Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Occupy Titan Towers: Why Stephanie McMahon (the Character) Is Not Relatable

Being the target of gendered insults aside, McMahon is still the "worse" guy in this situation
Photo Credit: WWE.com
When Daniel Bryan is active and able to perform in the ring, very few people approach what he is able to do. To call him an A-plus player would be a disservice to his abilities. He's the valedictorian. He scores 120 points out of 100 on tests and graduates summa cum laude three years ahead of time. However, as an agent within the story, someone who drives the plot further and acts as a relatable, sympathetic actor, he fails. Mainly, his misogyny towards Stephanie McMahon is way to easily delivered and casual for my liking. Bryan's language towards McMahon, coupled with his smarmy, almost condescending delivery of every word he's ever said towards his antagonists, put me off rooting for him whenever he's not actually wrestling. And since his neck is preventing him from getting in the ring, he's gone from one of the best elements of RAW to one of the worst.

However, transferring that angst at Bryan into justification for McMahon's actions is misinformed, to say the least. Bryan's misogyny only makes McMahon sympathetic inasmuch as everyday misogyny might make the criticism hurled at people like Condoleeza Rice and Leona Helmsley ugly and misguided. They don't deserve gendered insults at all, but their actions are still worthy of condemnation. In short, McMahon plays the role her father did, the ruthless businessperson whose main goal is to make as much money and consolidate as much power as possible while exerting megalomania over the little people in their way. In short, Daniel Bryan is Occupy Wall Street, and the Authority is the One Percent, a point driven home with authority (pardon the pun) the night Bryan and The Yes Movement flooded the ring and wouldn't leave until he got what he wanted.

If that point isn't coming off clearly, blame WWE's writers and McMahon's father Vince for the rumored hurricane of disorganization and discontinuity in the Creative department. Or blame her husband Triple H for playing the dichotomous roles of jock longing for his glory days relived but given a position of major power in WWE and loving steward of wrestling and wrestlers in NXT. But since WWE seems to ignore NXT continuity, one can only point to the evidence on the main show that the story since SummerSlam has been how badly the McMahon-Helmsley Regime II has done everything in order to its impossible whims of both making money and being the faces of the program. Some weeks, their stated goal gets muddled because the story inexplicably paints them as sympathetic babyfaces, but to their credit, everything they've done in action to put over Bryan (and The Shield as well) has reinforced that McMahon is an evil co-dictator with her husband.

So when she says that Bryan should give up the title because it's "best for business," she means she wants it back so that she can install a Corporate Champion whom she can be proud of and never give Bryan another shot ever again. I don't know why John fucking Cena had to elaborate that point on RAW last night and not Bryan at the pay-per-view. When she says Bryan is selfish for throwing My Wife™ Brie Bella under the bus, she's really obfuscating the original issue that she was the one who involved her in the first place. When she talks about the lineage and heritage of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, what she really means is that the value of the title only means something when not held by a B-plus player. I can understand where those points can get muddled; I mean, I would take Bryan a lot more seriously on the mic if he said what Cena said Monday on Sunday and didn't continue this streak of immature insult hurling at McMahon because of her gender. And if the story-framing were more consistent and less scatterbrained, viewers might be able to watch Bryan and McMahon go back and forth and not get Stockholm Syndrome being held captive by the Authority's party line in the same way that women, minorities, and the poor are hoodwinked into voting Republican (or even worse, for the Tea Party).

Still, it's important not to lose sight that McMahon's entire oeuvre from day one has been straight out of the One Percent playbook. At the very best, Bryan is a false idol because he's a disingenuous troll who doesn't respect women, many of whom comprise his Yes Movement. But the situation is closer to the worst-case scenario, that in the story, McMahon is a power-mad sociopath using every trick in the book to get her way, while Bryan represents the working class, and like many of said working class, has a bit to learn when it comes to treating people. Basically, WWE's main event story is where TNA was back in 2011, when everyone was an utter piece of shit, and they all just fought over who could be palatable enough for the fans to like them. Of course, Bryan is a far better wrestler than anyone on that roster, and WWE, for all its faults, still knows how to drive home a starmaking machine for anyone, no matter how virtuous or miserably evil they are.

But when the script calls for that star to be as dismissive of a whole group of people as Bryan's character is acting of women, then of course disconnects are bound to appear. Never lose sight of the fact that Stephanie McMahon is a horrible boss. She owns the company, sure, but that doesn't mean when she says "jump," her employees are morally obligated to ask "how high." It's just that the sub-standard writing quality and meandering direction might be making fans lose sight of that fact.