American Gladiators is 90’s America. Loud, flashy, and covered in baby oil. The gladiators sat atop a foam pyramid and sent personal trainers and substitute teachers tumbling. The crowd cheered. The strobe lights strobed. The eliminator eliminated. The simple world created by the show made sense. Enemies were well defined and toned. We, the everyman, took on gods. We were not meek. We were confident. On rare occasions, when Joust and Assault fell our way, we won. The thrones in Olympus seized by normal men. The truth revealed itself when exported to other countries. UK Gladiators embraced the elements of the American original. They replicated the events. They reused the same nicknames. They approximated the attitude. Yet something felt off. Contestants were too nice. They complimented their opponents and apologized for poor performances. The sham revealed itself with the contestants’ purpose. They traveled across the United Kingdom to have fun. That’s it. TO HAVE FUN. Not to win. Not to dominated. To have fun.
The contestants could’ve been wrong, the accents as well. The one thing that could not be mishandled was the gladiators themselves. Their other-worldliness must be maintained. They looked the part. Thighs bulged correctly. Nipples exposed nicely. Every inch looked accurate. Then one injured himself. He ran. He changed direction. His eyes opened wide. His knee buckled. He collapsed. With his weight dispersed on two camera operators, he limped off. Gods do no limp. They do not get hurt. The failures of the UK edition exposed the original’s fraud. These issues always hovered under the skin of American Gladiators. When the skin protruded slightly, the producers pressed their thumbs firmly down till it didn’t exist. The facade of pure blooded excellence exposed the show for what it was; a dream. And dreams are never real.