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Is Criticizing WWE’s Homophobia Shouting into the Abyss?

John Cena vs. The RockVery few people who read my work or who interact with me on the Internet are fans of misogyny, homophobia or other kinds of talking points used by wrestlers that hearken feelings of hate based on things like looks, religion or sexual proclivity. In theory, WWE should be backing off those kinds of storyline tropes, given their participation in the B.A. Star anti-bullying campaign.

It’s tired when the best The Rock can come up with is a designation of John Cena’s wardrobe which has homophobic connotation. It’s disappointing when Cena in turn calls Rock a bitch, or even worse, puts Eve Torres on full blast for being a whore despite the fact that her greatest sexual crime was kissing someone (as an aside, no one should be called a whore unless they literally have sex for money).

[adinserter block=”2″]However, WWE keeps having their heroes trot out and lay waste into the bad guys using terms that are bullying in nature. It’s not because they’re programming the audience into believing that hate is good. Quite contrary, the fans eat up any kind of sexual innuendo. Judging by the reactions to whenever Rock or Cena or Jerry Lawler or anyone open their mouths and suppose that their target is gay or fat or a slut, they’d be stupid not to keep doing that. The live reaction is literally the only thing that they have to gauge how well something works in the moment. WWE house show gates and buyrates come in months later. Ratings are unreliable due to small sample sizes, and even if they weren’t, they’re growing increasingly irrelevant for a number of reasons. The only thing that’s hard and fast and instant is the live crowd.

I don’t know what that says about the art form we love or the fans of those who share the passion for wrestling that we do, but whatever it is, it can’t be good.
Above all else, wrestling is a business, and businesses make decisions that make them money. If the paying customer reacts positively to Rock calling Cena a Kung Pao b*tch, then doesn’t it come to pass that WWE should assume future crowds will react as such? It’s a sad truth, but it seems to be truth. That leaves WWE with a few options.

The first is to continue down the course and keep having Rock and Cena try to out-chauvinist each other for the dueling reactions of the crowds. Obviously, this is the easiest answer, but it’s clearly not the best. Cena is clearly positioned as a role model, so when he acts like a cad, he entices children to act as such. When children act like cads, either their parents play along because they don’t care, or if they do, well, the kids stop watching and they stop going to live events and they stop buying merchandise.

The second is to cut losses and move to a TV-14 program again. If one were to believe a certain vocal section of the fanbase, this would cure all the WWE’s problems, ignoring the fact that quality is wholly independent of how mature a product is. It would excuse WWE of the responsibility of branding its entertainment to children, marketing only to adults who, in theory, know right from wrong and watch for the spectacle though, and that’s good right? Well, no, given that cutting an entire part of the fanbase out (children, and thus, parents of said children) is never a good business idea, and sponsors aren’t too keen on supporting a product as racy and raunchy as TV-14 WWE tended to be. This is not going to happen.

The third would be for WWE to actually follow through on its ostensible and superficial social mission and actually have their good guys be good people on top of being cool. I’m not saying Rock has to be a nice guy, but maybe he could find some insults for Cena that didn’t result in calling the guy gay without using the word gay. Cena doesn’t have to coddle Eve, but he could probably dress her down without implying that she has intercourse with anything that moves just because she did one crappy thing that we knew about in the last six months.

Everyone can call Vickie Guerrero on her BS rather than attack a strawman of her weight, one that anyone with two eyes and a functioning brain can see would crumble under the light flick of a pinkie finger. This would take work from both the writers who script for the underling performers and for the wrestlers themselves, at least the ones like Rock and Cena who end up working without a net, to be more socially conscious, and more importantly, come up with material that is clever and cool without resorting to the same tired and offensive insults that have put WWE under fire in the first place.

[adinserter block=”1″]The problem is that WWE hasn’t proven that they are willing to take the high road, to do more work than is necessary to get that reaction from the fans. In that regard, is complaining about WWE’s lack of sensitivity towards groups that don’t share the same status in society as the white, straight male going to do anything? The sad thing is that I doubt it will, at least in the short term. Does that mean we should shut up and take it though? Well, not exactly. Whether it’s fighting it with screeds such as these, or with money and time like one might do by not tuning into RAW or buying merchandise/pay-per-views, things can be done to get WWE’s attention.

