has already entered the dialogue simply by the fact that she performs in front of an audience—it is her very status as performer that inherently bears this responsibility. Given her status as a public figure, she ought to give voice to causes and concerns, whether personal or political—the two are seldom mutually exclusive.

For me, that is sometimes as simple as wearing an anti-deportation t-shirt to the ring. For others, this may include camp, or in some instances, an active refusal to adhere to gender normativity. Regardless as to what one does with said responsibility, it is an essential part of being a performer, and a duty that I seek to fulfill every time I enter the ring.

* * * * * *

It’s worth noting that this short essay was inspired by a cover letter I previously wrote.

[1] At the foundational level, my actions are meant to clearly dictate my affiliation—técnico or rudo—to the audience. But even these basic actions draw upon cultural conceptions of good, evil, fairness, and so on.

Cover image source: http://www.visordown.com/motorcycle-news-bizarre/bike-mounted-luchador-vs-mexican-riot-cops/18106.html

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