As a teacher, I spend my life trying to fight the stereotypes that fill my student’s minds. The stereotypes can be about other religions and cultures. They may about the intelligence of the students themselves. But the things students stereotype most is the trends and culture of their fellow classmates.
Students will stereotype each other over clothes, phones and what social media they use. They will question each other’s taste in sports, music and movies. It is an occasionally cruel world of constantly changing taste. I always wonder where this attitude of judging people over seemingly trivial matters like popular culture comes from. I wonder until I read articles like those from CNBC. If adults set such a poor example, naturally are kids will follow suit.
The article is the same old garbage that WWE fans have to deal with on a daily basis. In an article and supplementary video that should be discussing the merits of the WWE Network on the WWE’s stock futures, the financial reporters felt the need to insult and demean pro wrestling fans. While I would point out how incredibility stupid it is for a NBC/Universal employee to insult one of his company’s most successful properties, I want to take this opportunity instead to address these tired and ridiculous stereotypes once and for all. The question of why wrestling fans are a group of people who are insulted simply for their taste in a television program is a baffling one that needs to be addressed. So without further adieu, the stereotypes:
Wrestling Fans Don’t Know Its Fake
I have to read this one over and over again. This is apparently groundbreaking news that every non-fan has to bring up. We, the fans, haven’t picked up on the fact that finishes are scripted just because we occasionally get into the action in the ring.
This isn’t something other live events have to deal with. I have season tickets to a local theater company (yes, I am that kind of strange guy who attends wrestling and plays) and I don’t have to be told plays are fake. The action on the stage is just as “fake” as what occurs in the wrestling ring. However, theater patrons will still laugh, cry and cheer at various points in a show. So why is it acceptable to insult the maturity of wrestling fans but not theater fans?
I would like to point out to wrestling critics that theater has always been for the “low class fans” throughout history. In Shakespeare’s time, the Globe Theater has whole sections for the masses that loudly laughed, yelled or booed at actors throughout the show. Besides have you ever read Coriolanus by William Shakespeare? It is one long WWE style promo.
Participatory performance like plays or wrestling shouldn’t be diminished by its “fakeness”. It should be applauded by its success when telling a good story. Hopefully good wrestling, like a good play or opera, does this from time to time.
Adult Fans Only Live With Their Parents
The CNBC reporter was nice enough to say, “However, now you can enjoy wrestling 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the comfort of your parents' basement.” What a nice thing for a reporter to say about millions of people. Besides I’ll have you know my parents don’t have a basement and I am not going to watch the WWE Network from the crawl space of their house.
This is an issue of fandom that extends far beyond just WWE fans. It is the idea that you cannot be a functioning adult and have a hobby. It is funny that they laugh at WWE fans for wearing fake title belts and shirts of their favorite wrestlers as immature but don’t apply the same logic to football fans. I am a season ticket holder for the University of Oregon football team and see people buying thousands of dollars in jerseys, dressing head to toe in face paint and carrying stuffed animals of opposing teams mascots on nooses. However one fandom is acceptable and another is not.
The entire TJR writing staff and I are functioning adults. We have jobs, family and friends. We don’t spend all of our time thinking only about wrestling or being unable to function outside the hours we use to watch wrestling. Just like we assume that sports fans aren’t insane people on a day outside of game day the assumption that any fan culture is becomes very insulting.
We Are Only Male
The stereotype that WWE fans are only or predominately male is certainly a prominent one in media. It fits into a safe stereotype of most sports that female fans cannot possibly enjoy the fun of a physical contest. While we cannot dispute that males make up a majority of fans, this is dramatically changing demographic.
While some fans push the concept that WWE push to TV-PG has hurt its fan base the opposite looks true in terms of diversity. According to the WWE corporate website using Nielsen research, 35% of the WWE audience is female. The diversity additionally shows growth in older fans too with 56% of the audience being over the age of 35 years old. Any person who attends a WWE show will know this.
Besides one only needs to look at the staff of TJR wrestling to see that we are not all male wrestling fans. We are diverse staff of all males and Heather. However, I think Heather’s impressive fandom is an example of the diversity that WWE fans show everyday. We have mothers and entire families watching and loving the product. This outdated notion that wrestling fans fit into a particular gender, age or race is one that needs to be retired.
We Are Stupid
This goes back to the insane notion that WWE fans are unable to distinguish reality from what is occurring in the ring. The issue is some fans do fit into stereotypes. When I attending Smackdown in December 2013, I saw this first hand. You can read about it here. Some fans don’t make us look good. You are going to have a few bad apples in any fan culture. However, you don’t judge fans by the worst of us.
I am certainly proof as well of the diverse fan educational background. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in History and English. I have a Master’s Degree in Education. We additionally have doctors, lawyers and other professionals who have been life long fans. WWE Corporate did a survey of the Comscore Media Matrix to see that 58% of the WWE’s digital audience has some college or post graduate education.
It is funny that the lack of intelligence is being trumped in the CNBC article as a reason the WWE will “belly flop”. The WWE fans are constantly moving into cutting edge realms of social media, as the WWE will constantly bring up. The fact a significant portion of the audience is moving into Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Hulu and the WWE App is additional proof of a cutting edge fan base. If you would believe in stereotypes we couldn’t properly bath ourselves let alone be increasingly active in the increasingly technological world.
Being a WWE fan is always a unique proposition. Even in teaching I cannot mention I like it without a few eye rolls and scoffs. I have heard from students and teachers some of the above stereotypes. I believe stereotyping is a way for people to dismiss culture they don’t like or understand in one broad swoop. However, part of my teaching is to break their ugly stereotypes and learn to accept beliefs different than your own. You may not like wrestling but you can at least respect the diversity of its fan base. If you not, we might hit you with a folding chair.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, I have my Twitter account, WWELasher as well. I would love to hear your thoughts about stereotypes you have heard about your fandom.