PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Homophobia Is Alive and Well on TV at the WWE

Vince McMahon

With the WWE's biggest event of the year on the horizon, fans and sponsors might want to take a closer look at its blatant homophobia and reconsider the wisdom of handing over their money to a bigoted and retrograde institution.

Head of the WWE Vince McMahon doesn't like to be thought of as a hick. He really doesn't like it.

Unfortunately for him – and for those fans who desperately want to see wrestling present something worth watching – his every attempt to show that he's not a classless rube, simply re-enforces just what a classless rube he is.

The WWE is heading into its biggest money-season, with their flagship event Wrestlemania on the horizon (Sunday 3 April). What better way to lead into it than with a string of homophobic slurs, drawing on a long history of homophobia in the WWE's top headline stars – strong good-guy supermen who are the heroes to countless children?

How does all-round good-guy loved-by-children-everywhere John Cena get back at some verbal sledging by The Rock? He implies The Rock is gay, of course. How does all-round good-guy loved-by-children-everywhere John Cena demonstrate that he's going to beat his enemy The Miz and his 'apprentice' Alex Riley (recently arrested on drunk driving charges, a fact made light of on a recent episode of RAW)? He implies that they're gay, of course. How did CM Punk take a dig at Cody Rhodes while doing commentary? He compared him to Pat Patterson. For those who aren't up on their wrestling history... that implies that he's gay. And what about Vince McMahon's son-in-law and company executive Triple H, the hugely popular and repulsively huge superstar? Well, it's a lucky day if he opens his mouth on screen without a homophobic slur dribbling out.

A brief summary of Cena's recent 'jokes' can be found at Cage Side Seats.com. Many of these may seem fairly harmless when viewed in isolation: on their own they may seem to be minor taunts that refer only tangentially to the suggestion that being gay is itself a disreputable thing, but it's the long history of such instances that make them stand out like a pulsing red pimple on some 'roid-fueled back acne.

Laughably, the WWE has suddenly aligned with GLAAD (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), despite a long history of cheap shots at minorities and anyone not conforming to the WWE's conservative social images and ideals. But it'll take a lot more than a convenient press release to make that more than merely some cheap PR to counter negative press leading into Wrestlemania. McMahon's held the reins for long enough that if he wanted such derogatory images and verbiage stamped out, it really would be gone in a heartbeat. After all, McMahon has the power to forbid his announcers from using pronouns during their commentary, and he does so. Getting rid of the hate-filled targeting of minorities should be an easier task than getting rid of fundamental grammatical building blocks.

And what happens less than a week after the WWE's alliance with GLAAD? Head announcer and high-profile WWE staff member Michael Cole takes a 'friendly' shot at a WWE co-announcer on Twitter, calling him, surprise surprise, a 'faggot'. Shortly after, Cole removed the post and gave the usual non-apology that people give when they've conceivably helped fuel a bunch of teen suicides with flippantly derogatory remarks.

With Cole scheduled for a big match at Wrestlemania, it's unlikely there'll be any serious repercussions for this. And why would there be? The WWE has tolerated this dismissively and thoughtlessly derogatory attitude towards homosexuality – if not the word itself – for decades. In the smugly defiant business culture of the WWE, the idea that he will receive 'training' is a joke.

This overall assessment may seem to be typical of the anti-wrestling bias that wrestling fans frequently have to battle in mainstream culture; but wrestling fans (of which I am one) need to realise that the reluctance of the mainstream media to embrace wrestling may have a lot less to do with inherent bias against the form and a lot more to do with the state of professional wrestling in America.

In fact, I'd argue that it's vital that professional wrestling is given a much larger place in media analysis, not only in order to point out its numerous problems, but also in order to examine those elements that make it an exciting art-form and that, if properly handled, could make it a great one (I've tried to do so previously, discussing an exciting and greatly-loved match between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker, the long-lived performer Ric Flair, and the potential of relative-newcomer TNA to move away from the WWE's disgraceful approach – something they've more than failed to live up to).

McMahon rails against the cultural image of wrestling as a lesser entertainment, while continually establishing it as exactly that. Before wrestling addresses the enemy without (the mainstream media) they need to deal with the enemy within: the fact that wrestling is a product that touts its own irrelevance and cultural bankruptcy at every conceivable turn.

In fact, McMahon's approach to his business does a disservice to many wrestling fans and those who work within its strange, underexplored and often intriguing world. The wrestling press itself isn't necessarily a big fan of the bigotry that bubbles away under the surface of the WWE. Sites like 'Diva Dirt' (a great website for those interested in following women's wrestling – another area decimated by the WWE) made their displeasure clear on Twitter, at 'Cageside Seats' Keith Harris argued for serious adherence to the WWE's anti-bullying campaign within their own offices, and Wade Keller, editor of the wrestling news site 'PWTorch', who has criticised the WWE's indifference to social issues in the past, wrote a clear and concise article suggesting the WWE take action against Cole, also responding directly (and politely) to the usual 'who cares?' (or worse) posts that followed.

With Wrestlemania on the horizon, fans might want to consider just how far the WWE remains from acceptable standards in its treatment of homosexuality, women and racial minorities, as well as in its understanding of healthy body image representations – a serious problem that affects boys as well as girls at a disturbingly young age – with its unyielding elevation of steroid-style body images (despite the countless drug problems of its past) as a laudable ideal.

The WWE is a company that, like any company, is mainly concerned with its money; how much of it and how often it comes, rather than how they get it. Mainstream pressure needs to be exerted in order to make WWE's sponsors – mainstream retail giants like K-Mart (now the 'official sponsor of WWE') who believe they are sponsoring a PG-rated show – accountable for their connection with content that would be unacceptable in most other forms of mainstream media entertainment (incidentally, Lady Gaga recently made a stand against Target's anti-gay political donations).

Enormously popular wrestler and now Hollywood actor The Rock might also want to consider what an ongoing re-association with the WWE will really mean. His extended interaction has involved all kinds of gay-themed insults from the ridiculous children's hero John Cena: wrestling may not provide the opportunities for long-term script analysis that film and TV allow, but The Rock should be cautious if stepping back into the fold gets him tied up with this kind of bigoted drivel.

As for everyone else, fans who have some sense of social obligation may want to consider avoiding WWE purchases and, importantly, skipping WWE's flagship event Wrestlemania. Mattch results and episode recaps are freely available online, and there are plenty of other ways to catch up on the action without adding to the WWE's bigotry bankroll.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.