From Brodus to Teddy: How WWE Has Morphed into a Modern-Day Minstrel Show

Derek McKinleyCorrespondent IMay 13, 2012

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

I don't think anyone would disagree that superstars of color, whether black, Latino, Samoan, Indian, etc. are fairly well-represented among the WWE population.

Men like Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, David Otunga, The Usos, Epico and Primo and others are featured at least semi-regularly on WWE television, and non-wrestlers like Ricardo Rodriguez, Rosa Mendes, Teddy Long and Abraham Washington also receive a reasonable amount of screen time.

But the more I watch, the more WWE seems like a great big minstrel show. Black characters especially seem to be forced into doing promos or angles that highlight a number of negative attributes specific to their race, whether intentional or not.

On one end of the spectrum, you've got the emerging tag team of Darren Young and Titus O'Neil, who are consistently presented as young, disrespectful, jive-talking, culturally insensitive showboats.

During one appearance on Smackdown, they mocked Yoshi Tatsu by affecting a heavy Japanese accent, and started playing the dozens with Ezekiel Jackson when he jumped to Tatsu's defense, dancing and taunting that Zeke "ain't got no cuts."

On the other end, you've got David Otunga, who plays a Harvard-educated, Starbucks-sipping, butt-kissing yes man to John Laurinaitis. While I think he's done an excellent job playing that character, the term "Uncle Tom" is not necessarily an inaccurate description of his character at times.

Meanwhile, Teddy Long steps and fetches for Big Johnny and now Eve, performing increasingly more degrading acts at the behest of his...master? Seriously, Teddy Long is, for all intents and purposes, a slave right now.

But things aren't all bad, I guess. The mentally unstable rapper and the West African who used to be Jamaican recently won the tag team titles from the Puerto Ricans with the fiery and not at all stereotypical Latina seductress for a manager.

I imagine they'll soon be defending those belts against the low-riding Mexican gang-banger and his Mexican associate who is actually Samoan.

That is, of course, if our amigos Hunico and Camacho aren't squashed by the funky, jive-talking break dancer in the track suit flanked by a pair of back-up dancers. Dance, Brodus, dance!

Or if they can avoid being inducted into the Hall of Pain by the angry black man who, back in the day, had a voracious carnal appetite and went by the moniker of "Sexual Chocolate."

All of these matches will be called by WWE's dreadlocked, head-spinning, shucky-ducky quack quacking commentator, Booker T, as well.

This is the bulk of the non-white roster in WWE right now. It's a terrible double standard, I know. Here, I've pointed out all of the stereotypes surrounding the black superstars and pointed out none of the white stereotypes like Zack Ryder's guido gimmick or...oh, yeah. I guess that's basically it.

Only a handful of non-white Superstars have managed to transcend their heritage and become entertaining for reasons that have nothing to do with the color of their skin or where they came from.

It doesn't matter that Alicia Fox is black, only because it doesn't matter that Alicia Fox is there.

Eve Torres' and Vickie Guerrero's characters are not predicated on them being overtly Latina; just overtly annoying.

And of course, there's The Rock, who is proud of his black and Samoan heritage, but is so much more than that as an entertainer.

It's just sad. There hasn't been a black WWE champion since The Rock won the belt at 2002. Of the 17 men to hold the belt since then, only three of them (Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio) were not white. To be fair, former four-time World Heavyweight and two-time WWE Champion Batista is half-Filipino.

Of the 24 men to hold the World Heavyweight title, only Rey Mysterio, Booker T, The Great Khali and Mark Henry were not white.

Black and Latino performers have had substantially more luck with the mid-card titles since 2002, with guys like Umaga, Rey Mysterio and Ezekiel Jackson winning the Intercontinental title, Montel Vontavious Porter winning the United States title and Eddie Guerrero, Booker T, Carlito and Shelton Benjamin winning both belts.

I'm not advocating for crowning a black champion for the sake of having a black champion. I'm saying that there are guys in the business who, if given a push, could pick up the ball and run with it for WWE.

Beyond that, there are guys who shouldn't have to play to the negative aspects of their race just to be featured on WWE television. We don't need the guys from Mexico to either be either obscenely wealthy luxury car driving aristocrats or barrio-dwelling thugs. The fact that they're from Mexico doesn't have to have any bearing on what they do or how they are portrayed.

The fact that some superstars are black doesn't mean they have to dance for our amusement or otherwise inhabit some nasty stereotype of black subservience to the white man—in this case, John Laurinaitis.

The men and women who write these characters are collectively called WWE Creative.

This is not creative. This is not entertaining. It's sad. It's lazy. It's embarrassing.