Three years ago, I expressed fear that WWE would “turn Darren Young's sexuality into cheap fodder for an onscreen angle”, given the company’s long track record of using sensitive issues for cheap heat. Thankfully, those fears were misguided, although Young’s career has largely treaded water ever since, outside of a brief WWE Tag Team Championship run with his Prime Time Player’s partner Titus O’Neil last year.
However, those fears resurfaced when Stephanie McMahon vowed to integrate LGBT characters into WWE programming in the near future, two months ago. Given that WWE’s portrayal of African American wrestlers and other ethnic minorities is often still dated and stereotypical, would they really manage to do any better with homosexuality?
If Patrick Clark’s new NXT gimmick is anything to go by, then sadly not. On last week’s show, Clark “showed a completely different side of what we had seen in the past” by dressing up androgynously in a manner reminiscent of the late Prince, blowing kisses to his popular babyface opponent Rich Swann and licking his lips. Swann had a look of mixed bemusement and disgust to Clark’s new act, which the announcers played up as a comical GIF worthy moment. Imagine being that shook up at seeing an androgynous Prince knock-off in 2016! Clark quickly lost to Swann, so his new found confidence to be himself got him nowhere too.
Although much subtler, this wasn’t all that far removed from the gay heels of the past like Adrian Street, Adrian Adonis, Goldust, Billy & Chuck, Rico and Orlando Jordan, who all freaked out their heterosexual masculine competitors with their flamboyance and histrionics. It’s sad that WWE may be taking the low road yet again instead of crafting a more positive story where Patrick Clark’s change of character was fully supported by the commentators instead of being laughed at like he was some type of freak.