The Unlikeliest Wrestlers

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I'm finishing up a piece right now on a couple of Indonesian pop groups from the 1960s and the global specter of "Beatlism." It feels quaint to revisit this past, its stories of paranoid regimes fearful of kids with long hair, leather ankle boots and a penchant for pop harmonies. But it's a reminder, too, that what is merely "counterculture" or novel in one nation might be "counterrevolutionary" or dangerously risque in another.

A similar kind of juxtaposition (albeit with radically lower stakes) powers Mamachas del Ring, a documentary about Bolivian "cholitas" trying to break into the male-dominated world of pro wrestling, only they insist on wearing their petticoats and bowler hats and drawing actual blood. There's a rare urgency to their self-invention and ringside mythologizing, and it's moving watching Carmen Rosa and her clique break from the local wrestling syndicate and build something on their own, by and for women--at times, the wrestling seems like the easy part. I watched it for the fourth or fifth time (full disclosure: it was made by a very good friend of mine, Betty M Park) and I always notice something new. And I always laugh. If you're in New York, it's screening this Thursday at the 92nd Street Y-Tribeca.

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Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. More

Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Bookforum, Slate, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe Ideas section and The Wire (for whom he writes a bi-monthly column). He is on the editorial board for the New Literary History of America.
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