Pruett’s Blog: Wrestling with representation – WWE and LGBT characters and stories

Logo_WWE_dnBy Will Pruett

This week, Stephanie McMahon told NBC News about WWE’s plans to integrate LGBT stories and characters into their stories. She said “We will integrate LGBT characters into our programming … and I do think there will be an opportunity to integrate some of those storylines in the near future” (NBC News).

This week, on television, WWE had a babyface character make jokes about the potential of two heels being homosexuals. This babyface character made it seem like being homosexual is a negative thing. I wrote about this extensively after Monday night (Pruett’s Pause on Raw).

WWE has a long history of presenting heterosexual romance on television. One of the tropes in post-national expansion professional wrestling is the wrestling wedding. We saw this as recently as Monday night as well when Rusev and Lana celebrated their eternal union by getting covered in cake. WWE frequently has its characters involved in romances.

It’s not just mid-card or lower wrestlers WWE feels the need to include in these romances. WWE has had wrestlers as important as Triple H, Edge, Trish Stratus, John Cena, Chris Jericho, Stephanie McMahon, Lita, Big Show, Kane, and The Undertaker portrayed onscreen as romantically involved with members of the opposite sex. For most of these characters, the relationship did not mirror their real-life relationship at the time. It was merely a storytelling device.

WWE has never represented a same-sex relationship or any kind of sexual fluidity onscreen. Despite these relationships occurring in humanity and in culture today, WWE has avoided them. In a sense, I understand why. WWE’s audience has been conditioned over the years to mock homosexuality. The Rock, in his classic promos from the late 90’s and early 2000’s, frequently recoiled at the idea of being homosexual. He mocked it. He made it clear that he could never be involved in such a thing.

Even in attempts to garner media attention or ratings, WWE has presented same-sex relationships in offensive ways. Think back to 2002 when Billy and Chuck had their “commitment ceremony” on Smackdown. It was mocked going into the event and called off mid-way through the event because pro wrestlers couldn’t imagine the idea of being gay. At the same time, on Raw, Eric Bischoff was frequently promising “Hot Lesbian Action” and bringing out nameless women to be objectified while kissing each other.

What does this do to children who are discovering their own sexuality while watching WWE programming? What must it feel like to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered and watch WWE programming? While straight WWE viewers get to see themselves represented in Enzo Amore’s weird attempts to hit on Sasha Banks or Lana and Rusev’s relationship, LGBT viewers get to sit on the sidelines and wonder what could be. They can write their own stories about the sexuality of characters yet to be defined in this way (shout out to the AmbReigns community).

If WWE is planning to tastefully introduce LGBT characters and stories, I truly hope they are successful. Representation in media is important and I know, as a straight white man myself, I take my own representation for granted. I assume I will be reflected in much of the entertainment I watch. Where is this in WWE for people not like me? Where are the well-defined and popular LGBT characters? Where are the villainous LGBT heels?

Since we’ve seen main event wrestlers involved in many romantic stories over the years, isn’t it time for a main event wrester to be involved in a LGBT romance? Wouldn’t it be fitting to present WWE as a radically inclusive storytelling universe where all humans regardless of race, gender, or sexuality can kick some ass?

This is the challenge in front of WWE. If they want to present LGBT characters and tell LGBT stories, they have to get past their own prejudices. WWE absolutely cannot present a LGBT story on the same show where they have a babyface mocking the entire concept of being homosexual. It’s just not possible. WWE cannot allow the biases some vocal fans may have influence their decision here. It’s time for the WWE fan-base to become more open-minded. Let’s educate some people together.

***

And now a “Pruett’s Blog Mailbag” with responses to my Pause on Raw:

Rodney on Twitter writes, “do we really need social justice warriors in professional wrestling as well? Ugh.”

Well, Rodney, I’m glad you asked this. You see, “Social Justice Warrior” is a pretty bad ass thing to be called. It’s like Ultimate Warrior, minus the reputation Ultimate Warrior had for spewing homophobic hate. I’ll take being called a Social Justice Warrior any day of the week if it means I am pushing for greater equality and representation.

A few people (even one very polite and nice one) left comments or emailed me about my Republican National Convention joke as a stereotype. In particular, Jason (not Powell) said in the comments section “You’re a joke, Will. The RNC responded to accepting gays with a standing ovation. That shows how out of touch and “lazy” your liberal lines are.”

While I can agree that it is a stereotype of Republicans that they are homophobic, I want to point you all towards the official GOP Platform adopted at the Republican National Convention. In this, they advocate for the right to marriage to be taken away from LGBT Americans. This is homophobic. This is wrong. This is their official platform. I know all Republicans do not support this platform, but it is the official stance of the party in question.

Standing ovations are cool, but the actual policies proposed and ratified at the convention matter a lot more. With this in mind, I stand by this joke.

Josh emailed me the following, “I saw your article about homophobia in WWE and wanted to write you.  I am a gay man who has been watching wrestling for the last 30 years, since I was 5 years old and a lot has changed. I have spent thousands of dollars over the last few years going to the last two Wrestlemanias and even own company stock, but feel like the love isn’t being retuned to the lgbt community. Not that I’m asking for major awareness like what they do Breast Cancer Susan G. Komen fund, but not making these snide remarks doesn’t promote community.

When I was watching raw last night I felt uncomfortable about the Bert and Ernie jokes and I thought it was me just being sensitive. It was refreshing to see your POV. I have been a fan of the site as there is always great commentary, and this was spot on. For a company who promotes equality, they really aren’t doing that with the LGBT community.”

