Glenn Beck vs. World Wrestling Entertainment
In the current day of “Sports Entertainment”, the idea of pro wrestling being “real” is passé. We all know it to be a physically demanding choreographed equivalent of a soap opera, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t going to take the scripted storylines to heart, and take offense when a storyline goes too far.
Recently on WWE Raw, superstar Jack Swagger returned to the ring after an extended absence. “The All-American American” returned with a harder demeanor and a new manager, wrestling legend Dutch Mantel under the new name Zeb Colter. Swagger and Colter are being portrayed as militant and extreme members of the Tea Party, using “Don’t tread on me” and “We the People” as their catch phrases. Swagger is currently scheduled to appear at Wrestlemania 29 to take on the World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio, a Latino Billionaire good guy, however the match is currently in question after Swagger was arrested for DUI and marijuana possession earlier in the week. The battle between a patriotic American and a Latino billionaire seemed like an easy opportunity for the WWE to address immigration issues in our country.
WWE’s storyline has stirred up quite a controversy amongst Conservative commentators such as Glenn Beck, someone already referenced in the current storyline as a pen pal to Swagger and Colter. In response to the storyline, Beck said,
'I’m sick and tired of being miscast. I am sick and tired of it. It is lazy at best. And I certainly am not going to give any more time or my money to any organization that is miscasting, is making it harder for me and my family to stand up for what I believe in. You’re mocking me for standing up for the Constitution of the United States of America? You’re mocking me for standing up for law and order? Equal justice under the law? Equal justice. I’ve been that my whole life. You’re mocking me for standing up for the same principles and values that Martin Luther King stood up for? I don’t think so. In my own camp? No, I don’t think so. Get the hell out.'
Paul Joseph Watson has criticized the angle as a battle between moderate and conservative Republicans. Vince and Linda McMahon are both registered Republicans, with Linda spending a reported $47 million on a failed campaign a Senate seat from Connecticut last year. According to Watson,
'The fact that WWE is owned by Vince and Linda McMahon, who are part of the Republican establishment, also tells us a lot about how grass roots conservatives and libertarians are viewed by those near the top of the power structure,'
'This is part of the divide and conquer tactic of cultural subversion to manufacture racial division and to characterize the Tea Party, conservatives, libertarians, opponents of uncontrolled illegal immigration and constitutionalists as racist, extremist radicals who should be pushed to the fringes of the political discourse,'
The WWE has chosen to defend their actions, saying that they create a wide variety of characters to act as both heroes and villains, no different than television and major motion pictures. They claim to have changed Swagger's persona to have him be a substantial villain against Del Rio, an angle they hope will appeal to the Latinos who make up 20% of their audience. WWE has also issued a press release saying that they have extended an invitation to Glenn Beck to appear live on WWE Raw to address their 14 million weekly viewers about the offensive situation. Not only that, the WWE has released a video of Colter and Swagger, who use their real names, responding to Glenn Beck,
As a long time wrestling fan I’m of two minds in this situation. First, I can completely understand why people are offended by this. Dutch Mantel’s portrayal of Zeb Colter is extreme and portraying Tea Party members as ignorant and racist. The WWE has had storylines that have greatly crossed the line in the past, like a storyline portraying a radical Muslim shortly after 9/11, and one where a wrestler presented a video of implied necrophilia. However, I also completely agree with what Keown and Hagger say in their video response and believe this character falls in very well with previous controversial characters, such as Sgt. Slaughter, the once American hero who became and Iraqi sympathizer during the Gulf War, a storyline that resulted in death threats to Slaughter and necessitated his wearing of a bulletproof vest at personal appearances.
What are your thoughts on the WWE’s latest creative venture? Do you think Glenn Beck should accept the invite and appear on RAW?