Monday, November 3, 2014

I love Jerry Lawler

In the Grubisic piece that we read for Monday, I came across a statement made that put words into the mouths of the commentators.  Their constant homophobic condemnation of Goldust's character brought about this summarization by Grubisic:

"Speak too loud and you will become a pariah, but be invisible and you are indistinguishable from us [heterosexuals] and effectively erase your difference."

As insidious as the intended meaning might have been, I find some truth in the second half of the logic.  I read it as: 

"Be modest about your sexual orientation ('be invisible') and we will all be indistinguishable from each other; there will be no difference between us."

I don't think the sexuality of a person is something to parade about, whether it be a hetero- or homosexual tendency, it's simply inappropriate to flaunt such a private issue.  That aspect of all of our lives should be "invisible," or at least treated modestly.  We should all be indistinguishable from one another with regards to sexual orientation, then, and equal as human beings, loved unconditionally.  Based on this, I agree with the commentators that Goldust's behavior is way out of line, and he shouldn't be flaunting his (or his character's) sexuality in the ring.  At the same time, their blind acceptance of ostentatiously displayed heterosexual desires is not acceptable either.  If they want to condemn Goldust for being too sexually overt, they need to reexamine their view on other sexual manifestations.  Scantily-clad women draped over the ropes, vying for the attention of young men in the audience should definitely draw some criticism from the commentators.  Instead we get this (from the brilliant mouth of Jerry Lawler):

LAWLER: Sunny, she wants me. I can read her like a book, but I prefer the Braille edition.

(Sable wearing an extremely revealing outfit.)
LAWLER: I've seen more cotton on the top of an asprin bottle!

LAWLER: She (Alundra Blayze) has a million dollar body, but a ten cent face!

Okay, so Lawler might be a bit of an outlier, but I've never heard the commentators ever 1) suggest that a girl ought to tone down that explicit display of sexuality by dressing and acting more modestly or 2) condemn Lawler for being so overtly sexual (whereas they would condemn Goldust for similar comments directed towards other male wrestlers).  There's definitely a double standard that can't be easily resolved while maintaining a homophobic attitude.


Katie Clark said...

I know you have no ill intent or ill thought behind your post, but I must disagree. Equality can only happen when we acknowledge that we're all different (sexuality and otherwise) and that that's okay. No one should be forced to feel like they must hide and suppress their sexual and gender identity. It would be so easy for me, personally, as a heterosexual, cisgender female to say that sexual orientation and identity should be a private thing because heterosexuality and a cisgender identity is our society's norm. We don't feel the need to express what is already assumed. We wouldn't try to "hide" the fact that someone is black, so why try to hide the fact that someone is gay? It is simply an identity. (Then there's the whole issue of representation and giving children someone to look up to who is like them.)

I personally loved (and still love) Goldust. I think his flamboyant character forced a lot of people to acknowledge the possibility that a wrestler could be something besides a stereotypical, masculine, overtly straight guy. Goldust is a damn good wrestler and he doesn't have to stick to society's expectations of what makes a "man." He doesn't have to be your average "manly man" to be an amazing athlete.

Melissa Smith said...

Looking back I can see how my words might've been interpreted as condemning or oppressive. I didn't do a very good job of clearly conveying my points, and I apologize for that (maybe this should've been the one that I waited until morning to post). Let me try to flesh out my ideas:

Sexuality shouldn't matter.
Goldust aside for a moment, a person's sexuality in general should not change how they are treated. I'm not saying that someone should try to hide their sexual orientation, but that the difference between hetero- and homosexual people should be invisible (because they are treated the same, because they are both people, because the fact that you like girls/boys is nobody else's business). I'm still going to love you as a friend, regardless of your sexual choices.

PDA is really not necessary. (A sub-point)
I don't want to see you making out with your boy-/girlfriend, no matter who you are. It makes me uncomfortable. Be modest in your relationship: hold his hand, kiss her cheek... You don't have to be all over each other to show that you care. But, you know, if you feel that you do, just make it a "private display of affection" rather than a public one.

