Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Representation in the WWE

The articles for today got me thinking a lot about representation and how crucial it is, especially for young viewers of professional wrestling. It is so important to have wrestlers of various backgrounds and cultures in order to give children someone to look up to--someone like them, someone they can aspire to be, someone that shows them that they can make it despite their gender, race, etc. For example, it's the same reason it's so important to have Barbies of color--so kids of color know that they're important to, they matter. The WWE is predominantly white. There are black wrestlers like Titus O'Neil, Big E, and Kofi Kingston that are seen very seldom. Mark Henry is the only black wrestler that's been making a weekly appearance because he is in a current storyline with the Big Show. The main commentators are white and the members of the Authority are white. And we never see any Latino wrestlers anymore. It's almost as if it was a "fad," and now it's over. The latest Mexican wrestlers were Los Matadores and they've disappeared to who knows where. And in terms of women wrestlers, they're given such little, if any, air time. Young girls have fewer idols to look up to. In terms of race, we have black women like Naomi, Alicia Fox, and Cameron. The Bella Twins are of Mexican and Italian descent, but born in America. And AJ Lee is of Puerto Rican heritage. But once again, the women's card is primarily white. While I love the WWE, and I think all of their wrestlers deserve to be there, it would be nice to see more diversity and variety, if only for the sake of giving children someone to look up to.


Sam Ford said...

I think this is a great question to ask. Not that long ago, two of WWE's main authority figures were a black male non-wrestler (Teddy Long) and a female Hispanic non-wrestler (Vicki Guerrero).

Among black characters, Booker T was color commentator and, later, general manager. Mark Henry was being pushed prominently. Guys like Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, and Shelton Benjamin were prominent on the undercard. You had Cryme Time as a tag team (although they prominently featured negative stereotypes...). Darren Young was part of the "new guard," and Titus O'Neill was introduced after him.

Among Hispanic characters, WWE not that long ago had Alberto Del Rio as one of its most decorated stars (Royal Rumble winner, world champion, etc., etc.), Rey Misterio as one of its most beloved veterans, Sin Cara positioned as one of its "fast push" faces, and both Junico and Camacho AND Primo and Epico as tag teams getting regular TV time.

That's not to mention a major influx of European pushed talent, from Sheamus to Cesaro to Wade Barrett to Drew McIntyre and so on.

So much of that energy is gone now, and I think it reflects an overall staleness. These characters and pushes were far from perfect, but there was a range of representations and--in wrestling--a degree of multiculturalism you frankly see from very few shows.

Today, they've fallen much more back to traditional white male wrestlers...and I do see it as a regression. One potential bright spot is the signing of KENTA and perhaps a correction to not prominently featuring Japanese wrestlers throughout company history, as Yoshi Tatsu's positioning has proven, as the company's difficulty to make the wonderful Tajiri a top-level character proved, etc.

But as WWE"s popularity today is as focused on global business as ever before, and as the Hispanic U.S. population is so important--I think it does show a need to reflect that in the global nature of the storytelling...(issues they may continue to butt heads against as they try to push Rusev as the "foreign menace...")

Marshall Metcalf said...

I think that representation within all sources of media should be equal of all races, genders, sexualities, and backgrounds. So many people keep in touch with the media that the exposure of differences could make people slightly more comfortable with it.