Director Robert Greene opens his documentary Fake It So Real with a small-time indie pro wrestler known as Chris Solar declaring strongly that he’s no “faggot.” Children too young to even comprehend the concept of sexual orientation chant “Solar is gay!” during his matches. It’s all part of the act, you see; Solar is a effete heel who uses dangling scarves, feather boas, rainbow-colored clothing, and blatant cheating to stir up the handful of marks who’ve paid five bucks to boo him. The “possibly gay” villain may be an old wrestling archetype, but Solar’s promo is uncomfortably harsh. Millennium Wrestling Federation (MWF, based in Lincolnton, North Carolina) declares itself a “family show,” but its definition of family is rooted in the deepest traditions of the South. “Faggots” have no apparent place in the MWF.
Throughout the film, there’s a peculiar fascination amongst the MWF vets about the sexuality of rookie Gabriel Croft, the centerpiece of Fake It So Real’s story. Croft’s an articulate, eager pup with a long, sinewy body and a head full of dumb ideas. He’s got the kind of face where he’ll probably look like a kid until he’s fifty and, coupled with his outsider status, he’s deemed gay right off the bat. One of the MWF wrestlers in particular seems downright obsessed with Croft’s leanings, determined to find out for himself by badgering the kid past his initial denial. The oblivious Croft doesn’t seem to notice when his peers call him “Gay-briel” or when they snicker to his face about the angel-themed character he’s created for himself.
This type of macho posing takes place in the big leagues of WWE as well; it’s part of a sweaty locker room tradition across the nation. If Croft can survive getting mercilessly picked on, then he’s a part of the group. And what is the group, exactly? MWF is composed of a couple of dozen Peter Pans, eternally playing pretend in front of a small crowd of neighbors. Fake It So Real takes us into this group for a week, leading up to one of their ragtag shows.
Greene spends only enough time with the wrestlers to sketch their personalities in quick interviews, never getting to the meat of who these people are as individuals (one week isn’t enough time for that). Luckily, he does get to who they are as a group, finding the common thread in their passion to entertain others. These are old school “the show must go on” showmen, by and large. At this level, they foster no illusions about getting a life-changing call from Vince McMahon. They’re wrestling for no pay. They’re not well-trained, but they love the pageantry. They’re getting in the ring because they have to do it, like any other artist who feels the force within themselves to create.
You can’t deny their passion. Fake It So Real, like the MWF itself, is raw and unpolished, but entertaining (and not to overplay the rude jock posturing -- it’s often hilarious). You certainly don’t have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy its charms; the appeal comes from exploring what’s essentially a very strange, very dangerous hobby. Not as bizarre as The Backyard, not as sobering as Beyond the Mat, Fake It So Real finds its home not only amongst fly-on-the-wall sports documentaries, but standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the multitude of documentaries about colorful people with unusual interests.
(Fake It So Real is screening in select cities. Go to fakeitsoreal.com to find out when it’s playing in your area.)