In the wake of the recent series of high-profile suicides among gay teenagers such as Tyler Clementi,TNA announced this week that they're starting an anti-bullying campaign called "Eliminate The Hate."
"Everyone at TNA stands firmly behind this new anti-bullying campaign. The bullying must stop, and we want to take a stand," said TNA Chief Marketing Officer, Al Ovadia, himself a father of two. "There's no place in our schools for bullying, be it based on a student's looks, race, sexual orientation or anything else."
That's all well and good, but coming from a company with their history that also happens to be beyond desperate for any media attention, it doesn't come off completely sincere. The company launched in 2002 with the team of Lenny and Bruce doing a stereotypical gay gimmick. They didn't last very long. More recently, Orlando Jordan's stint in the company has been the topic of controversy. Openly bisexual, he was able to persuade TNA to allow him to do a gimmick based around his sexual orientation. The results have been...interesting. Via Ross Forman, who was a TNA employee at the time, there was a glowing article praising the gimmick on OutSports.com even though he's portraying an outlandish "depraved bisexual" who does things like dress as a bondage slave and use a bottle to squirt
semen melted white chocolate on his check and lick it off. In the article, Jordan even talked about hoping that his character would be a role mod-el and help troubled teenagers:
Jordan is proud and optimistic that his TNA character is a positive step forward for the LGBT community and beyond.
"I really hope this character helps troubled teens, be it [those struggling] because of their race or their sexuality," Jordan said. "If this character makes life even just a little bit easier for someone else, then I'll be really happy."
Yes, I'm sure a depraved bisexual bad guy will do wonders for their self esteem.
There's been homophobia behind the scenes toward Jordan and his (on and off-screen) boyfriend, as well. The wife of a TNA or Spike TV executive was outraged when they *gasp* kissed in the hotel bar. When they were told to stop, Jordan's boyfriend started dancing. Being a gay man, he was percieved to be dancing in a some sort of lewd gay manner, so Ric Flair " breaking the guy down to tears.
But Ric Flair was ACTUALLY a hero, you see! The Jesse Helms supporter actually saved him from being beat up by a gang of homophobes (it was unclear if the people referred to in reports were wrestlers or random bar patrons) and getting fired. Don't gay kiss or gay dance around TNA higher ups. It's an offense that could lead to termination.
Jordan was also rumored to be hitting on a number of straight wrestlers. Being pro wrestling, would it really shock anyone if the wrestlers who claimed this happened are lying about it for political or more nefarious reasons? We've seen wrestlers feed fake items to newsletters about heterosexual relationships that might make a rival look bad, I could certainly see it.
Now, I don't mean to defend Jordan. He was fired from WWE because it was believed that his boyfriend (the same one) was underage and he's clearly contributing to the problem. This is about TNA. If they want their anti-bullying efforts to be taken seriously, then they need to grow up.
I'm not sure if wrestling fans would accept a "serious" LGBT character or even a LGBT babyface (maybe something like how Cassandro is used in Lucha Va Voom or, unfortunately, a lesbian character who gets over because "Girl on girl is hot"), but everything surrounding Orlando Jordan's TNA run doesn't speak well for how they actually feel about this.
That said, launching the campaign is still a good thing, though I'm not sure how many kids and teenagers actually watch TNA.