Friday, September 4, 2015

The Right Representation Is Important

Sheamus doesn't need Irish shit in his Tron to remind people he's representing his country
Photo Credit:
Representation in wrestling, as with anything, is vitally important. People will watch regardless of who's on top, but how many people and how diversified they are will always depend on who is represented. If the only people being featured prominently are white males, then the majority of the crowd is probably going to consist of white males. Once more diversity is in the mix, people of other demographics will start to flock to it. But is representation itself enough, or does that representation have to mean something more than just having a demographic on the roster?

WWE appears to be getting the memo in general, as more and more different groups are being featured. The Divas Revolution has given unprecedented exposure to women on RAW and pay-per-view. New Day and the Prime Time Players are among the most featured acts on television right now. Reports are also circulating that Vince McMahon and Triple H want a "Mexican superstar" right now to the point where WWE may bring back Rey Mysterio and/or Alberto del Rio. More and more, women and people of color are getting shine on RAW, but what kind of shine are they receiving?

WWE has never been a company that has been progressive about what kinds of characters certain ethnicities, races, or women can play, and even though some progress has been made, many non-white, non-American wrestlers are plugged into neat little holes. One could argue del Rio's character when he was in WWE was not tied to his ethnicity, and even now, the Prime Time Players gimmick could very well have white guys playing it. But until recently, women in WWE have played one of two characters: sexy cattle or jealous bitches. Latino wrestlers are still put in racially stereotypical gimmicks that may not even be reflective of their actual ethnicity, see the Puerto Rican Epico and Primo playing matadors, which is associated with Mexico or more accurately Spain.

Even white non-Americans can be shoved into gimmicks that can only be played by people of nationality, most notably Sheamus. Granted, his character, when stripped of its entrance, is pretty nationality-blind. One doesn't necessarily need to be Irish to be a bully or a brute. But the TitanTron graphics hammer home that Sheamus' natural brogue isn't nearly enough reminder that he's from Ireland. Meanwhile, another Irishman in Finn Bálor has a completely unique gimmick that could be assumed by someone regardless of what country they're from. Perhaps it's the difference between NXT and the main roster, but it's proof that you don't need to throw a person's demographic into everyone's face when proving you're doing right by representing them.

Getting these minority wrestlers out in front of the camera is an important step, and WWE should be commended for changing the game. At the same time, it needs to get away from stereotypical gimmicks and start getting into crafting characters that have motivations that aren't tied to what old white dudes thought each race, gender, religion, nationality, ethnicity, or [insert demographic here] represented 20, 30, 40 years ago. Representation is good, but the right representation should always be the goal.