AS I SEE IT
by: Bob Magee
Well, well, well....
In the last 48 hours, I put out a post on a number of site that run this column suggesting that three angles that the WWF was doing weren't appropriate; specifically the Paul Wight "cancer angle", the Chaz/Marianna angle, and the Mark Henry sex angle. You'd have thought I'd have committed an obscene act in St. Patrick's Cathedral during High Mass on Christmas Eve.
In the three plus years I've been doing this column, I've never received this kind of a response. Quite a few of the rush of first day responses questioned my sexual preferences and parentage in language colorful enough to give Al Isaacs of SCOOPS a heart attack if I tried to include some of the e-mails in this column. Thus, I won't bother showing these people for what they were. Suffice it to say that it's a shame that those people can breed and vote.
There were also a sizable portion of others who dismissed the criticism by saying "It's only a TV show". We'll get to that issue in a minute.
Anyhow, in case you missed it, here's what I said in that post:
"I enjoy the over-the top antics on RAW most of the time. But the last two weeks have featured angles that are well beyond anything that is appropriate for airing.
First, the 'terminal cancer' angle with Paul Wight and D-Lo Brown. Unless this angle is an example of Paul Wight wanting to include a family member in an angle, in the same way that Tommy Dreamer did last year in ECW (where Justin Credible interrupted a 10 bell count for Dreamer's grandfather) this is absolutely repulsive. It's bad enough to use a terminal illness in an angle.
But to involve D-Lo Brown in such an angle, who just got done burying his friend Brian Hildebrand who died after a two year battle with cancer (let alone dealing with his feelings about the Darren Drozdov accident), is beyond words I can mention.
Perhaps whoever is responsible for this angle could explain the reasons for his angle to Brian's widow, Pam. As she deals with life without her husband, I'm sure she'd appreciate the dramatic content in an angle about the disease that took her husband's life.
Then we have the domestic abuse angle with Marianna and Chaz Warrington. While it was obvious that 'G-TV' would reveal the 'abuse' to be a ruse, domestic abuse isn't material for an angle. It was wrong when WCW did it with Randy Savage and 'Gorgeous George'. It's wrong for the WWF to do it.
I've worked in counseling for 20 years. I've had to deal with numerous clients who are or have been in abusive relationships.
Within the last two months, I had to play a part in getting a former boyfriend of a student out of our school's building, and getting him arrested for violating a protection order.
I've also had a dear friend who was nearly killed by an abusive fiance. I have a former co-worker that WAS killed by an abusive former boyfriend. To imply through an angle that most women somehow "use" domestic abuse to manipulate men in their lives is disgusting.
Finally, the Mark Henry "sex addict" angle. Let's see... What stereotypes can we work here? The stereotype of black males and their supposed "sexual appetites"? A possible incest angle? Or, if the spoiler reports are true, a portrayal of a gay "sex therapist" on tomorrow night's Smackdown that makes Lenny and Lodi look like wholesome family entertainment?
Come on Vince McMahon...you, Terry Taylor, and those writing storyline material for the WWF you can do FAR better than this. The point is not to TRY to offend people. You may do it to some no matter what you put on TV. But the kinds of angles I've outlined are flat out repulsive and inappropriate. They have no place on your TV programs."
Like I said to the 150 that e-mailed me back...I stand by everything I said above.
However, there were many who liked what I said, but saw it as the writing of someone just like them who thought ALL of what Vince McMahon put on TV is wrong. They're just as wrong about what I wrote.
I've mentioned in this column that I've followed ECW since 1992. I've watched the WWF for more years than I can remember. I also watch a promotion in South Jersey called Combat Zone Wrestling. NONE of these promotions are what could be called politically correct. I've found some fault with some of what each organization did from time to time. But I generally enjoy their product.
As to the subject of being politically correct in wrestling, or something being OK because it's "just a TV show": there's a great deal of difference between being politically correct and just plain stupid. Despite what many wrote me this week to say... race, terminal illnesses, and domestic abuse don't belong as storyline material on wrestling programs; largely because too many fans (and folks, remember Internet wrestling fans and smart marks are NOT the majority of wrestling fans, no matter what you think) view wrestling programs as reality, not soap opera. For whatever reason, they see traditional soap operas in one light and wrestling in another. Therefore, these angles are NOT the same thing as "having [insert soap opera character name] get cancer", "having [insert soap opera character name] being abused in a storyline". Given that reality, inclusion of them as such is just plain stupid.
Now for those 150 or so who wrote me critically; if you'd like to discuss being politically correct in wrestling, and want to something to complain about....if you want to use your energies for something constructive besides trying to fill my e-mail box, I have a better example:
Lenny, Lodi, and GLAAD.
Most of you have seen what happened by now.
GLAAD stands for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. The organization focuses on homophobic (read: anti-gay and lesbian) depictions on TV, movies, and elsewhere in the media. Most of what they do is worthwhile. They chose to make the removal of the depiction of Lenny and Lodi on Nitro, Thunder, PPVs and house shows a major action priority.
A MAJOR ACTION PRIORITY? For God's sake, come on.
I made a point of reprinting two views on the PWBTS newsboard, one of which was e-mailed to me (with the author's name disguised) and another which was publicly posted on the rec.sport.pro-wrestling newsgroup. The views expressed (one by a gay man and another by a lesbian) couldn't have been more opposite. One thought Lenny and Lodi getting pulled was a great idea. The other thought that it removed a chance to discuss gay and lesbian issues with their non-political friends who were wrestling fans, and felt the removal ended the chance for any dialogue, and polarized the issue.
What's even worse is that GLAAD didn't even pay attention to the way the Lenny and Lodi storyline actually came down, and contradicted their supposed organizational preferences toward depictions of gays in a dramatic role.
In the Washington Post article about the GLAAD boycott, GLAAD entertainment media director Scott Seomin said the following: "GLAAD would love to see a gay wrestler. It would be great if WCW introduced a wrestler for a given amount of time, a dozen appearances or so, and then revealed that he was gay."
One small problem, Mr. Seomin. That is EXACTLY what WCW did. Each of the characters had been on WCW TV for some time well beyond 12 appearances.... Lodi as part of Raven's Flock and Lenny Lane as a mid-card/preliminary talent with one small push. So it's pretty clear that you didn't bother to pay attention to what you yourself said would be a acceptable portrayal of a gay character. It's also pretty clear that GLAAD has cost two workers their jobs for all intents and purposes for nothing more than their OWN ignorance regarding a situation.
As for my own thoughts on the Lenny and Lodi characters, I think the Lenny and Lodi characters were played for such obvious laughs, they were almost a slap AT the stereotypes of gay men, not a furthering of them. I didn't find them the least bit offensive.
Before the e-mails start, I've worked with gay and lesbians in most of the jobs I've had...have had a lesbian boss, and many a few gay and lesbian friends. I've seen the real life pain of homophobia, and the hell it can put gay and lesbian people through in their jobs, and personal lives. I also saw the guts of PWBTS and SCOOPS columnist, Carrie Messantonio-Zohn publicly outing herself as bisexual this week in her column.
If GLAAD wants to do something socially useful, quit making half-baked judgements about characters that they obviously didn't even do their research on before costing them their jobs. Instead, start publicizing the positive efforts of people like Carrie who write columns and have no problem talking about who they are and being who they are. Only THEN they can say they've done something worthwhile to challenge stereotypes within this form of entertainment.
Until next time.....
If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org