Josh is pretty cool. He’s asking for representation in media, or at the very least, for media not to mock him. I can’t see anything wrong with this.

Teddy in the comments section says “Seriously? Dude, we can’t nerf the world and you know what… Some times jokes that attack masculinity through sexuality are funny. I saw this segment and you’re being ridiculous! You are pandering to the masses and jumping on the “social justice warrior” bandwagon. Oh, and consider this… I am a gay man. You need to stop being such a homo.”

Social Justice Warriors get their own bandwagon now? Count me in! For real though, I don’t see how advocating for equality can be a bad thing in any universe. I’m not pandering to anyone, but I am using my platform to stand up for what I believe is right. Attacking masculinity through sexuality isn’t funny to the teenager watching Raw struggling with their sexuality. It’s harmful to that person. Why would you want to harm someone for a bad outdated joke?

As for the end of your statement, I’m glad you are comfortable with yourself.

***

That’s all for this edition of the blog, folks. I earnestly hope you’ve enjoyed it. Keep fighting for what’s right, even in something as silly as professional wrestling, friends. Representation matters.

Got thoughts on this blog? Hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email me at itswilltime@gmail.com.


Readers Comments (6)

  1. OK, so here is the issue that you don’t address.
    Gay and lesbian “characters”?
    If the wrestlers in question are NOT, in fact, gay or lesbian, you are asking them to go out on a pretty thin limb. Why? Because like it or not, kids still think what they see is real.
    It’s not good or bad. It’s just that the wrestlers will be telling fans, “This is who I really am.”
    That brings up issue 2.
    Aside from one very brave young man, there are no openly gay or lesbian wrestlers. So you would be asking some of them to boldly “come out.”
    Either way, i think you are asking these wrestlers to be braver than they have ever been.
    It’s going to be tricky.

  2. You’re such an idiot, I’m just at a loss for words. A complete idiot. You’re not a social justice warrior – you’re a keyboard warrior. If you were as distraught as you are, you wouldn’t watch the product. If you were that offended, you’d do as much as you can to prevent people from watching. It’s somehow okay to make fun of the people YOU don’t agree with because YOU think Republicans are all xenophobic Trump rallying racists. And frankly, Trump’s policies lean more left than any Republican nominee. Why can’t you just do yourself and the readers of this website a favor and keep your political tastes to YOUR Twitter account or YOUR own website. You are not LGBT and do not represent that community. If you want to be an activist, stop watching. I come to .Net for critical and in-depth analysis of the product. Not to be told the struggles of the community and the politically/social implications of a joke.

    Yeah, Will. They shouldn’t make those jokes. Undertaker and John Cena aren’t going to be in gay relationships because the wrestling audience is about as diverse as the NASCAR audience. Yeah, Will, there still should be gay representation. But you know, it shouldn’t be about the superstar being gay. It should be the superstar, who just happens to be gay, rising through the ranks of the WWE and becoming a top star without being preachy.

    I’m so sick of logging on here, seeing your analysis (which frankly, is good) and then suffering through your political observations. Nobody reading this cares. No LGBT reader feels better that you have their back. If it was one bullet point, fine. I get calling them out. But the SECOND I saw Stephanie’s comments in the news, I knew you’d post a blog. I knew you’d mock people and give me a Huffington Post editorial.

    The readership here should not be subjected to your political analysis. I come here for wrestling news and analysis. I read your pieces because of your thoughts on the product as a whole – not the political stances you choose to defend. Powell doesn’t do it. Moore doesn’t do it. PW Torch guys don’t do it. It’s just you. Wrestling for some of us is an escape from the stressful political climate we are in. Wrestling is supposed to be fun and a distraction. And while your point is valid and frankly, i agree it isn’t tasteful – you really need to stop pushing it. Liberal or conservative, this is becoming a huge problem on this site. Sorry for having an opinion. Feel free to generalize me as a homophobic xenophobic irrational and impassioned racist.

    • Well said on all counts. Like I said on another article, this kind of shit belongs on Tumblr, not a pro wrestling site. It wouldn’t even be such a problem if the guy wasn’t constantly putting himself on a pedestal and looking down on anyone who disagrees. Talk about someone with obvious self-esteem issues.

  3. Will Pruett, and his brazenly one-sided preachiness, is about to lose this site a reader. I can’t add much more to the response from Tim, but I’ll echo the fact that the moment I saw the Stephanie article I knew we’d get your self-righteous, self-congratulatory blog post where you lazily dismiss legitimate critiques of your obvious hypocrisy while going out of your way to appropriate someone else’s position as your own just so you can feel like you’re doing something important. It’s beyond tiring at this point.

  4. C. Peter Roberts August 12, 2016 @ 12:20 pm

    Comments from angry, angry fans who can’t handle politics in their pro wrestling. Because politics and current events are NEVER reflected there.

    Well done, Mr. Pruett.

  5. What ever happened to the idea of turning the channel and not watching if you are offended by something? Not all forms of entertainment are always going to please all people at all times. The fact is, the entertainment industry is trying to be all things to all people and it has come off stale and completely uninspired. What happened to entertainment with an edge? I’m not saying you have to be edgy or offensive for the sake of it, but what is wrong with pushing the envelope a bit? Are we supposed to ask black metal musicians, for example, to censor their lyrics that contain brutal blasphemy against Christianity, so as not to offend the sensibilities of Christians around the world? Of course not! If you don’t like it, don’t buy it and don’t watch it. That said, based on the logic of your post, the black metal musician must take into account the sensibilities of all their listeners, so as not to offend. At the end of the day, the best way to vote for or against any product is with your wallet.

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