The film The Wrestler takes advantage of society’s deep-rooted assumptions of domesticity. It teases and plays with one’s heart until the very end when the master narrative is surprisingly overthrown. Through its cinematic realism and awareness of audience expectations of domesticity, The Wrestler creatively rejects this master narrative of domesticity with its unconventional conclusion.
The master narrative is a compelling force that dictates audiences’ expectations of stories. Ingrained into one from a young age, master narratives are steeped in Western culture. Audiences unwittingly accept the master narrative as how life ought to be. When reading a story or viewing a film, the master narrative can be so compelling that audiences sometimes cannot accept or are shocked by a narrative that diverts from it.
One such master narrative is society’s attitude toward domesticity. Preconceived notions of domesticity guide one through a story. This can easily be seen in contemporary literature and film. One expects the “boy meets girl” and “they lived happily ever after” stories. One hopes for the characters to fall in love, marry, and have 2.4 children (maybe 2.5 if they can afford it!), because that is how things should be. That is what will make the characters happy no matter what obstacles they encounter. Audiences tend to fall into the “Love Conquers All” trap by expecting this formulaic conclusion.
Admittedly, in a modern, multicultural society, the stereotypical domestic scene does not always apply. However, in stories in literature and film, this master narrative of the domestic is pervasive, spanning multiple genres. Portrayals of conventional forms of love and family are extensive in Disney films for example. Author and creative writing professor Dr. Naomi Wood analyzes domesticity in Walt Disney’s Cinderella in her article “Domesticating Dreams in Walt Disney’s Cinderella”. Wood observes that if Cinderella “plays her part”, no matter what obstacles come her way, she will be rewarded with domestic bliss, i.e. marrying her true love and starting a family (Wood). “Mirroring other aspects of American ideology, Disney’s Cinderella offers the quasi-religious reassurance that hard work, clean living, and adherence to the ideal will produce the desired result, in this case, appropriate to the American Dream for Girls: rich and handsome Mr. Right” (Wood). Wood stresses the emphasis that Disney movies place on the saving power of love and the domestic (Wood). “Also enlarging on the romantic aspect was the notion that ‘love’s first kiss’ should break all evil enchantments, so that Snow White is wakened by the kiss of a prince she already knows, as is Sleeping Beauty” (Wood). Audiences expect this formulaic happy conclusion.
The master narrative can be so strong that when a story diverts from this formula, audiences sometimes cannot accept or are shocked by a narrative that diverts from it. For example, Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” succeeds in...