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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Should we be surprised that some of these children – especially the youngest ones – believe the action is real? Or that some of them start to imitate it themselves?Skip to next paragraph
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Across the country, elementary school teachers have reported that their students mimic the chokeholds and karate chops they see on wrestling shows. And in several notorious cases, kids have been killed by other children who were using stylized moves from pro wrestling.
Did wrestling “cause” these deaths, on its own? Of course not. But surely these shows must have some influence on behavior. After all, that’s why advertisers pay the WWE: They think TV can change what people do. And they’re right.
For her own part, meanwhile, Linda McMahon has zealously defended her WWE activities. In a recent Senate campaign ad, she noted that the WWE “entertains millions every week.” And like any successful business, she has argued, it also generates jobs.
But the same goes for pornography, which is even more popular – and more lucrative – than pro wrestling. If McMahon peddled porn instead of wrestling, would Connecticut voters consider sending her to Congress?
I think not. No matter what porn does to individual viewers – and the jury is still out on that – it surely contributes to an overall coarsening and vulgarization of our culture. Americans would be appalled, and rightly so, if a prominent pornographer was elected to our nation’s highest legislative body.
So we should be equally embarrassed at the prospect of a pro wrestling queen in the Senate. Like pornography, wrestling mixes sex and violence to degrade our humanity. By electing one of its prime movers, we would be debasing ourselves.
True, Minnesota did elect former wrestling star Jesse Ventura as its governor in 1998. But his single term was marred by Ventura's ill-considered gaffes and hot temper, which echoed his villainous persona from the ring. Voters quickly tired of his act, and they haven't forgotten it. When Ventura reportedly probed a Senate run in 2008, polls put him well behind Norm Coleman (whom he defeated for governor in 1998) and Al Franken, the eventual winner.
Professional wrestling is a legal enterprise. Ventura has a right to engage in it, McMahon has a right to produce it, and viewers have a right to watch. But McMahon has no right – none – to a seat in the US Senate.
Our elected officials should elevate our politics, calling us to our better instincts. By contrast, McMahon's business represents Americans at their worst.
Let's hope she doesn't get to represent us in Washington, too.
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at New York University. He is the author, most recently, of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory.”