Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Fifth of Nov

To me, race within wrestling is just an odd aspect of wrestling. It's one of the oddest to me. The people who aren't white within professional wrestling are written to be so stereotypical that I don't understand how anyone could like them...especially the people of that race. Far too often during this class, have I seen wrestlers of another race (especially black wrestlers) being portrayed as the exact stereotype that people of that race are trying to get away from. One of the worst examples that I have seen was in a class viewing the other day. I think the show we were watching was the biggest event of the year for WWE. The first match was four tag teams going against one another. One of the tag teams included two obviously spanish men. They were dressed in an over the top traditional spanish bull rider uniform. If that wasn't bad enough, they had a manager who dressed as a bull. I couldn't understand how anyone could ever possibly like these characters. The racial segregation in pro wrestling has actually been my least favorite part to have watched throughout this semester.


Sam Ford said...

Indeed, racial stereotyping has long been a part of wrestling...but, of course, is a prominent part of our culture in general. Of course, there's no shortage of stereotyping among white characters as well, but the imbalance in number of white characters versus various minority characters becomes an issue. The range of African-American characters in wrestling today has grown, which leads to more of a diversity of character types, but wrestling's long-running history of playing with and on cultural stereotypes (regressively, transgressively, progressively) can become mind-numbing, particularly when it grasps from "low-hanging fruit."

One thing is can't talk about wrestling seriously for long and not quickly and repeatedly talk about uncomfortable things like race, class, and gender.

Gary said...

One aspect of stereotypes we haven't mentioned in awhile is that of the Arabic or Muslim character. This stereotype goes back to the beginning of media in general, films, cartoon characters, and of course wrestling. I have been watching wrestling more on TV currently, seeing several events, and come to think of it, I have not seen an Arabic character in play. I wonder why that is?

Sam Ford said...

WWE made attempts a few years back with a Muslim character named Muhammad Hassan, with a manager named Daivari...The idea at first was that they were Muslim-Americans who were openly complaining about how the country treated them post 9/11 and who had turned on America as a result (which could have been pretty provocative). But the two became harsh and militant in their iconography, to the point WWE soon found themselves in hot water trying to create ridiculous mimicry of something the fan base was still highly sensitive it fell away. The Sheik's nephew, Sabu, also wrestled for them back 8 years ago or so, when they revived the ECW brand.

I think things could be particularly complicated by the fact that WWE has become popular in several countries in the "Middle East" so there is a very tough line between the sensibilities of various factions of their domestic fan base and their international fan base on depiction of Muslim characters. Here's a Foreign Policy piece on WWE's recent Middle Eastern tour, as well as a Huffington Post piece about the controversy of WWE throwing three shows in Saudi Arabia (where women were forbidden to perform or attend):