Hopefully, that attention is gotten sooner rather than later, because I really don’t want to have to be ashamed to watch professional wrestling. Furthermore, I want to be able to get excited about the main event to this year’s biggest wrestling show. I don’t want to have to groan each week when RAW comes on and Rock and Cena do nothing but take turns using colorful ways of calling each other gay.

Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. can't we have 1 thing we can enjoy without the pc trying to ruin it? you put way to much credit into these guys being role models which is a nice idea but if they had such a great affrect then why do kids still do drugs.bully other kids and basicly ignore the message they are giving? you are naive if you think being pc incorrect encorages that kind of behavior in kids. they see and hear all those terms by the time they are in 3rd grade. it is up to parents to let them know what they are watching is just a show and they shouldn't behave like that if they do no approve of it.

    • Yes it is up to the parents. However, the more family-friendly the show is, the more likely the parents will continue to let their kids watch the show and buy the merchandise, which is the bottom line WWE is after. And yes, kids will still do drugs even though people who are considered role models tell them not to, but that doesn't mean those people should give up on trying to spread the message. Kids are not going to continue doing drugs just to spite what someone says; they're going to do them because they want to. If a wrestler or another sports star or celebrity continues to spread these messages, eventually, they will get through to some people. I'm not in favor of overly PC messages, but I am in favor of people trying to do the right thing.

    • "can't we have 1 thing we can enjoy without the pc trying to ruin it?"

      I don't know this "we" you're referring to, but I bet that potential gay fans who want to watch and like wrestling certainly aren't enjoying the fact that their sexuality is painted as "bad" with a broad brush. Same with all the women fans who have to listen to Rock use the term "lady parts" as a pejorative. And the last time I checked? WWE's fanbase is 35% women.

  2. Eni thought the rocks promo was terrible. it was boring he relied to much on the crowd and his jokes where just stupid. hopefully the grand wizard (vince) will let cena be mean and violent at wrestlemania and pound the s&*t out of the rock and send him back to the video shelf where all his movies go straight to

    ter teixt right here!

  3. I seriously think your making a bigger deal about this then it needs to be. Wrestling is not aimed towards children, its aimed towards a general population whether it be children, adults, male, or female. Monday Night Raw is not on networks that are geared towards children such as Disney or Nickelodeon. The WWE has improved drastically over the last 5 years in terms of cutting out tons of violence, sex, etc. This article is knitpicking for no reason. The product is at a good, stable level right now.

      • Absolutely, Tom. Vince McMahon has stated (repeatedly) that his target audience is children, which is why stuff like blood and foul language are no longer used weekly. Now, obviously, some of this stuff still happens, whether intentional or accidental, but for the most part, it's non-existent. WWE makes more money marketing to kids than any other demographic for the specific reason that parents buy the merchandise, tickets and PPVs for their kids, and if the show is more kid-friendly overall, the more money those same parents will continue to shell out.

  4. Great Job as usual. I just think they are going to continue with the fat, and gay jokes till fans stop putting up with it. It seems to me that being fat , and being gay is the last "acceptable" things one can be, where it is "OK" for celebs, or people on the street to crack jokes. Sad really.

  5. Bottom line – the WWE resorts to these types of slurs because it's easy, cheap heat that's been part of wrestling for decades. It's what Vince McMahon knows, it's what his daughter grew up knowing, and it's from an era his son-in-law is nostalgic for. And it's sad, because at some level I'm so numb to it that it doesn't really register with me anymore.

    When Eve gets called a "hoeski" or Rock makes jokes about Cena's manhood, I chuckle. Should I? Probably not, but decades of watching wrestling have numbed me to the reality that the WWE has not, nor will ever be, politically correct as long as they can get away with it.

    But as a parent, what I can say is that it's turned me off of turning my kids on to wrestling. Yeah, my son knows who John Cena is and thinks he's cool. But every time I think that I want to get him hooked on wrestling because it's the thing that Dad likes that I can share with my son, I don't. And that's because as an adult, I reflexively know that these characters, even the "good guys", aren't the kind of characters I want my son or daughter to be emulating. And that's the sad part.

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