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Steve Marston

Trinity College
The Spectacle of Bodily Error: Gruesome-Injury Videos as Contemporary Grotesquerie
The Spectacle of Bodily Error: Gruesome-Injury Videos as Contemporary Grotesquerie
This paper addresses a prominent element in the contemporary sport mediascape: gruesome-injury videos. While always present within sport, and in some cases canonized (e.g., football player Joe Theismann’s career-ending leg break in 1985), recent shifts in sport media have facilitated an amplification of this spectacle. Game action is ever more likely to be captured on video, due to expanded broadcasting and the ubiquity of handheld devices. And through digital technologies, home “prosumers” (Andrews and Ritzer, 2018) are able to record, edit, and distribute these videos through social-media networks. Thus despite a centuries-long, rules-driven effort to minimize (if not eliminate) sport grotesquerie, spectators are able to selectively view those events. _x000D_
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As such, I address the gruesome-injury spectacle with intent to center the athletic body as a focal point of meanings production. (1) I will identify the particular elements common to a “viral,” widely spread sport-injury event. (2) I will historicize gruesome injuries within a long-standing fascination with bodily “freakery” and grotesquerie, considering the particular spectacle of an elite athletic body becoming grotesque for the audience. (3) I will situate these injuries, or “errors,” within the hyper-regulated, hyper-mediated landscape of 21st-century U.S. sports.