Wrestling wouldn't be "fixed" by eradicating Goldust.
I tried (poorly) to convey that the double-standard of wrestling sexuality is not something to be easily remedied. Removing all the sexuality from wrestling, while solving the problem, would be devastating to the industry; it would send the sport back to the wrestling Stone Age. I, too, am fond of Goldust, though his act does make me uncomfortable at times... But for that matter, so do the revealing outfits of the ladies and the sexual nature of their matches.

Jerry Lawler is ridiculous.
Really, he is. But I still love him.

The wrestling world (and the real world, for that matter) is not a perfect system by any means, but I think the change in the WWE over the past ten years has definitely tried to equalize gender and sexuality differences. Goldust today is not the same Goldust as the one who originally emerged from the character of Dustin Rhodes. In addition, I don't think a gimmick like Goldust's would be as supported today as it was in the past. Wrestling today has been cleaned up in more ways than one: blood is almost nonexistent, sexual storylines have all but been erased, and women are treated in better ways.

michael richardson said...

Glossing over whether or not Goldust should have acted the way he did, I don't think that at the end of the day Goldust's legacy will be that revolutionary. From our academic standpoint, he is a pioneer in the industry and challenged people's opinions, but from the perspective of the average fan of the period I feel like he just served as a target for homophobic hate speech, and the constant comments from Lawler and friends continued to undermine and belittle him. His character would have been better served if Lawler begrudgingly acknowledged his wrestling prowess, forcing viewers to confront the reality of his talent as a wrestler and status as a human being, as opposed to a frightening "other."

Sam Ford said...

I don't want to get in the way of a good discussion here that doesn't need me, but I'll raise a few quick thoughts into the discussion:

There are separate issues here in terms of questioning the degree to which sex and romance (two very different issues) should be a part of a genre/medium around which sports is the metaphor. Wrestling--by being part soap opera and part sport, as some have claimed--complicate the storytelling because it's about really human stories/rivalries and not just the contest in the ring. As such, it seems that sexuality, romance, and all other sorts of emotional issues/rivalries comes into play in building those stories. Storylines involving romance seem like they play into the ongoing narrative of the rivalries...but it gets complicated when you enter homosexual romance into that conversation, because the idea had traditionally been male competitors fighting over female non-competitors, for the most part. (Soap operas have faced similar "programming" issues with how to slot gay characters in, because the idea had always been to mix and match your male characters with your female characters over the years to keep things interesting..programming couples like wrestling promoters program feuds...But, then, it gets complicated when you have a same-sex character on a soap, so you have to have at least two...But then there's no drama...So you have to have a third to have a love triangle etc...IT might all be resolved if everyone on the soap opera was bisexual, though...)

That's separate, I think, from the question of sexuality...and in a genre where so much of the attention is on the physicality and bodies of people, it's hard to keep sexuality out of the way completely. Both men and women wear revealing costumes. They come in constant physical contact with one another. It seems hard to keep sexuality OUT OF wrestling...although the question of "gratuitousness" becomes another, especially as you are engaging multiple age groups.

Sam Ford said...

So this raises the question...would wrestling tackle LGBT issues today by erasing sexuality--and/or romance--completely from its programming to achieve equality? Or does erasing it completely still achieve making everyone, by default, hetero? We can debate the potential of Goldust's legacy; I think WWE defaulted on it in a way that negated some of its power, by ultimately calling it only "mind-games" and revealing the character, Dustin, is straight (although they have sort of questioned what the piece brings up to a point, as to whether we can read Dustin's life and his alter ego Goldust's life in the same way)...If Goldust was a potentially meaningful intervention or provocateur to 1996 mentalities, I don't think it would have the same affect 18 years later, as our country is in a very different place.

Consider, for instance, that a WWE wrestler came out publicly regarding his sexual orientation in his private life, which was NOT made part of the storyline. But, before he came out, John Cena had previously made some veiled references to his sexuality in promo work that was homophobic in nature. I suppose it wasn't a big deal because he was low on the totem pole in any case and remains so...

I do wonder what would be a "revolutionary" story in wrestling today. Perhaps it would be building a character up who would be presumed hetero, despite never showing anything about his sexuality, and then revealing later that he was gay. For instance, what if it were revealed a character like Dean Ambrose were gay, or Roman Reigns? Someone the fans are crazy about...And not threatening Goldust gay but just...oh, happens to be gay? How would fans react? Would WWE ever go out on that limb?