WWE has been known for years, at this point, to be the type of brand that likes to tackle major issues in the world. Whether they invent a character, bring up something on television, or bring people to television that in the news — it’s still brought up. They want to connect with their audience in every way possible, both male and female as well as young and old. They have lost fans over the years, to the right connection between the sports entertainment universe and the rest of the world is quite critical for them.
However, WWE may be going a bit too far with their recent attempt to connect to an interesting audience for them, the LGBT community. Standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, the LGBT world has grown over the years. This means the world had to take notice as a large percentage joined in by either coming out or changing gender completely. WWE wanted to connect with this audience more by partnering with GLAAD, which was a great move for the WWE brand.
The problem came when Stephanie McMahon mentioned in an interview with NBC OUT, she would talk about acceptance and possible LGBT programming, saying the following.
“Throughout my life I have grown up knowing gay [WWE] superstars and executives. It’s always been accepted, but now it’s about getting that message out there. When it makes sense … absolutely we will integrate LGBT storylines into our programming. We’ve had GLAAD come in and speak to our entire writing team and give a whole tutorial on sensitivities, the right words, the wrong word [and] why those words matter. I think that with their guidance and support, we will be able to portray that [LGBT storyline] appropriately.”
Legendary wrestler Pat Patterson was known for being gay for a number of years, but it was normally an open secret. Many fans knew, all the wrestlers knew too. When he was brought on to help WWE Chairman Vince McMahon with creative material, he became quite a big figure outside of the ring, too. He is the man responsible for The Royal Rumble match, in fact. The Rumble match is now an iconic fixture of WWE programming in what WWE calls “Wrestlemania season.”
Patterson would come out officially as gay on Legends House, a reality show on the WWE Network that also included Roddy Piper and various other legends. It made a lot of major news outlets, but it was by no means a secret the way WWE tried to play it up on the show. Technically, this was a time WWE did play up an LGBT angle for programming, because it was certainly played up. The major issue for Stephanie McMahon and WWE is that they cannot just make a storyline work as easily as this.
The shows are PG now, which means they cannot get away with a lot of things that would make it easier for them to get away with deeper LGBT storylines. The one thing that WWE is lucky to have is a gay athlete. Darren Young came out as gay in 2013, casually, with TMZ. WWE is now using him more often on television and even paired WWE Hall of Famer Bob Backlund with him as his “coach.”
The company also can only go so far before alienating a certain part of the audience as well. For example, men dominate the WWE viewership, with over 60 percent of the total audience. This does not even include younger males. A bulk of those people would not want to see a man kissing another man on WWE programming. Meanwhile, they’d love seeing a woman kiss another woman, but the near-40 percent female audience may not be cool with it. Both may even offend families that are watching at home. Remember, WWE is PG, and can only go so far in programming anyway.
While you have many who would be numb to it, you have remember how other countries are not as good about gay rights as the United States have been. We’re not even that good with them ourselves, so how can WWE go to the Middle East or other nations that actually put people in prison for being gay if they use these stories on television? Remember, WWE is a worldwide business and not just a domestic one. While Stephanie McMahon answered the questions as best she could, we should not expect to see a lot of “in depth” LGBT storylines at all due to what the WWE has to face in trying them.
[Image via WWE]