Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Paige at the Crossroads

What does Paige's promo portend for the Divas Revolution?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
So, Paige did the inevitable on RAW last night and turned on her Team PCB teammates Charlotte and Becky Lynch, and she did so with a tirade that is being called the "next pipebomb." Aside from how tired that terminology is, Paige's meltdown was well done and it tapped into a lot of the out-of-character frustrations with the so-called "Divas Revolution." It was well-delivered, emotional, and it gave the crowd a lot to hang its hat upon. It also took a step forward in cleaving at least one of the trios in an attempt to impart some individuality. But was that step forward accompanied by two steps backwards?

Looking back at it, the actual words of Paige's soliloquy were at least slightly problematic, especially when it came to the Bella Twins. I know Paige was supposed to be a "heel," but accusing someone of sleeping to the top reinforces gross sexist stereotypes about women in the workplace. Heels are supposed to say terrible stuff, but at the same time, when someone uses Triple H's real life marriage into the McMahon family for fodder or some other male analogue, then maybe I'll stop side-eyeing when it's used as a trope solely for women.

A little more nebulous but more troublesome if the backslide happens is the insinuation that Paige may be jealous of Charlotte, hence the reason for her turn. In a vacuum, Paige turning heel out of jealousy makes sense, which is what makes parsing this whole thing so tricky. She wanted to fight the idea of the establishment, and she couldn't get any help on her own, so the SUPER establishment gave her two foot soldiers, one of whom surpassed her. I might feel salty too in that situation. But the problem is WWE doesn't operate in a vacuum, and literally every other storyline in the pre-"Revolution" WWE women's division has been centered around jealousy, as if that is one of the only emotions a woman can feel. It feels as if Paige is teetering towards backsliding towards the same, tired, problematic stories that WWE has always told with women.

But is she jealous, or is she just nihilistic? That distinction matters, and it could be the key towards evolving the women's division past cattiness and pettiness that has dominated it in perpetuity. This story is now at a crossroads where the next thing Paige does will define whether observers can trust the direction or not. As of right now, not even with this renewed focus in the division has WWE earned any benefit of the doubt. Women have gotten more time on the screen, obviously, but not until now has individuality even mattered. Even with Charlotte ending Nikki Bella's reign of terror, the amount of damage that needs to be undone is great, and it can't be undone overnight.

I don't begrudge anyone for not trusting WWE to do the right thing, because the burden of proof is still in the company's court. Will the writers treat women with some modicum of improvement so that they can get to the same levels that men are? It's not like the male performers are booked much better, but if the men and women can be booked with the same kind of gender-blind incompetence, then at least WWE won't have systemic misrepresentation of an entire gender on its hands.