Linda McMahon and the reality of wrestling's sex and violence fantasy
Senate candidate Linda McMahon ran a wrestling empire that, like pornography, is built on sex and violence.
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That’s what I’ve been wondering as I learn about Linda McMahon, the professional wrestling entrepreneur and likely Republican nominee for the US Senate from Connecticut. Together with her husband, Vince, she has developed World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) into a $1.2 billion company. She reportedly plans to spend up to $50 million of this treasure to capture a Senate seat.
But pro wrestling is not just any business. To put it simply, McMahon’s fortune is built on violence and vulgarity. Anyone who cares about the future of our country should join hands to make sure she never joins the Senate.
If you think otherwise, look at clips from WWE's recent past. You’ll see enormous human beings pummel one another with sledgehammers, garbage cans, and folding chairs. They deliver blows to the face, neck, and groin, often drawing blood.
They denounce rivals with signature gestures and curses, made famous by WWE’s relentless marketing machine. One former WWE star, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, was best known for his raised middle finger. Other wrestlers preferred sexually vulgar utterances.
Indeed, there has been almost as much sexual imagery outside the ring as there is violence inside it. Over the past decade, the WWE has invented R-rated plotlines for its wrestling characters. Only a few can be cited in a family newspaper, but one involves a wrestler who played a pimp – complete with his own line of barely clothed women, whom he blithely called his “hos.”
Women compete in the ring, too, adding yet another element of sleaze. In the WWE’s now-defunct “Bra and Panties” event, they tried to strip one another down to their underwear; in the “Pudding Match,” they wrestled in a pit of chocolate; and in the “Paddle and Pole” competition, the winner was the first woman to climb a pole, obtain a paddle, and strike her opponent.
Here you might reply that none of this is real – and that WWE has now cut out especially raunchy and violent segments like these to earn a “PG” television rating. The wrestlers don’t engage in actual sexual acts. And they don’t really engage in violence, either, faking both their aggression and their pain.
[Editor’s note: The original article failed to note that WWE has altered its programming and now merits a “PG” rating. As a result, several sentences have been revised to make clear which events no longer occur.]
Tell that to the WWE veterans who have suffered chronic injuries, including hearing and memory loss. Most of all, tell it to the millions of children who think all of this behavior is real.
Over 20 percent of WWE’s audience is under 18. Its most popular show, “Raw,” draws an estimated 420,000 boys between ages 12 and 17. And it’s increasingly popular among 6-11 year-olds, who are targeted by special product tie-ins. For example, the WWE recently signed a deal with toy manufacturer Mattel to market action-figures of its stars.