April 28, 2011
I’ve been meaning to write this article for quite a while, because it has been eating at me since I heard about Fit Finlay being released by WWE. For those of you who may not have heard the story, a month or two back Fit (a WWE agent) was released by the company after they received complaints about a live event from The National Guard. From what I understand The National Guard is a major sponsor of WWE’s and they were offended when members attended a WWE live event and witnessed The Miz interrupt the playing of the National Anthem. The interruption was obviously designed to get heat on Miz, but apparently it got the wrong kind of heat because The National Guard saw this as an inappropriate means by which to generate heat and complained to WWE about it.
With The National Guard being a major sponsor, WWE needed to act and I guess since Fit was in charge of the event and likely the one to make the call about the Anthem, he was held responsible and released. I don’t want to get into whether this firing was justified or not, but I really hope Fit will be brought back at some point, but what I want to discuss is, in a World so worried about being politically correct, and not offending anyone, is it even possible to get heat anymore.
There are so many tried and true methods of generating heat in this business that just can’t be done anymore. When you look back at the history of this business and what heels did to get heat and draw money, so many of them would be unacceptable now in the corporate main stream world of WWE. I want to be clear here too, I’m not blaming anyone specifically for this, it’s what society has become, but I’m worried that if this age of having to be politically correct to the Nth degree continues, story telling and the ability to stir emotions will become a thing of the past.
How can we have heroes in wrestling if our villains are not allowed to do or say anything that might upset anyone? The interrupting of the National Anthem is a prime example. As part of the Un-Americans in 2002 we got a lot of heat for our anti-American stance, and on at least one occasion interrupted Lillian Garcia when she sang America the Beautiful. We bad mouthed the US and even “attempted” to burn the American flag in Madison Square Garden. Was this offensive? Of course it was but that was the whole point. It was meant to offend, so when “The American Bad Ass” the Undertaker, JBL, and other proud American’s took exception to it and stood up for their Country and made us stop, they were seen as heroes.
Where would WWE Hall of Famer Jim Duggan be if not for Nikoli Volkoff, and the Iron Sheik? “Iran #1, Russia #1, USA haaatoo (spitting sound)”. These guys spit on the US for the sole purpose of riling up flag waving Americans, which were the root of Duggan’s fan base. If you look at the big picture, angles like this actually promote patriotism, as did Miz’s interruption of the national anthem.
Now look at R Truth’s heel turn a couple of weeks ago. I heard WWE received complaints from anti-smoking groups claiming that by having R-Truth smoke on TV they were promoting cigarettes, because it gave smoking that outlaw bad boy image, and would promote smoking to kids.
How are we as an industry supposed to draw an emotional reaction from our fan base if we aren’t allowed to anger people on some level? If our industry were always under the handicaps of today’s “moral standards” where would we be?
Hulk Hogan initially got over as a flag waving American beating the evil Iron Sheik. Would this be allowed today, or would there be fears that it would generate tension in the Muslim community?
Rick Rude would not be allowed to call people “fat out of shape sweat hogs” because he would be insulting and offending people who suffer from obesity.
How would you book a Ric Flair – Dusty Rhodes feud, if Ric wasn’t allowed to insult Dusty for being working class, or brag about being a limousine riding, jet flying, …? We can’t vilify the rich or the poor because that would be discriminatory.
Baron Von Raschke and Colonel DeBeers got heat being white supremacists. There is no way we could use racism to draw heat today. No evil Russian out to bring down democracy, no sneaky Japanese villains ready to “Pearl Harbor” you the second you turn your back. No Skandor Akbar in World Class, No Abu Wizal in Stampede, No Wild Samoans, No Headshrinkers.
What about Gorgeous George or Adrian Street? Would they be considered anti gay for being promoted as a heel for their “flamboyant“ antics?
I’m not saying we should be promoting racism or gay bashing or anything else just for the sake of drawing heat. I’m just saying that offensive characters like this can be used while still sending a good message if done properly and people should relax and look at the over all story being told.
You can’t make a movie like Schindler’s List without racist Nazi villains. Now I’m not comparing the story of Oskar Schindler to a pro-wrestling angle or storyline, but at the end of the day a story is a story, be it real or made up and in order to have Super Heroes, you have to be allowed to have Super Villains. Sponsors and fans shouldn’t give up on, or boycott the Story Tellers for the villainous actions of characters in their stories, provided the over all message of the story is still a positive one.
Food for thought,
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