A pile-driver of social commentary
I’m Not Angry
Last weekend, the Oscars came and went like a wet fart in church. Anyone with half of a brain was able to predict no less than 15 of the 24 categories. I myself, pegged twenty out of twenty-four … not bad. I must confess that I’m a terrible filmie – I think the Oscars are boring as hell, and I usually don’t watch them.
Another confession that I have to make is that I’m a professional wrestling fan. I’ve been enthralled with the theatrics of larger than life personalities engaged in theatrics that occasionally involve the birth of a plastic hand, catastrophic car crashes, explosions, kidnappings, and occasionally, honest to god Greco-Roman wrestling since I was a kid. No one needs to tell me it’s fake; I know it’s fake because I’m not stupid. In what sport other than a staged one would two sweaty dudes fight over a big, shiny belt when less than one per cent of the active roster wears actual pants?
Besides, the falsehood of professional wrestling isn’t what I’m here to discuss. Very recently, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) debuted a couple of new characters that have caused quite a controversy. The returning Jack Swagger, real name Jacob Hager, Jr. returned to active competition with a new manager, Zeb Colter, played by Wayne Maurice Keown. Swagger and Colter have been packaged as extremist right-wing xenophobic “real Americans.” These bad guy characters have taken the fight to reigning champion, the Mexican-born Alberto Del Rio (Jose Alberto Rodríguez). Swagger and Colter even have their own YouTube channel, wherein Colter expunges his beliefs on things like immigration, the work force, and political correctness while standing in front of the Gadsden flag.
Now, the WWE has always played to topical issues – at the height of the Cold War, one of their best heel draws was a Russian villain. Same goes with the Middle East crisis in the early 1990s. The point is, pushing buttons is not new territory in professional wrestling. Enter Glenn Beck.
On Feb. 19, Fox News and Glenn Beck went on the war path, claiming that Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter were nothing but thinly-veiled mockeries of the Tea Party movement, meant to demonize the party – as if it needed help demonizing itself. Beck further went on to say that wrestling fans are nothing but “stupid wrestling people,” which, funnily enough, actually encompasses a large part of Beck’s own audience. WWE answered back with a PR statement, claiming that the company was incorporating “current events into [their] storylines” to “create compelling and relevant content for [their] audience” and that “this storyline in no way represents WWE’s political point of view.”
The WWE went further by having Swagger and Colter shoot a promotional video in which they broke character, and invited Beck to their flagship show on Monday night to deliver an unedited five-minute rebuttal interview. No such offer has been made to anyone in the company’s fifty-one year history. Beck responded on Twitter by saying that he was “booked doing anything else.”
The thrust of this long-winded article is that the WWE finds itself in a position that it hasn’t been in since The Rock kind-of almost retired a decade ago – cultural relevance. The company now has the honest capacity to make meaningful societal contributions with some thought-provoking social commentary. There is no denying the fan base of the WWE –14 million weekly viewers across the US, broadcasting in 30 languages to over 145 countries. Why Glenn Beck would refuse to respond in an unedited fashion to this gigantic fan base is just beyond me. Never since his time at Fox would Beck be able to spew his unique brand of verbal diarrhea at so many people, and hopefully, he’ll never be granted the opportunity again. Yes, Glenn Beck, you will be mocked for your love of your country, and of equal justice, and of liberty and equality. Because wrestling stereotypes always find their footing in some kernel of truth. Here’s looking at you, kid.
WWE has a history of dropping the ball when given this much potential. Here’s hoping that they do something great with this one. And you all thought I’d be talking about the Oscars. I’m not angry. But I’m very curious to see where this is going.
Photo courtesy of fanpop.com