Over the past week, WWE has been criticised by several writers, me included, for the misogyny and sexism that has started seeping back into their storylines. It started at last Sunday's Royal Rumble where Ric Flair forcibly planted a kiss on Becky Lynch to allow his daughter Charlotte to take over on offense during the WWE Divas Championship match on the show. In a double whammy, WWE followed up by scripting The Rock to expose Lana's onscreen chastity and faithfulness to her fiance Rusev as a sham when he reminded her in comically lurid detail of a one night stand they had together.
When asked for comment on its recent treatment and presentation of female wrestlers by Alex Goot of Vocativ.com, WWE invoked the Stephanie McMahon defence, namely that their programming is a simple morality play where villains do heinous acts, whilst female protaginists are portrayed in a postive manner:
"WWE programming, which features fictional characters that cover a range of personalities similar to movies and television shows, tells stories of good versus evil. In addition, as our on-going storylines develop, we will continue to position women as both strong competitors and compelling individuals."
However, as Goot points out, this defence ignores when heroes act in morally questionable manners that send mixed messages to their viewing audience, which kids favourite John Cena has been guilty of on numerous occasions, like when he called Eve Torres a scandalous bitch, a ho and a skank for her treachery, and when he alluded to Lana performing sexual favours to help her man Rusev get title rematches.
For a company that publicises their Be A STAR anti-bullying program so hard to script fan favourites to act as bullies so frequently is hypocrisy of the highest order and sadly makes the McMahon family look like they only have the program in place as corporate cover for their whimsical writing.
It would be unfair to single out just WWE for criticism, however, as the copycats at TNA somehow managed to come up with a forced kiss spot at last night's Impact tapings in Manchester, England, that was more offensive than the one WWE came up with five days earlier. This is clearly an industry wide problem.
During a Monster's Ball match between The Wolves and The Decay (Abyss and Crazzy Steve), Eddie Edwards pinned back the interfering Rosemary's hands, whilst Davey Richards teased assaulting her with a cheesegrater before planting a big kiss on her. This was worse than WWE's similar spot, because you had two babyfaces teaming up together to harrass a female manager.
I don't know if TNA are that tone deaf, intentionally trolling because they are desperate for attention or feel that such scripting attracts more people than it turns off, but this is another example why most hardcore fans will continue to root against the company. On an issue that they could so easily take the moral highground on, instead they find ways to be even more tacky and lowbrow.
There's hypocrisy here too, as Billy Corgan came into TNA as a creative team member vowing to be a progressive force in an industry that has traditionally handled issues related to gender, race and sexuality in their programming insensitively:
"There is a tremendous opportunity to go into really fresh, new directions," Corgan explained in an interview. Having characters who explore race or transgender issues is certainly a possibility, he suggested. "There are ways to explore those themes in ways that are productive, create new stars and show that value-based ‘babyfaces,’ no matter what their background, no matter where they come from, can draw new audiences and inspire people in new ways."
Corgan believes his ideas will " break new ground." In 2015, he said, "Those social and cultural issues that are sort of a ‘don’t go there’ subject" will result in themes that will feel more meaningful to current audiences. "I think there’s an endless supply of things in our culture where people are dealing with race or with gender, etc., and you can get into these things in a way that is both revelatory and enlightening. Treated the right way, ultimately, the good guy wins. The right ideas win."
Maybe, like WWE suggested, we should trust their process and let it play out, as TNA's forced kiss spot could theoretically be planting a seed for a double turn, where The Wolves are shunned by other babyfaces for their vile actions. However, both their track records unfortunately indicate we should do nothing of the sort.