On Tuesday, WWE, through Brian Flinn, WWE’s senior VP of marketing and communications, issued an email statement to the Hollywood Reporter concerning WWE superstar Jack Swagger and manager Zeb Colter. Several blogs, critics and media outlets have complained that the characters Swagger and Colter are portraying on WWE TV are "right wing racists." One paragraph of WWE's statement reads as follows:
“WWE is creating drama centered on a topical subject that has varying points of view to develop a rivalry between two characters. This storyline in no way represents WWE’s political point of view. One should not confuse WWE’s storytelling with what WWE stands for, similar to other entertainment companies such as Warner Bros., Universal Studios or Viacom.”
I see two major points coming out of this article.
The first, a much shorter conversation, is that it's nice to see WWE receive mainstream media attention in an outlet like the Hollywood Reporter. Who would have thought that in 2013, Zeb Colter (a.k.a. "Dirty" Dutch Mantell) would be featured in a photo and article on that website. But it has happened, and what he and Jack Swagger are doing on WWE television is getting people talking.
The second, a much longer conversation, is another reminder of the double standard that WWE faces with many media outlets, critics and others that think WWE is again using political issues distastefully to generate interest in its brand of entertainment.
I laugh at these people. In fact, I am appalled by the ridiculousness of these claims.
First, let me say that I am someone who has watched pro wrestling for decades and am not easily offended. I am not offended by what Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter are saying on WWE TV. I understand that it is part of an entertainment spectacle and the desired effect of these two individuals is to be antagonistic and elicit a negative response from the audience both in the arena and watching at home.
I am not offended by this situation, just like how I wasn't offended when Sgt. Slaughter became an Iraqi sympathizer in the early 1990s. Or when Muhammad Hassan pushed buttons by portraying an Arab American ostracized by the country he grew up in. I wasn't offended when Paul Heyman faked a heart attack on Raw a few months ago (though I did find that to be the closest to "the line" of all the examples stated above). There's plenty more that isn't "PG." But who cares? That argument is getting old and is used as a crutch for naysayers.
Many of these outraged media/critics are selective when it comes to WWE topics. Where are they when WWE does countless charitable initiatives, such as Make A Wish grants, Tribute to the Troops and Be A Star? Are they simply the "scripted sideshow" when doing good? And they are allowed to be scrutinized like a sport when they push the envelope? Double standard.
Speaking of Be A Star, this is one of the hottest, most infuriating arguments. "How can WWE support and endorse an anti-bullying campaign when much of what we see on WWE TV is bullying?" The best response is that, much like with actors in a film, it would be incorrect and downright ignorant to compare their work as an artist to their work as a philanthropist. Those making complaints know it's entertainment, so why make the argument at all? To me, you look like a fool making it.
Some people just may not like WWE, and may be in high/influential places. That's fine. Senator John McCain once called MMA "human cock fighting," and he certainly will not cause the demise of MMA. These detractors will not be the downfall of WWE either. I just wish this double standard didn't exist, where media selectively brand WWE however they see fit to maximize criticism.
Arda Ocal is an on-air personality with theScore Television Network (www.thescoretv.ca). Follow him on Twitter @arda_ocal