WWE's lines of reality and entertainment were unnecessarily blurred when an opportunistic public relations firm took exception with an ongoing bullying angle.
Last week on Twitter, WWE Executive Vice President Stephanie McMahon responded to a question about an apparent contradiction between WWE programming and its community outreach.
Ryback's scripted bullying of smaller individuals in the face of WWE's real-life Be A Star anti-bullying campaign raised eyebrows. The following exchange between Stephanie McMahon and a concerned viewer would commence:
Stephanie's response was quickly picked apart by the MJK PR Firm as PR expert Marc Kruskol issued this statement in support of lazy parenting:
Kids play cops and robbers because they see it on TV and movie. They also try to perform wrestling moves and sometimes people get hurt. Again, it's not the wrestling company's responsibility to be a parent, but it IS the company's responsibility not to be hypocritical.
Because of the live-event nature of the WWE, it is often judged for something it is not trying to be. WWE is but a scripted battle of good vs. evil disguised as a spectator sport, no different from Medieval Times.
The element of play-by-play commentary and backstage interviews, however, makes it easy to lump WWE into the same category as NFL, NBA and other major sports. Triple H responded to Kruskol, tweeting:
OMG, someone just told me that Darth Vader is a character in a movie!!!! Silly me all this time I thought he was just a big bully #BAStar— Triple H (@TripleH) September 3, 2013
No PR firm is going to admonish Darth Vader for his questionable actions. The intergalactic, fictional element of "Star Wars" relieves the franchise of any duty to raise your children. It's not as easy in the more ambiguous world of sports entertainment.
Is Ryback's "Bully" Character Socially Irresponsible?
WWE does take the necessary steps to warn its younger viewers of its constant dangers. "Don 't Try This at Home" has become as time-honored of a tagline as "Whatchu gonna do?"
But if WWE were to concur with Marc Kruskol, there would be no heels. No conflict. No WWE.
If WWE conceded that Ryback shouldn't act as a bully because of the adverse effects it will have on children, then the WWE villain, as we know him, dies.
If simulated bullying were to be ruled intolerable, then all underhanded tactics must cease to exist for the sake of consistency. Apparently, playing the role of a bad guy is socially irresponsible.
Randy Orton recently took the easy way out to record yet another WWE Championship reign. Does that send the right message to children? Is that type of behavior a permissible form of entertainment because WWE doesn't have an anti-cheating campaign, thereby absolving the promotion of hypocrisy?
If anything, Ryback's bullying angle is relevant and fitting in today's WWE landscape. WWE's commitment to creating awareness of bullies, while hypocritical in ways that Marc Kruskol failed to address, allows fans to immediately view Ryback in a negative light.
Ryback is a despicable character, but a character nonetheless. In the battle of good vs. evil, his inevitable comeuppance will reinforce WWE's Be A Star theme.