Iron Ladies? By Matty J. Douglas
It’s Wrestlemania season. A time where the writers and wrestlers alike need to step their game up. On the road to Wrestlemania, fans are privy better more detailed programs, inspired promo delivery, and well-illustrated characters and feuds. Wrestlemania is the biggest show of the year, and everything about the WWE seems to get better as the showcase of the immortals approaches, everything but the WWE’s portrayal of women.<!--more-->This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, but the way that WWE presents its Divas is far from flattering. They consistently fail to utilize their female talent appropriately, and commit little to no time in developing truly strong female characters. What’s worse is that they claim that their Divas are Strong, Beautiful women, when all I see on my television are 16-year-old teenagers being catty, forming cliques, fighting over nothing, and all the while being completely devoid of any strong or discernable characteristics other than that they are sexy. Every woman in the WWE is interchangeable with one another, their characters are not clearly defined or developed, and because of that an audience cannot invest in them as characters, and more importantly, as people. The Divas are simply objects, to be viewed, lusted over and consumed.I’ve had many a discussion on this very topic, and have always been met with some kind of opposition. While most won’t outright deny that the WWE portrays their Divas as irrational, catty, bitches (partially because it’s undeniable), they’ll attempt to rationalize the portrayal. The excuse I hear most often is that the WWE’s audience is primarily male, and they don’t care about women’s wrestling.It’s a weak argument because I truly believe that the reason most of the WWE’s male audience doesn’t care about the Diva’s feuds is because the WWE has conditioned them not to. You’ve given them no substance in the division for years, and are continuing to provide them with no characters or stories to invest in, so they don’t care. With the Internet providing the ability to see hot naked woman at the blink of an eye, the time where T&A alone could sell the women’s division is over. You’re actually going to have to take the time to write something compelling to garner interest in the Divas.Then there are those that spring for denial, and attempt to diffuse or debunk my claim by declaring that I’m analyzing things too deeply, or that I’m the sexist because I’ve pointed out what I’m seeing, or asking me “Why can’t women be Sexy AND Strong?” Each of these denials is somewhat laughable.Firstly I’m not analyzing things too deeply; I’m analyzing them at face value. In the Diva’s Division, the women are defined solely by how sexy they are, by the announcers, by the interactions they have with their male cohorts, and by themselves and each other. It’s sad that after watching WWE weekly for as many years as I have, the most I can say about any Divas currently on the roster, other than what they look like, is that they seem nice (Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox, etc.) or that they’re mean (Beth Phoenix, Eve). That’s literally as deep as their characterization goes, and quite frankly, there are some that don’t even have that much characterization (i.e. Rosa Mendes - all I know about her is that she dances. They don’t even contextualize her relationship with Primo and Epico).Believe me, I’d like to be able to look at the Divas and see strong female characters, but all I see is sexy girls whose entire personalities can be summed up in a single word. Calling them one-dimensional doesn’t quite capture how flat their characters really are.Now the easy answer to the question “Why can’t women be sexy and strong?” is they can be, but apparently not in the WWE. There is an array of strong females to draw inspiration from, from TV, to Film, and Real Life. The character Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a strong and sexy female character, with a well-defined background, personality, motivation, and conflicts. Gina Carano herself, as well as the character she portrays in the film Haywire,
is a confident, smart, opinionated, and talented woman who is sexy and strong. Ronda Rousey is a sexy, strong, badass woman who you wouldn’t want to mess with. Notice that these women’s primary characteristic isn’t as simple as she’s nice, or she’s mean, or she dances, or she farts.To be fair to the WWE, I do not believe their portrayal of women is done intentionally or with malice. I believe it is more so a product of having writers that do not know how to write for female characters. Just because a woman is beautiful, dresses provocatively because she is comfortable with her sexuality, and fights in a wrestling ring, doesn’t make her a strong female character, which is the problem WWE has run into. They think that that is characterization, when it is merely a physical description, their profession and a setting. It is missing very important elements of character, and without personality, context, or motivation, the WWE’s Diva’s Division will simply be the fetishization of Strong Women rather than the portrayal of Strong Female characters.I’m not saying that the WWE should simply put male characteristics on their female characters, in an attempt to make the Diva’s Division more compelling. What I’m saying is I want them to give their female characters true character. Maybe instead of having Natalya’s M.O. simply be that she farts (which is literally the most embarrassingly lazy piece of character development that the WWE has ever let get to air, and whomever’s idea it was should be eternally ashamed for pitching it), get her over by having her play an exaggerated version of herself. I mean she is a woman from a respected wrestling family of men, trying to prove she’s as good as the boys. Just knowing that I kind of want to root for her, so why not play that angle.How about instead of having AJ simply walk around as arm candy for Daniel Bryan (which is kind of annoying because she can go in the ring), let her wrestle, and be that tough, feisty, nerdy, girl next door, that gives everything she has every time she steps in the ring. Talk about how she that was never the prettiest girl, how she never had tons of girlfriends, and always hung around with boys, which made her a tougher person. This would add context to her relationship with Daniel Bryan. Having her wrestling could show the effect her infatuation with him is having on her career. Basically she would become a multi-dimensional character. Right now she is solely defined by her relationship with Bryan, which is very weak.The point is that the WWE can develop strong female characters. Ones that are not just physically tough, but are also strong willed, motivated, have distinct personalities that set them apart from the other women on the roster, but also have distinctly female traits. People will care about the Divas, if the WWE gives them something to really care about.There you have it, but what do you think about this controversial topic? Should the Diva’s Division be treated with more respect? Do you agree with my general assessment of the female characters portrayed on WWE Television? Would you care more about the division, if the storylines and characters were better defined and written?Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saluting all the Tough Ladies out there. Have a great week everybody!