Racism and Stereotypes in Wrestling
April 12, 2004 - by Robbie C Extreme
I recently came to see a post in a forum where the writer voiced their displeasure at two of the World Wrestling Entertainment's most recent decisions in terms of their creative direction, those two of course are Eugene, the "special" nephew of Eric Bishcoff, and of course, the recent video that was presented by one John Bradshaw Leyfield, the topic steered a little bit away from the two main offenders I mentioned earlier and brought up a few characters, angles and storylines over the years that some have found offensive one way or another. Now I want to make it clear from the very start that I am not here to criticize anyone for their opinions, nor am I looking to offend anyone, so if I do so let me say now that it has not been intentional, I am just giving my opinion and when it's on a subject as touchy as this it is very easy to inadvertently offend someone.
People talk like Racism and Stereotypes in wrestling is something new, like Vince McMahon has run dry on ideas as he conquered the American wrestling scene, now with nobody left to challenge him he is resorting to the lowest of the low to keep the fans tuning in, Wrong. Let's go back to the eighties when Hulk-a-Mania was in it's prime and the fans just couldn't get enough of Vinnie Mac's yellow and red clad American hero. During this time one of Hogan's key opponents was Nikolai Volkoff and I remember more than once we saw Hogan totally destroy the Russian flag, even going so far as to spit on it once or twice, the impression I got was simple, if you carried an American flag to the ring you were a good guy, a patriot and a hero, but should that flag bear the colours of any other country, especially one that was at odds with the USA, chances were you were going to booed and treated like a villain, all because you displayed how proud you were of your born nationality.
How about the Bushwhackers, Butch and Luke, I'm sure that people saw those two marching around like morons, licking people and generally acting like dimwits and thought that all people from Down Under must be equally as insane and stupid as these two. I won't even go into the impression that Outback Jack left on all the Australian people out there.
Let's move forward through the years and stop at the Nation of Domination, the group went through a few changes here and there, and in the end of it all they became a toned down version of the Black Panthers, how about Harlem Heat, before they debuted on WCW television there was a huge rumor floating around from many reputable sites and reporters that they were lead to the ring in shackles by Col. Rob Parker who play the role of a Southern Plantation owner.
One person mentioned was the William Regal character, this surprised me a bit as I never expected him to be one of the offensive characters, but none the less they argued that he is nothing more than the stereotypical posh, snobby Englishman, and that you never see any American wrestlers played off in that manner, well you could argue that Ted Dibiase and Hunter Hearst Helmsley where played in that manner, more so Hunter, still this does come down to stereotyping.
This is only a small sample of some of the things over the years that have lead us to Bradshaw and his patrol of the Mexican/United States border, and the Eugene persona. Eugene is definitely not the first ever mentally challenged wrestler to enter the ring, there was one by the name of the Mighty Igor who did a damn good and respectable job playing the role, not to mention Dave Sullivan in WCW in the early to mid 90's, before this is totally condemned lets at least give Vince a chance to run with the character and see if he can do it in a tactful way, I seriously doubt he can, but lets at least wait and give him the rope to hang himself with before we all jump on his case. As for Bradshaw, well lets face it, he has little to no talent, he is a backstage bully and the vast majority of fans don't like him, so what better way to actually get him over than to use a major controversial topic to make the fans hate him, racism and political correctness have never been such a touchy issue until this day and age and Vince is using it to his full advantage.
One thing about the wrestling business is that the characters have always been outlandish and over the top, many have been influenced by outside factors such as Sgt: Slaughter and his turning on America during the Gulf War period, others have just been in a desperate attempt to get a worker over like Tito Santana whom many thought was getting stale and boring before he was repackaged as the bull fighting El Matador.
Surely we are all adult enough to know that characters like Al Snow were not intended to offend anyone with a mental disability, that angles where they brought forth Jake Roberts drugs and alcohol problem weren't supposed to make a joke on all those that might actually suffer from those addictions. We all know that not every Italian out there is a member of the mob like the F.B.I team, and that Native Americans don't run around wearing exaggerated head-dresses and carry tomahawks and we most certainly know there must be a humungous amount of American citizens that don't support the Iraqi war and agree with the fact that France decided to stay neutral on the whole thing despite how the La Resistance team is played out to us.
We the fans have seen through the years the total evolution of this industry and seen that things have constantly gotten more risqué and controversial, some of the most heated topics in society have been twisted to generate cheap heat for characters and storylines. Racism and stereotyping have been in wrestling for many years now, it's just that they have lost their subtlety and the world itself has become more aware of such things and more quick to condemn them.
The simple solution is to just switch off your television set, for something my might find offensive ten other people might find amusing, so rather than go out of your way to screw it up for those ten other people why don't you just switch channels for five minutes and come back when the angles over, use your parental discretion and don't let your kids sit back and absorb something you think is inappropriate, most of all, just use your common sense and see the big picture of why these things appear in pro wrestling world, because if you can't grasp that big picture you are really following the wrong type of entertainment.
by Robbie C Extreme
I agree with you wholeheartedly. Give Vinny Mac a chance to play this out and see what happens. I never heard any complaints about the Un-Americanz when they were around, the first (volkoff and the iron Sheik) or the second run (storm, test, christian, and regal) and this bradshaw angle is just to generate heat.
As for the Eugene character, I find it humorous and not offensive in any way. The character is loveable and simple, easy for the fans to cuddle up to. I think that the character can be played up well and used for angles that will be widely loved.
I've heard it somewhere that wrestling characters are the reflection of real people just amplified a thousand times. That is very true. They take bits of people and amplify it to fit a crowd. It can take years to get to know a person, but if amplified, it can take a few moments, and those few moments in the wrestling world are an eternity. There are racist people in the world like Farooq used to be, and like Bradshaw is now. Plus, why not have minorities represented? Bradshaw will play the biggit and Eddie Guerrero will crush him to show that his ways are wrong. Then, Eugene could possibly have a run with the IC title or in the tag team division to show that just because someone is a little "special" doesn't mean that they can't wrestle. Do I smell Foley over Orton then surrendering that strap to Eugene? That would be a great angle in my view....but yeah, those are just my opinions.
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