In 2014, the business model for journalism (so-called) is as follows: manufacture some perceived outrage and let the delicious page views and ad revenues flow forth. The Atlantic, a once-venerated font of American letters boasting such celebrated writers as Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson, is sadly no exception; a large infusion of digital ad revenues keeps it afloat.
Nothing generates that sweet, sweet digital ad revenue quicker and more effectively than calling something “racist,” then reverse engineering the why and wherefore. It’s cheap and trite, but so is the rest of American culture.
But when The Atlantic not only calls wrestling “fake” (scripted, sure, but those 15-foot falls are all too real) but also “racist,” the gloves come off—them’s fighting words.
The Atlantic’s claim rests upon the supposed fact that no one of the black persuasion has ever held the WWE’s top title. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—with his Essence and Ebony cover appearances and father Rocky “Soulman” Johnson—doesn’t count, because he’s half Samoan and comes from a wrestling family, which makes him “not black” through some manner of social justice wizardry.
Back when the WWE was first created, wrestling was a strictly territorial business. If you did business in Albany and Baltimore, you didn’t do business in Atlanta and Tallahassee. Being that the WWE Championship began in the Northeast, champions during its pre-Hulk Hogan existence tended to rely upon appealing to on ethnic group or another, primarily Italians and Puerto Ricans.
Wrestling isn’t a form of entertainment known for its subtlety. In a sense, it’s the world’s most profitable burlesque show. As such, it relies heavily upon stock characters, many of which often have an ethnic or racialized slant to them.
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