I don’t normally do this, but in my last column for this fine blog, a user “metalhead65” retorted to my screed about WWE needing to scale back the homophobia with a comment (edited for the standards of this blog) asking “Can’t we have one thing to enjoy without [political correctness] trying to ruin it?” Political correctness, or PC, has seemingly been this scourge against free speech for the last twenty years, something that many people say is ruining free expression by making people use less offensive terms for the sake of people’s feelings.
The last time I checked, WWE isn’t just catering to straight white males. There’s a diverse crowd of people who like wrestling of all backgrounds. To make one specific demographic out to be the superior at the expense of all others is pretty asinine. It would be one thing if the people peddling this attitude were heels. In fact, I kinda wish that all the misogynists, homophobes, racists, anti-Semites and other dastardly people who judge based on superficial things were bad guys, but that’s not the case. It’s John Cena making Eve Torres out to be a major slut even though he was as much kissing her as she was kissing him, and in turn, it’s The Rock shaming Cena as being gay as if being gay was something bad because he likes to wear colorful clothing.
That WWE’s audience is 35 percent women and not ZERO percent given their treatment of the fairer sex is galling. The last time I checked, gay people have money too and like watching things other than theater and chick flicks. Stereotypes exist for a reason, but they’re also debunked all the time for a reason too. Let’s forget the fact that WWE should adhere to its own Be A Star campaign and treat people as people whether they’re WASPs or gay immigrant Jewish women. That’s the most important social reason, and anything else really pales in comparison. That being said, the people who call “being a decent person” “political correctness” really don’t give a flip that it’s a good social reason. Why?
Thank Rush Limbaugh.
Yep, the same Rush Limbaugh who has the temerity to call a woman a slut because she wanted reimbursement for birth control is the same guy who champions the cause of eradicating political correctness. How’s that for a shocker, eh? (As an aside, I don’t think that the government should be reimbursing for birth control, but that’s no reason to disparage someone’s sexual proclivities.) Anyway, while I’m not sure if Limbaugh was the one who invented the term, he popularized it, and why?
Because minorities and women were tired of being marginalized and disparaged with bad names that were the symbols of their lack of societal advancement, and Limbaugh, as part of the rich upper class, didn’t want his social order to be threatened. So of course he spread that propaganda and got all his listeners who probably don’t make in ten years what he makes in one to believe that it wasn’t pressure on himself to stop being such a hateful blowhard, but that it was pressure from “the liberals” to squelch free speech. So yeah, there’s political correctness in a nutshell for everyone.
But yeah, back to what I was writing before. Forget that it’s a terrible social standard to set. It’s also terrible business. Professional wrestling is a business that has the potential to reach EVERY audience. Not only does it have sports tropes, but there are soap opera, comedic and dramatic elements to it that make it appealing to people no matter what their interests or demographics are. Yes, on the surface, it appeals mostly to young males, but again, WWE’s audience is 35 percent women, and no matter what the gender makeup is, there are several people of different races, religions, sexual orientations and people of different ethnic backgrounds who watch not only in this country, but around the world.
So why have two of the “good guys” say things that would turn a significant portion of the audience off? It’s the opposite of a license to print money. There’s so much hand-wringing in Stamford right now over ratings and house show draws, and yet they don’t stand back and ask themselves why they might be losing in those metrics compared to former standards. They’d be foolish not to realize that by painting being anything but white, straight and male (or in Rock’s case, charismatic enough to overcome his race), they’re turning people away from their product. It’s bad business.
I’m not saying that they should run some pseudo-Ring of Honor type promotion where no one really feuds over anything but who wants to win their matches (not a true statement, but exaggeration for effect, ROH fans… take a chill pill). What I am saying is that maybe instead of trying to get us to hate foreigners because they’re not from America, that we should be given solid reasons to hate a guy like Jinder Mahal.
Instead of implying that Cena is inferior because he has a vagina, maybe Rock should imply he’s inferior because he hasn’t made the company as much money as he did at his peak (not a true statement, but hey, it’s kayfabe… plus, we ARE in the Reality Era). Instead of instantly assuming Eve was a slut tramp whore, maybe Cena could ask why Eve would have such a character shift and then express disappointment in her. That still captures the confrontational essence of pro wrestling without totally playing into cheap, polarizing tactics.
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.