In 2014, the business model for journalism (so-called) is as follows: manufacture some perceived outrage and let the delicious page views and ad revenues flow forth. The Atlantic, a once-venerated font of American letters boasting such celebrated writers as Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson, is sadly no exception; a large infusion of digital ad revenues keeps it afloat.
Nothing generates that sweet, sweet digital ad revenue quicker and more effectively than calling something “racist,” then reverse engineering the why and wherefore. It’s cheap and trite, but so is the rest of American culture.
But when The Atlantic not only calls wrestling “fake” (scripted, sure, but those 15-foot falls are all too real) but also “racist,” the gloves come off—them’s fighting words.
The Atlantic’s claim rests upon the supposed fact that no one of the black persuasion has ever held the WWE’s top title. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—with his Essence and Ebony cover appearances and father Rocky “Soulman” Johnson—doesn’t count, because he’s half Samoan and comes from a wrestling family, which makes him “not black” through some manner of social justice wizardry.
Back when the WWE was first created, wrestling was a strictly territorial business. If you did business in Albany and Baltimore, you didn’t do business in Atlanta and Tallahassee. Being that the WWE Championship began in the Northeast, champions during its pre-Hulk Hogan existence tended to rely upon appealing to one ethnic group or another, primarily Italians and Puerto Ricans.
Wrestling isn’t a form of entertainment known for its subtlety. In a sense, it’s the world’s most profitable burlesque show. As such, it relies heavily upon stock characters, many of which often have an ethnic or racialized slant to them.
To wit, it’s got Irish characters who look like leprechauns, hillbilly characters in bib overalls, rednecks, crazed Persian madmen, Polynesian guys pretending to be Japanese, a Japanese-American feigning ignorance of English, and more “Soviet” invaders than you can shake a stick at. So it should be surprising to precisely no one that there are militant black nationalist wrestlers, pimp wrestlers who are also sometimes voodoo priests or Baptist preachers, and wrestlers who simply come out and say “Damn!”
Indeed, part of wrestling’s appeal is that basically anyone steeped in Anglo-American culture can turn it on and follow along. What the appeal to grown men with triple-digit IQs is I’m not quite sure, but most of the smartest guys I know are obsessed with wrestling and want to discuss at great length a worked sport with predetermined outcomes, garish characters, and guys in tights pretending to fight one another.
To say that The Atlantic wants to attack wrestling because it’s a white thing is too simple. Put simply, it’s not: turn on RAW this Monday and look at all the faces in the crowd. It’s hard for even a confirmed racial separatist to be cynical seeing people from different backgrounds connect in this way; guys who like wrestling tend to bond pretty quickly with other guys who like wrestling.
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