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Monday, 10 March 2014

With Darren Young Out of the Closet, is WWE Missing the Boat?

     The news that WWE Superstar Darren Young is out isn’t . . . well, it isn’t news. We’ve known about it for a while, at least through the media. I’m not surprised that WWE is a gay-friendly employer. After all, Pat Patterson, an openly-gay man was Vince McMahon’s right-hand man for many years. So many in the sports entertainment industry regard his opinion like its gospel, and deservedly so, I’m sure. His sexuality appears to have been a non-issue.
Darren Young
     And so it makes sense that quite a few wrestlers from the modern-era to an older generation have commented positively about Young’s coming out. These luminaries include John Cena right on down the line to Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. WWE also officially expressed its pleasure in seeing him come out.
     It’s great, sure. The wrestlers can look accepting and progressive (and I’m sure that they are) and WWE can look accepting and progressive (and I’m sure that they are). But the WWE is missing the boat here.
     Why not take this opportunity to create the gimmick of an open gay man as portrayed in a positive light?
     Homosexual angles and WWE are no strangers to one another. It’s been going on for a long time. Let’s take a trip back thirty years in time. In 1985, Adrian Adonis symbolically ‘Came out of the closet’, literally stripping himself bare of his motorcycle hat and jacket and embracing women’s clothing (and Jimmy Hart). He was henceforth known as ‘Adorable’ Adrian Adonis.
     You could say that the then WWF was ahead of its time in placing such a character in front of the camera, especially when they were on a family-friendly mission. My problem isn’t so much with the fact that Adonis was a villain (or a ‘heel’
Adrian Adonis and Manager Jimmy Hart
in wrestling-ese). My problem lies in the fact that he embodied the worst kind of gay stereotypes. I mean, in the beginning, it would appear that he was transgender because of his dress. By 1987, he still hosted an interview segment called The Flower Shop, but he’d lost the dress. So, what did he become? Just a regular gay guy?
     It seems to me that they confused transgender and gay as if the distinction could be so easily screwed up. Rumors swirled over the idea that Vince McMahon used this gimmick as a means to punish Adonis for becoming severely overweight. I’ll play nice on that one since rumors are just what they are—rumors.
     And then there was Goldust. Good God, there was Goldust. Dustin Runnels, son of the legendary Dusty Rhoades, must have really found his way into Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s doghouse, because he got stuck with the gimmick of a walking Academy Award. If Adrian Adonis embodied the worst gay stereotypes then Goldust blew them into the next galaxy.
     Goldust felt up Razor Ramon/Scott Hall at awkward moments. He gave ‘mouth-to-mouth’ to a vulnerable Ahmed Johnson. The message that this conveys: gay guys are frotteurs and molesters. It was horrible.
     That was then and this is now. The world has come a long way since Adrian Adonis came out of the closet and Goldust hit scene, in 1985 and 1996 respectively. People didn’t understand the gay community enough, even into the late 90s. Gimmicks like Adonis and Goldust couldn’t have helped matters, but nevertheless.

     Now that the WWE has an openly-gay performer on its roster, it has the opportunity to right so many wrongs. It can present a gay man in a positive light. It can present the man (or woman) as the productive member of society that they are. Maybe Darren Young isn’t anxious to make his sexuality and his gimmick one and the same, but that doesn’t mean that other performers couldn’t fit the bill. And hey, they’re in the rating business and there are enough viewers who would like to see this. I know I would. 

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