Thursday, November 6, 2014
Race, gender, and more (or my attempt to catch up)
Rather than respond to all of the very good posts this week, I'll try to add my two cents.
1. I found the Grubisic piece on Goldust particularly interesting and as others have addressed the tension between wrestling easily embracing blatant female sexuality but uncomfortable with a gay character doing the same. Another aspect only briefly touched upon is that Goldust, much like other similar characters (Sam mentioned Adrian Adonis and Adrian Street from the 1980s), were all legitimately pretty tough individuals outside of the character, guys who could hold their own in a legit fight. Whether this changes how the audience views the characters I'm not so sure, but this again speaks to the underlying themes of masculinity even in characters challenging the stereotype.
2. The readings on race left me particularly torn. There are clearly more African Americans in the WWE now than 20 years ago with much more variation in their characters. I would like to hope we won't see another character from "Deepest Darkest Africa" or someone finding their roots through an African dance (if you haven't seen Tony Atlas as Saba Simba, you're lucky) or stereotypes of crime (e.g. Cryme Tyme). Yet, African American wrestlers still don't display the range of character types of white characters. Similarly, connecting the Taylor piece on John Cena, one may argue that Cena can appropriate black culture at times, but his character goes beyond this. Imagine if Cena the character were portrayed by any of the numerous talented African American talents on the roster. It's hard to imagine the character being about more than rap, in no small part because of previous such characters.
The one-dimensional aspects of many Latino characters can in part be attributed to their size the lucha style or language barriers, as discussed in class. The same could be said about the few Asian wrestlers in the US today. However, even Samoan wrestlers seem to fall into this same unidimensional characterization. Most Samoan wrestlers from the 1980s through the 1990s played "savages", a characterization brought back later by the WWE for Umaga (although, at least in my view, this was more of a tongue-in-cheek anachronistic role). While the Usos break this mold, their characters are marginally developed beyond their ethnicity and thus not unlike comments from previous readings suggesting that ethnic wrestlers did not need a gimmick because being black/Asian/etc. was their gimmick.
3. I am bothered by the juxtaposition that the WWE (or Vince McMahon in particular) seems to prefer larger-than-life male wrestlers but not necessarily female wrestlers. While Chyna in the late 90s/early 00s was clearly physically imposing and pushed as such, the examples afterwards have been few and without such a developed storyline (I'm specifically referring to examples such as Beth Phoenix, Amazing Kong/Kharma, and perhaps Tamina). In fact, there seems to be far less diversity in size and shape of female wrestlers in the WWE now than in any time I can remember.
Full disclosure: I miss Beth Phoenix. Wonderful talent.