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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Ripped To Shreds: WWE Vs. Public Outrage
February 1, 2007 by David Landons


Editor's Note: The author of this column can be contacted via the OWW Forums, where this submission was first posted. Feedback can be posted automatically by clicking here - but remember you must sign up for the forums to post feedback on a column. Thanks you!


"I can't believe my son saw that", "That is not suitable for children"

You've probably heard comments like the ones above over and over again. Being a dedicated wrestling fan, you have probably annoyingly heard them in reference to WWE television more often than you've ever heard them in reference to movies, TV shows, and other forms of entertainment. Most of the entertainment industry is not marketed towards little children, so they don't get criticized that much for the large amounts of sex, violence, and strong language that they portray. But why is it that the WWE, a form of entertainment that is also not marketed towards children, gets criticized when they portray large amounts of sex, violence, and strong language?

This is a very difficult question to answer. Why is it that movies can use actors to portray terrorists and everyone is ok with it, but when Muhammad Hassan portrays a terrorist there is public outrage? Why is it that TV shows can get away with having actors and actresses portray gays and lesbians, but when Billy and Chuck have a wedding on WWE programming, everyone flips out? Why is it that when Stone Cold flips someone off everyone complains about it, but yet when their favorite actor flips someone off in their latest movie no one has a problem with it?

Are these higher standards that are placed upon the WWE possibly because they USED to be marketed towards children? Try to imagine this scenario for a second: We all know that Sesame Street is one of the most beloved forms of children's entertainment in history. But let's say their ratings start to fall drastically, and they decide to start to market the product towards adults. Imagine if Big Bird starts to curse. Oscar the Grouch turns out to be a drug dealer. Bert and Ernie reveal that they've been gay all along. Does this sound crazy to you?

But imagine if this was 15 years ago. Imagine if someone told you that in 15 years the WWE's equivalent of Hulk Hogan, the man who said his prayers, took his vitamins and loved children, would turn out to be a beer swilling, finger gesturing S.O.B? Imagine if someone told you that in 15 years the WWE's equivalent of the Ultimate Warrior (The Rock) would turn out to be a person who constantly used foul language? Imagine if in 15 years, the WWE, a place filled with glorified cartoon characters, would be laced with sex, extreme violence, and strong language?

15 years ago you never thought you would see the WWE change as drastically as it did. Just as if no one would ever expect Sesame Street to become oriented towards adults like in the example that I gave. But imagine if it did. Imagine if the most beloved children's television show became oriented towards adults. There most certainly would be public outrage at the lewd content. People most likely would not get over the fact that it is no longer oriented towards children. But rather they would bitch and moan about the fact that Oscar The Grouch is now a drug dealer, while forgetting that there are drug dealers in their adult oriented movies that they don't complain about.

Why would people complain more about Sesame Street's lewd content than they would about other adult oriented movies and tv shows? Because Sesame Street has been become labeled in people's minds as children's entertainment, forever and always. Simply saying that Sesame Street is oriented towards adults is not a good enough excuse in people's minds to allow such crude content on their television programming.

This may exactly be what happened to the WWE. People have had the WWE labeled in their minds as entertainment suitable for children, and therefore have placed a higher standard upon it as far as what they should allow to be seen on their programming. They simply can not let that label go, no matter how much the WWE tries to say that they have indeed made the change into adult entertainment. Maybe this is why people have a double standard they allow to exist in their own minds regarding the WWE and suitable forms of entertainment.

Or maybe the reason that society has this double standard with regards to the WWE is due to something completely different. Maybe it's because people simply can't get over the fact that the last letter in WWE is brought to you by the letter E (sorry, just had to throw in a Sesame Street reference there). That E stands for entertainment. The WWE is a company that puts on PERFORMANCES each and every week.; meaning that everything is staged, almost like an athletic play. Besides the violence, there is nothing real about it.

In the past, the WWE had been depicted as being real in every sense of the word. It had publicly labeled its matches as being non-predetermined, which meant that the winners were not chosen before hand. The wrestlers were being depicted as being in real competitive bouts. The violence was depicted as being 100 percent real. The feuds and rivalries were depicted as being based on the real hatred that two wrestlers supposedly had for each other. The WWE portrayed the way these wrestlers acted on TV as the way they actually acted in real life. In short, kayfabe was never broken on or off the air.

