Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Are You Kidding Me?

As we all know, I am not used to the dynamics of professional wrestling and I don't know a whole lot about it. That's why Chapter 9 of "Sex, Lies, and Headlocks" by Shaun Assael and Mike Mooneyham blew my mind. Like, I still can't fathom it all. There's a story told about how they turned one of the wrestlers heel. The promoters chose a handicapped, autistic kid from the crowd (in a wheel chair, I might add) to present a plaque to a wrestler. The kid was having trouble reading the plaque, stuttering a lot, and taking a long time to read it all. The wrestler "grabbed the plaque and ambushed the handicapped fan with it." He ambushed the child as part of the script to turn him heel! Like, is this a joke? We all know that the kid was star struck and just an awe from being in a wrestling scene. It's like they just crushed his dreams right after making them come true. Maybe that's why Disney is far more popular than WWE.

Also the end of chapter 10 in the same book just irritated me. Goldust who, obviously, represented a gay man. He would make homosexual advances toward the wrestlers in the ring, despite having a wife in real life. One of the wrestlers called him a "queer," which was scripted. As the book discusses, this was many children's first views of homosexuality. This caused them to homosexuality as an evil thing and disliked Goldust. Their dislike toward Goldust transformed to dislike toward all homosexuals.


Timothy S. Rich said...

The Goldust character was clearly an over the top exaggeration of heterosexual male fears of gay men, but he was unfortunately only the biggest star of a string of similarly gimmicked wrestlers. Of particular interest to me is that most of these gimmicks (Goldust, "Exotic" Adrian Street, "Adorable" Adrian Adonis) were presented as effeminate in general, but still tough in the ring. Frankly it wasn't until the early 2000s in the US at least where gay characters were faces and not heels. The sad irony here was that a very talented wrestler, Chris Kanyon, remained in the closeted during this time, fearful of how wrestlers, promoters and fans alike would respond to a wrestler and not just a character being gay. Later he committed suicide.

Sam Ford said...

It's very complicated, as we've been discussing in class, Marshall. It's one of the real challenges with something that acts in an exaggerated fashion, like pro wrestling. It's impossible to know how to interpret/read the performance. is Goldust a parody of gay fear? Or does it encourage more of it, when fans of the late 1990s could openly be heard chanting "faggot" and "gay" and when some wrestlers called Goldust "queer" and "gay" and were cheated by a portion of fans for it. On the other hand, at a time when homosexuality wasn't really being confronted on TV in anything but vague platitudes and at a time when gay characters on TV were a rarity--WWE was throwing it in people's faces and forcing an uncomfortable dialogue...which exposed both its fans and the organization itself to reveal its biases but which also may have been when GLAAD awarded it--because it forced the issues to be more visible on one of the most popular cable TV series out there.

That is not to defend WWE for a long history of homophobic attitude on display that we have even seen John Cena play into in the past...but it is certainly complicated in how WWE has at various points made homosexuality a part of the national discussion (and even further complicated by Pat Patterson being one of the biggest power brokers in the company's history, etc.).