On the -isms of Punkrockbigmouth IV: Cartoon Satire

Greetings friends! I have emerged from the abyss with the fourth in my series of posts about the art  of the fabulous Punkrockbigmouth. Check parts I, II, and III if you’re interested, and be sure to check out all of PRBM’s work on punkrockbigmouth.tumblr.com.

The term “cartoon satire” doesn’t structure quite right for an -ism, but let’s get over ourselves. Not all -isms can logistically take on the suffix, and I’m just making all this up anyway. This is the point on the spectrum of the work of PRBM when the art becomes political. Consider this portrait of Becky Lynch:

This is a lovely and subtle piece of cartoon satire, a beautiful action shot of Becky Lynch in her early steampunk gimmick. That’s right, I described it as an action shot, not a portrait, because this was the majority of action Becky was seeing during that era‚ mostly the sidelines. Sure, she was wrestling here and there, but mostly jobbing. In terms of storyline, she didn’t have much of one for a number of months. So here she is at ringside, leaning in like Sheryl Sandberg told women to do if they want to be successful, with all of her incredible poise and skill, and yet there is vulnerability in her eyes, perhaps because her booking is being neglected and she’s watching so many of her female colleagues careers stall out into total diva status (do recall, this was in the heyday of the two minute divas match era). She’s wondering if her career, up to that point as a prodigy, has finally hit its glass ceiling. And you know how I know this? From the title of the piece: A Cog in the Machine.

This is some biting satire when you let yourself see it. A legitimate political cartoon. Becky Lynch, who was the youngest woman to ever wrestle for elite NJPW, had at that time become a worker in the Fritz Lang’s Metropolis sort of steampunk sense. By which I mean:

I know I know, Metropolis is not really steampunk, but neither was Becky Lynch’s steampunk gimmick. It was a brand punctuated by steampunk accessories, nothing more than a cog in WWE’s carny-corporate machine. Of course, PRBM’s Becky Lynch piece captured the zeitgeist of September 2015, before the butterfly belt was retired and the women’s division gained substantial legitimacy. So take this as a historical reading of the dire state of affairs during a time not long ago, when there was very little hope for Becky before the arrival of the New Era. Take it also as a reminder of what could return lest some power shuffle sends women’s wrestling tumbling back to the dark ages.

Here’s another example of PRBM’s cartoon satire:

Look closely at the irony here to see why this is also an indictment of WWE’s concussed packaging of former indy darlings. As a wrestler on the independent circuit, Tyler Black boggled the cranium (literally) with his badassery. I mean, good god. Baddest assed entrance ever into a high school gym or whatever that is.

But as his Seth Rollins gimmick at WWE began to bloom, that badassery was branded and monetized. It became his catchphrase and T-shirt. Because nothing is more indicative of violence and rebellion than inserting a euphemism for “fucking” with a correctly punctuated dropped “g”:

The “Hello My Name Is” sticker in PRBM’s piece draws attention to the carny-corporate irony of the Seth Rollins branding. Seth Rollins has of course had a tremendous WWE run, but we cannot fail to notice how dangerous ass kicker Tyler Black image and aesthetic has been turned into a Hot Topic-friendly product. And Hot Topic (forgive me Ryan for I am about to reference MC Lars but I think it’s relevant here) is not at all punk rock.

Again, this is a cunning political cartoon. Because what is more political in wrestling than the inflated relevance of T-shirt sales? T-shirt sales in WWE usurp importance from the heroic acts of daring and brutality that made said T-shirts possible in the first place, the feedback loop between the art of the gimmick and the merchandise of its branding ultimately sanitizing wrestling’s spirit of rebellion.

The Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch satirical cartoons are actually sweet and endearing, as well they should be. These two deserve nothing but but the most loving treatment. But PRBM is also subtly lampooning the problems of WWE’s carny-corporate culture and the oft concussed commodification of its art form. She is wrestling’s great political cartoonist, capturing the beauty of the sport-art while framing the beauty in its broken ideology.

In my last post I accidentally teased with a picture that’s actually in the final post about PRBM’s referential absurdism, so I’ll share it again, because you’re so excited:

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