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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.
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
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.