By: Joshua Scribner
Earlier this week, Stephanie McMahon talked to NBC News about featuring more LGBT performers on WWE television. She stated quote “Throughout my life I have grown up knowing gay [WWE] superstars and executives. It’s always been accepted, but now it’s about getting that message out there” going on to further state “when it makes sense … absolutely we will integrate LGBT storylines into our programming.”
This is something that looks great and inclusive on the surface. The issue is, WWE has not had a stellar track record in the past when it comes to trying to incorporate sensitive issues into their programming. Back in 2003, Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo used being gay as a gimmick, it seems as though this would portray the opposite message of what Stephanie said, because it’s not just acknowledging that LGBT people also happen to be WWE superstars a lot of times, its using something that someone else wouldn’t be able to change as a prop. They even eventually were going to have a wedding (keep in mind, back in this time, gay people couldn’t even get married in most states), until they stopped it by saying “We’re not ACTUALLY gay”.
Even Stephanie her self was involved in an angle called HLA, which stood for (and I’m not making this up) Hot Lesbian Action, where essentially the draw for fans was going to be that if Stephanie’s team of choice lost to Eric Bishoff’s team at Unforgiven 2002, she was going to have to have a three way on live television with 2 actual lesbians. This again perpetuated the stereotype that a lot of men have that while homosexual activity in men is something to be reviled and scorned, the same between two women is an event, and you should want to put it on display in front of everyone because of how “hot” it is.
One could definitely argue that these were both on the tail end of the Attitude Era, and WWE is a much different company with different sensibilities now, but the point is, part of the reason they’ve gotten that way is ignoring everything else about a person but what they can do in that ring. It’s often been said that the best characters are extensions of the people themselves with the volume turned up to 11. I wonder and I fear if focusing on a talents sexual orientation will distract rather than enhance their character.
What will the integration be? Could it be two men fighting over another man, all acting stereotypical and over the top for each other? Could it be women in the same situation, only with the draw being that this is something that’s “hot” and you should tune in to see? If you want this to be taken seriously, you have to give it more respect and look at it as if it’s an enhancement, and not a novelty act.
Sexual orientation is not a device that people can remove at the end of the day.