The Final Deletion is what happens when we know so much and understand so little. The match/skit/mini-movie – whatever it was – that aired on Impact Wrestling on Tuesday night was an epistemological cry for help: an absurdist piece of television that speaks to the ridiculous difficulties of living in a mass culture today. The fact that so many found the segment entertaining, funny or cathartic confirms that.
Absurdism is the frustrated exercise of those living in an evermore technological and interconnected world that has too much data in it to extract any real meaning.
When Matt Hardy’s wife Reby Sky asks him what gift he’ll give their son Maxel, Matt says, “My gift is too enormous to be confined to a material possession.” He goes on to explain his gift will be the deletion of his brother, Jeff Hardy.
This is a world where originally-material objects are conceived to be immaterial data: where the Hardy brothers’ sibilinghood is reduced to a brand, where WWE claims to have “over 200 different talent IP“, and a world therefore where finally people themselves can be reduced to information that can be owned and destroyed: intellectual property that can be bought, sold, won, lost and deleted.
— #BROKEN Matt Hardy (@MATTHARDYBRAND) July 6, 2016
Surrounded by colorful, childlike decorations for his son’s first birthday party, Matt looks into the camera with contrastingly absurd melodrama and declares: “These events must be documented.” The events have to be recorded with a camera and turned into a video file that can be broadcast on television and streamed on the internet. The deletion must be added to the world’s great heap of data to have any hope of meaning and legitimacy.
If the Hardy Boys had been born into an ancient culture, they probably never would have been before more than a few hundred people at once. To be seen by thousands or millions, to live among billions of people who can be contacted at any moment is a biological, psychological, sociological, historical and technological trauma that leaves culture, truth and life incomprehensible. Too often it’s difficult to perceive as real much beyond the front doors of our homes. A nondescript landscaper, Señor Benjamin, preparing a battlefield on the grounds of Matt’s home is a cathartic adjustment to unfathomable international wars. Violent conflicts are finally understandable when they take place strictly in the confines of a private residence.
The presentation’s use of drones; a taser; fireworks as an offensive weapon in a wrestling match; an old, “dilapidated boat” as protection from said fireworks are tokens of a world swallowed up by the unraveling of technology: the aspect of humanity that has propelled the mass culture that’s being treated in these scenes. The Final Deletion’s comedy is in trying to reconcile the modern technological world with a smaller, more individual one we are more biologically equipped to manage.
When the referee shows up at his home, Matt seriously inquires, “Are you a licensed official?” It’s important for him to ensure this is a bonafide referee. Matt needs to be sure he can create a document that is legitimate.
The humor found in Matt’s performance isn’t about silly randomness; it’s in what the audience is able to recognize about the character.
Matt is the absurd one who sincerely and foolishly tries to concoct a meaningful world with an ethos he ardently believes in. In this he has extravagantly bad manners, violating the real modern ethos: that it’s okay to have beliefs, as long as one doesn’t believe in them too much. He refers overbearingly to the “Seven Deities”. He’s completely oblivious, giving the audience the joyful opportunity to feel wise. The audience gets to identify his error, which is why his character is so well-received and taken with such humor. And any mystery about whether the Hardys themselves, the real people, offered this skit with any degree of sincerity only raises the possibility of further honoring the audience’s ability to discern cultural faux pas.
The secret to the popularity of an artwork like The Final Deletion is not that it allows viewers to marvel at it; rather, it allows viewers to marvel at themselves, and to congratulate themselves for being so savvy. These artworks are more instructive after the fact, when we realize why they are popular and what they say about the audience itself and its world — even if that realization diminishes the mirth we view such artworks with.
Certain audience members might even protect their wisdom by responding to this analysis with a dismissal, asserting it’s rude to think too much, and maintaining that the artifact was indeed absurdist, fun, meaningless camp.