Infantilizing of the Divas
As stated in many of my previous articles, I get the honor to work with high school students. I am insane enough that I actually really enjoy it. Who knows, maybe my humor level has never advanced beyond high school level.
The group that is always the most interesting to work with are teenage girls. They generally, especially in their freshmen year, are the stronger students and the hardest working academically. They seem to have less discipline problems and more caring towards their school, colleagues and community. However, that all falls apart when they find out about boys.
I am always confused what teenager girls see in a group of boys who on average spend most of their time punching each other and playing “Call of Duty”. But all those amazing qualities that I observe in female students goes away in the cutthroat competition for boys. They backstab, yell and occasionally fight each other over boys.
But worst of all, their intelligence will drop. They will lose their academic skills and their grades will plummet. They will infantilize themselves because becoming less mature is the seemingly go to tactic to get the guy.
Infantilizing, lowering your maturity level especially to gain attention from the opposite gender, is a problem that continues in our popular culture. I am quite worried that an organization that gave us tough female characters like Chyna, Trish Stratus and Lita is turning our Divas into a bunch of bratty, immature teenager girls. Since I see enough of them on a daily basis, I want to see less of it in the product I love. With the upcoming exposure of the Divas Reality Show on E!, I am worried of the sort of image young girls will get from our divas. The media they view influences little girls and what is the image of the WWE Diva? It is the bratty, teenage girl that is backstabbing and fighting each other for the male attention.
First, we need a little historical context. I think the turning point towards the infantilizing of the WWE Diva was in 2009 with one of the most offensive storylines in WWE, the “Piggy James” storyline. For those few who don’t remember, it was a horrific feud between Mickie James and Laycool (Michelle McCool and Layla). Mickie, one of the best wrestlers of her era, became a victim of a traditional teenage girl tactic: they called her “fat”.
Now I have seen this tactic many times in high school to chilling effect. In a society obsessed with weight and beauty, I cannot count the amount of times I have had skinny teenager girls worried about their body image. We have a growing problem of bulmia and anorexia as well and it upsets me greatly.
So in comes this first step in making our WWE Divas into teenage girls. Turning a young and beautiful woman like Mickie James into a “pig” set a dangerous body image for any young female viewer. If that wasn’t bad enough, the problem was Mickie was fired before she truly got her revenge. A young viewer would see that the bully won and Laycool would continue to do so for quite some time to follow. If it was limited to that one event it might be more passable but it continued with Vickie Guerrero.
I always have a lot of respect for the WWE for giving Vickie a job in their organization. They could have abandoned her family after Eddie’s death but gave a steady source of income for her to raise her family. However, in her time in the WWE as an effective heel has been focused on two things: her weight and her looks. I don’t know if either is important to her overall character but almost every week we receive a male wrestler laughing at her in some very juvenile way. The Rock, no bastion for appropriate behavior, even sang a song where he said , “Bitch you look Ugly tonight”. This was done to the cheers of the fans and laughter of the commentators. After all, what better way to bring down a female power figure then insult her looks and weight?
So now with a little historical context, I wanted to examine the current batch of WWE Divas to see if any are currently showing any elements of the mature, adult female.
Kaitlyn- The Divas Champion should be a good standard bearer for how a Diva is viewed. However, in terms of character development, what do we know about her? She gets very little time to actually wrestle or even develop her character making her a very invisible presence. However, it has started to change in the last few weeks. You see Kaitlyn has a secret admirer who is sending her flowers, cards and Simpsons references. A secret admirer? Who beyond an elementary girl really has a secret admirer anymore? We in the adult world would likely call that a stalker. But this fawning over a secret admirer is all the development Kaitlyn has had.
The Bella Twins- I have always had a complicated relationship with the twins. They seem quite popular but haven’t grown as in-ring performers in years. But what is really annoying in my opinion is how they interact with other Divas. The Bella interactions with fellow Divas are quite immature. It consists of pulling hair, calling girls ugly/fat or insulting their clothes. Add this to the fact most of the time we see them they are literally attached to the arm of a WWE superstar, we have two immature twins on the roster.
Natalya- Sigh. Has there ever been a Diva shown to be more immature than Natalya? A gifted wrestler has been made the ridicule of WWE programming on multiple occasions. The lowest form of humor is the low brow and that is what Natalya was involved in. Really you have fart humor for your arguably best female wrestler? It made her the ridicule of her fellow male wrestlers (on the show) and took down the ethos for a strong female character that was developed with Beth Phoenix a few months earlier.
It continues today. Natalya has no depth of character other than as a comedic joke. She is simply a dancing fool that goofs around with the Great Khali and Hornswoogle. It reduces her to a comedic prop. As an aside, no one should ever have to work with the Great Khali for an extended period of time.
AJ Lee- Is by far the most interested and complicated Diva in the WWE today. However, a close examination of her will show her immature image as well. AJ Lee acts like a little girl and not a fully developed adult female.
How AJ acts is a tell tale sign of her infantilizing. Her clothing choices are certainly made to resemble the schoolgirl look. However, it is her skipping that lowers her maturity level. Do you know many adults who skip everywhere and twirl their hair on a daily basis? I can’t think of many.
Her interactions with men are quite similar. Take her current relationship with Dolph Ziggler. She calls him pet names, gets angry at other Divas for interacting with him and lets him always lead the way. Sure she cheats for him in matches but she is simply an admirer of her man not a fully developed adult.
The thing I respect about AJ was she wasn’t always like this. She was manipulating the male wrestlers, playing them against each other for her gain and power. She even became an authority figure in the WWE. What happened? The male wrestlers, commentators and Diva insulted and belittled her power. We had a female wrestler using the wrestlers for her own ambition and gain? It was something that was squashed in a hurry. I remember how popular she was last summer compared to now and wonder what might have been had momentum been kept going.
Maybe I am expecting too much. After all, it isn’t like the male wrestlers in the WWE are symbols of maturity all the time either. However, the key is variety. If all we currently see are Divas insulting each other’s looks, weight and boyfriends that is sad. It paints the image that these potential female role models haven’t changed that much since high school. And the one hope that keeps me going everyday is that my female students will develop into strong, intelligent women who can be appreciated for who they truly are. It is time our popular culture gives us some of that too.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.