On the March 2nd SmackDown, Eve and Natalya wrestled an aggressive contest which, in its brief time, told a good story punctuated by a clever finish, the kind of which we don't see much of anymore.
In disservice to this effort was the insipid commentary from announcers Michael Cole, Booker T. and, to a lesser extent, Josh Matthews, that did nothing to promote audience investment.
Character-wise, Eve's entrance did a great job of showing her change in attitude to the fans, who heeled on her throughout. This was only briefly mentioned by the announcers. Natalya's crestfallen reaction to defeat could have carried more resonance with the audience had the commentators been paying attention to something other than their banter.
Prior to the match, the wrestlers had a promising backstage segment that was building to what could have been a highly charged confrontation in anticipation of their encounter. Instead, the writers and producers opted to go to commercial on fart joke after fart joke.
Natalya was absent from the February 21st live SmackDown, and I had hoped it meant WWE was putting a moratorium on the nowhere gimmick instead of just taking a week off from it. Einstein said, "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” Shows what he knows.
WWE writers and producers wouldn't approach Chris Jericho or the Undertaker with such a puerile gimmick, yet this seems to be the best they can come up with for someone they're not intimidated by. This idiocy is the reason I began and continue to boycott the company.
As farting exemplifies characterization in the WWE writers room, it is little wonder the company cannot get their namesake cable network off the ground. In an article about that struggle, the New York Post made special mention of "WWE's often raunchy programming."
In every other attempt at Divas characterization, WWE writers and producers cannot look beyond female sexuality—such as the corner they painted Eve's persona into.
With such a track record, WWE has no moral high ground to stand on when it attacks critics such as Linda McMahon's political opponents or newspaper editors, only an argument of semantics.
WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman sent a letter reminding Connecticut reporters of their ethical obligations as journalists, but made no mention of WWE's ethical obligations as a content provider to young people.
Since that letter was sent in early February, does WWE consider it ethical for John Cena, arguably the most popular Superstar among children and tweens, to berate Eve with offhanded and unnecessary comments on the February 20th Raw? Not only did that segment lead to "Hoeski" trending worldwide, but arena audiences now chant the remark at Eve during evenings of family entertainment.
Does WWE consider it ethical to, time and again, promote women as man-eaters and manipulators? Even the basis for feuds between the women wrestlers rarely rises above one not liking how the other looks.
WWE is always touting its reach—so many million homes this week through television, so many million followers via this social media, etc. If the folks in Stamford are going to market content and merchandise to youngsters, don't they have a moral obligation to also offer portrayals of strong, multidimensional women who are motivated by universal themes, just as the male wrestlers are?
An artist has no obligation to society but to make art. WWE is beholden to no one when it comes to what kind of content they produce.
However, if WWE officials are going to harp about ethics, then they need to live up to the ideals they're preaching.
Vince McMahon wanted the blessed curse of being the industry leader. In production value, in design, in locker room talent, he has achieved that. The rehab program for former WWE contract players is to be commended. Through their Hall of Fame inducting non-WWE talent, and the company's ever-growing video library, McMahon is living up to his role as caretaker of the industry's heritage.
That said, the misogynistic strain running through WWE programming needs to end, and it needs to end now.
McMahon wanted to be the leader, and now is the time in history to lead in the sea-change manner which he always has, because this disrespect toward women is affecting more than just his little corner of the world.
Apparently, the March 1st TNA Impact suffered so much from the same type of distracting announcing mentioned earlier, that wrestling columnist Will Pruett quipped, "the commentators seem like lonely guys living in a basement."
The obnoxiousness of Mike Tenay and Taz during the Madison Rayne and ODB match led Pruett's colleague Ryan Kester to observe, "I would like one of the top two companies to get their announce team [to] actually treat [the female wrestlers] like athletes. They're TNA's top draw, and it's time for them to be treated with a bit more respect."
Outside of the wrestling industry, last week also saw NASCAR driver Danica Patrick become the target of such unwarranted comments by a San Diego sports anchor, that the station suspended him.
Ross Shimabuku of KSWB-TV talked about Patrick's attractiveness, her unattractiveness and then described her as a word that "starts with B and it's not beautiful."
That comment was made following footage of a press conference where Patrick asked reporters why "sexy" needs to be used when describing female athletes.
That same week, headlines were made outside of the sports world when conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh took to the airwaves and verbally assaulted a Georgetown Law Student he considered a "slut" and "prostitute." Perhaps he saw the Cena segment.
Unabated by the controversy or common sense, Limbaugh spent the following broadcast directing even more inflammatory statements toward the student who had been invited to speak before Congress.
It was only after sponsors pulled their advertising that Limbaugh apologized, publishing a statement on his website Saturday afternoon, which included, "I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke," though, something tells me he doesn't call his mother those words.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers indirectly responded to Limbaugh's "attacks that are outside the circle of civilized discussion and that unmask the strong disrespect for women held by some in this country."
I wish I could report that disrespect toward women was contained to this country, but it is a global epidemic. Only last month, a Nepalese woman was burned to death, accused of being a witch.
This is the world we live in, and whether WWE wants to admit it or not, their writers and producers are only exacerbating a culture of disrespect. Something needs to change. Why can't it begin on a wrestling program?
If the company is truly as concerned about ethics as it demands WWE critics be, then it should look to the example of other entertainment producers such as Jim Henson, Bill Cosby and animation producer Lou Scheimer to use these wonderful tools of television and social media to stem the tide of hate and begin changing perceptions about women for the better.
If you can change minds, you can change the world.
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