But around the turn of the nineties, the WWE dropped its label of being "real" and officially proclaimed itself to be sports entertainment. Now, you would think that after WWE gained the label of being sports entertainment that it would be treated just like any other form of entertainment, right? Wrong. It was not and is not treated like any other form of entertainment. But why is that?

Maybe it is because people are letting their suspension of disbelief get the better of them. This means that they temporarily allow themselves to believe that what is being depicted on WWE programming is real. Maybe they can't bring themselves to believe that everything is all staged, and that what they see on TV is all in kayfabe. They can't bring themselves to believe that these are performers who are giving performances. Yes, the violence is real, but it is all for the sake of entertainment. Is it possible that people can't bring themselves to believe that?

Or Is it because children, who aren't supposed to be watching in the first place, are looking up to these performers and want to emulate everything they do? Is it because society in general simply can't accept the fact that WWE is just as fake as Seinfeld and the WWE outright tells the public this? Maybe people are just too ignorant to accept that wrestling is not what it seems to be. Maybe people can't accept that the WWE is not responsible for kids and adults alike who try to emulate them, just as the TV show Cheers is not responsible for people who sits in bars and waste their lives.

People are responsible for their own actions. Entertainment is not. WWE IS like any other form of entertainment. It's a unique form where the action takes place in a seemingly realistic environment and a fictional environment at the same time, yes. However it is still a form of entertainment. It should be treated as such.

Parents should be responsible for what their children watch on television, not the WWE. Yes, it is true that the WWE does market Halloween costumes, action figures, toy belts, and the like towards children. However those are the only things that the WWE produces that is suitable for children. Their television programming is not suitable for children, as their TV-14 rating clearly indicates.

There are parents out there who will allow their children to watch WWE at their own parental discretion, so it's understandable that there are toys and costumes made specifically for those kids. However the parents are still the ones responsible for what their children watch on television, and just because there are toys made for children does not give the parents a right to blame the WWE when their little son starts cursing.

Or is it possible that the reason the WWE is treated on a double standard is seemingly because of another completely different aspect. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that people might consider the WWE to be a sport and not sports entertainment. Is it possible that society can not comprehend the difference between sports and sports entertainment?

Imagine this scenario for a second: Imagine if in football, America's most popular sport, turned into sports entertainment. Imagine if guys purposely tried to start rivalries with other players on opposing teams. Imagine if guys gave mid game interviews just to purposely work the crowds into being in favor of them or not in favor of them. Fights between players would be planned ahead of time. Games would be fixed so that certain teams who were getting "pushed" by the National Football League would automatically win. Cheerleaders started to wear kinkier outfits, and players started to curse much, much more.

There most certainly would be public outrage at this. No matter how much the NFL would try to say that their programming is now sports entertainment, there would still be mounds of nay sayers who simply don't understand that the NFL is now sports entertainment. Or more exactly, they wouldn't understand what sports entertainment really is. They wouldn't understand why everything would be predetermined. They just wouldn't get why everything is added to make the sport seem more entertaining. And more importantly, they would be fuming over the fact that there is now more fights, more sex, and stronger language simply because they think it is still a sport, when in fact it is now entertainment.

They say that any time something is added to a sport to make it more entertaining it becomes sports entertainment. While we know that all sports contain some elements of sports entertainment, the WWE is head and shoulders above all other sports and forms of entertainment as being sports entertainment. But people don't understand this. Even with knowing the matches are predetermined, some still treat it on the same level as any other sport.

There certainly is a double standard used in today's society regarding how wrestling is treated. It may exist because the WWE USED to be children's entertainment, and people just can't get over the fact that WWE is now labeled as adult entertainment. Or maybe it is because people just can't get over the fact that wrestling is not real, and that it is made up of performers and performances. Or maybe it is because the WWE is being treated as if it is a sport and not sports entertainment. Which ever way it is, the WWE most likely will always be judged on a higher standard than any other form of entertainment with regards to what content is suitable for home viewers.

by David Landons (View/Submit your feedback here)..



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