Monday, May 5, 2014

Instant Feedback: Primacy

She's a former Diva's Champion. Why is she super-afraid of another wrestler again?
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Paige last night got a showcase match for her Divas Championship. She bumped hard for Tamina Snuka, did her best to work around her opponent's deficiencies, and she got a clean victory in the middle of the ring with her complex submission hold. I would like to have taken that display as a sign that maybe, just maybe, women were gaining some kind of primacy within WWE. The days of a limited role-set within the main narrative could be finished as soon as now.

The only mention of Paige on RAW tonight, however, was a mention on Zeb Colter's Deportation List. No women saw action in the ring, actually. The only women who appeared on the show who weren't Rosebuds, Renee Young, or appearing in an advertisement for Total Divas were Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon. They were props in a greater story, almost as if they were cast aside and told "Men are driving the action."

Obviously, McMahon held more of a role of power and primacy, but is her agency due to her gender, or has her surname given her the same kind of importance as those with dicks? And one night left off the show with a roster as bloated as WWE's is right now might not be so bad. But Brie Bella's role on the show, in conjunction with the lack of any presence of the newly minted superstar, felt cheap, like WWE still hadn't learned a thing.

Obviously, Bella is not on the level of her husband in terms of being an in-ring competitor. She's not even on the level of Paige, even now if I'm being real. However, she does have training. She knows how to handle herself. So, if she would feel threatened, why wouldn't she at least offer a token of self-defense? Does the disparity in genitalia create so much of a gap in ability that Bella should react as if the Emerald Weapon was bearing down upon her? As far as I know, that shit doesn't fly in real life. Bella can handle herself, and with her in the vicinity is the best wrestler in the goddamn company, a guy who had just beaten said assailant the night before and who will beat him again at Payback (God willing).

Women are not damsels in distress, especially ones who moonlight as wrestlers. Women watch RAW at a great clip, and while I don't purport to speak for all of them, I can only assume that they would like to have the same thrill of seeing someone who looks like them kick ass above their paygrade like I do when I see any number of cis, white, able-bodied men do the same. It's the same principle with the horrendous cacophony masquerading as a soundtrack for the El Torito/Hornswoggle feud, one that has been sold as a joke using little people as the butt rather than comic relief using the abilities of those performers to satisfy the crowd. It's the same principle that makes cutting Mr. T's heartfelt Hall of Fame speech into a mocking promo for Mother's Day against the super racist dancing mama troupe from WrestleMania XXVIII.

The ignorant rebuttal to this argument is that one should just sit back and watch the show for entertainment. Well, sorry, but watching general awfulness towards humans for things they cannot change is not entertaining to me. I shouldn't have to excuse racism, bigotry against little people, or especially misogyny just because it's being presented as entertainment. I'm not sure I should have to defend that, but hey, if you like watching people be presented in a Stone Age light and excusing it because "entertainment," the problem is not with me pointing it out.

Brie Bella deserves better. Daniel Bryan and Kane deserve better. Most of all, the fans, especially the underserved female fans who continue to watch despite the fact that WWE tells them they're worthless in no uncertain terms deserve better. Wrestling doesn't have to be socially backwards by rule. WWE could present a product that attempts to be progressive without dulling the edges around the traditional things that make its art great. But it doesn't.

And fuck, it didn't even give the fans Paige owning fools as a peace offering either.