Kayfabe New World
A LARPing Apocalypse?
Kayfabe is the word used to describe the phenomenon of the suspension of disbelief for professional wrestling and the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being “real” and not staged. For decades, the WWE has created scripted television entertainment. During the 1980s, when I was a teenager, the WWE (WWF at the time) almost never broke the fourth wall, and some of my high school friends and some of their uncles would watch it religiously. And, some of that group, would swear that it was real. Especially, the uncles.
On May 13, 2000, Survivor premiered on CBS, introducing reality television to the mainstream world. It spawned an entirely new genre, which is brilliant from a business perspective. Instead of the need for expensive writers, directors, actors, and carefully planned and crafted scenes, the entertainment industry could recruit young aspiring actors and fameseekers to generate drama in front of the lens, then edit it into a storyline that would sell.
Social media has democratized Kayfabe. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok have empowered a new generation to convincingly portray staged personas. Influencers communicate directly with their audiences, some making a living from it, some making millions from it. Big Tech removed barriers for broadcasting to the world and democratized fame (and infamy.) The Kayfabe genie was let out of the bottle, and they don’t know how to put it back in, as much as they might try.
We now live in the Age of the Celebrity, a Kayfabe New World.