The sport has drama, showmanship, and gender equality as the film Fighting With My Family proves. Yet, because its working class, its marginalised, writes director Stephen Merchant
In 2014, after years of struggle, a working-class British woman, aged just 21, was awarded the highest honour her profession can bestow, live, in front of 20,000 people and a television audience of millions.
The Guardian didnt report it. In the days following, there were no laudatory profiles, no in-depth interviews, no op-eds about her stratospheric success in a male-dominated world.
Saraya-Jade Bevis, known professionally as Paige, is a World Wrestling Entertainment superstar. She began her career wrestling with her family in small venues across Norfolk, before climbing to the top of WWE, the billion-dollar US sports entertainment empire, to become the youngest ever Divas champion, the wrestling equivalent of heavyweight champion of the world.
I like to think Im culturally aware, but I had never heard of Paige. And I dont blame the Guardian, or the other broadsheets; they have no duty to report on any entertainer (professional wrestling is as much performance as sport). Nevertheless, it is interesting to compare the attention Paige received with that conferred on other British performers.
In the past 18 months, Claire Foy and Olivia Colman have deservedly won major awards for their brilliant portrayals of English queens. Both wins came with lengthy interviews and profile pieces in the quality newspapers, plus countless mentions on BBC TV and radio.
I have worked with both these actors and they deserve every plaudit and column inch that comes their way. But acting, like pro wrestling, is another branch of show business. Foy and Colman have been rightly celebrated for cracking the US and conquering Hollywood, so why not Paige, who cracked America and conquered WWE (the Hollywood of wrestling) three years earlier?
Over the years, Paige has featured in the Sun and other British tabloids, but the respectable middle-class media has largely ignored her. Why? Is it because Paige is a brash, blue-collar girl from East Anglia with heavy eye makeup and goth-rock stylings? Is it because wrestling is dismissed as frivolous, silly pantomiming for the great unwashed the same people who probably voted for Brexit? Is the reason you have never heard of her good old-fashioned snobbery?
I only found out about Paige three years ago, when I was contacted out of the blue by Dwayne The Rock Johnson. A former WWE superstar, Johnson was working in London in 2012 and one night in his hotel room happened to catch a Channel 4 documentary about Paige and her family. (I love picturing this scene. In my mind The Rock is chilling in a Travelodge, hes just finished the free shortbread and an episode of Grand Designs, and on comes this film )The Bevis family are flawed, rowdy and rough around the edges, but love one another deeply, and wrestling almost as much. Mum, dad, son and daughter all wrestle, and in 2010 the siblings got the chance to audition for WWE. It was a once-in-a-lifetime shot at making the family dream come true, but only Paige was signed; her brother, Zak, was left behind. What happened next almost tore the family apart.
Having come from a wrestling family, Johnson was riveted by Paiges story and later became tangentially involved in her career. Realising her story would make a great film, he reached out to me to write the script. (I suspect Johnson only has two Englishmen in his phone me and Jason Statham and he clearly realised that what I lacked in charisma and muscle definition, I made up for in typing speed.)Read More
Bird-spotters, twitchers, nature lovers, people spend years spying on wildlife in the hope of seeing, perhaps even capturing on camera, a rare and wondrous sight. A couple from Pennsylvania did just that, when they noticed a very unusual bird hanging out in their garden.
One side of the bird, a northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), had the spectacular scarlet plumage so iconic of the male, and the other half, the soft brown-green of the female, split down the middle.
“Never did we ever think we would see something like this in all the years we’ve been [bird] feeding,” Shirley Caldwell told National Geographic, after she and her husband Jeffrey spied the bird in their garden in Erie, Pennsylvania.
The bird popped up a few weeks ago, and she snapped the picture of it while it was chilling in a dawn redwood tree just 9 meters (30 feet) from their kitchen window.
So, is it really half-male, half-female? Yes. Although rare, bilateral gynandromorphism – where a species’ external appearance is split down the middle, half male, half female – has been seen in a variety of organisms, including birds, insects, and crustaceans.
In fact, it possibly occurs more often than thought, and we only notice it when it’s really obvious, like in a species that is sexually dimorphic, where there are differences in the appearance of adult males and females.
Sex determination in birds is basically the opposite of humans. Instead of the females having two copies of the same sex chromosome (XX) and the male having a copy of each (XY), in birds it’s the other way around. Birds’ chromosomes are Z and W, so the female has ZW and the male has ZZ. So males’ sperm only carries Z, while females produce eggs with either Z or W.
Gynandromorphy occurs differently in different species. In birds, it’s thought that it happens when an egg develops with two nuclei, one carrying a Z, the other a W. If it gets fertilized by two ZZ sperm, then the embryo will carry both ZW and ZZ cells.
Can gynandromorphic birds themselves breed? “So far as we know, yes,” Dr Alex Bond, senior curator in charge of birds at the Natural History Museum, told IFLScience. Although it may not be plain sailing. “If the gynandromorphy is complete, then birds will have one ovary and one testis. But all birds have just one urogenital opening – the cloaca. So externally they would look the same.”
However, “If the breeding involves sex-specific behaviors, like songs or courtship dances, though, these may be only partial or modified, meaning the bird won’t be as attractive to the partner it’s trying to woo.”
Back in 2014, researchers studied another bilateral gynandromorphic northern cardinal for over a month and observed that it never paired up, or sang. It’s possible its behavior, rather than its looks, confused other cardinals.
“Much like some hybrids exhibit behaviors from both species, gynandromorphs combine aspects of behavior from both sexes,” Dr Bond explained. “In some cases, they may sing like a male, but have the courtship dance of a female. Or the song and/or behavior may only be partial.”
So it may not be easy for this particular cardinal to find love, but Shirley remains positive, revealing it has been spotted a few times in the company of a male.
“We’re happy it’s not lonely,” she said. “Who knows, maybe we will be lucky enough to see a family in summer!”
[H/T: National Geographic]Read More