On Tuesday, Chief Brand Officer and onscreen authority figure Stephanie McMahon boldly claimed that WWE is committed to inclusivity. In other news, she also inadvertantly admitted that she doesn’t actually watch her own show.
McMahon was a guest speaker at Beyond Sport United in New York, an event that explores “key issues associated with Diversity & Inclusion.” You know, those two things WWE does best. McMahon revealed that WWE plans to integrate LGBTQ characters into their televised shows:
Throughout my life I have grown up knowing gay Superstars and executives. It’s always been accepted, but now it’s about getting that message out there. We will integrate LGBT characters into our programming … and I do think there will be an opportunity to integrate some of those storylines in the near future.
There’s a lot to unpack in this statement. WWE currently has two openly gay performers: main roster Superstar Darren Young and developmental talent Daria Berenato. Pat Patterson is the first name that comes to mind behind the scenes, as well as Jane Geddes, former Vice President of Talent Relations. While Stephanie preaches a work environment that looks a lot like Lionel Hutz’s imagining of a world without lawyers, WWE has a horrible track record when it comes to even the most basic attempt at inclusivity. Coded language is still rampant, kissing between women is used as a distraction and usually non-consensual, and also, oh, every remotely gay storyline they’ve ever written.
WWE is looking to their partnership with GLAAD for additional assistance in making their working environment and onscreen programming more queer-friendly:
We’ve had GLAAD come in and speak to our entire writing team and give a whole tutorial on sensitivities, the right words, the wrong word [and] why those words matters. I think that with their guidance and support, we will be able to portray that [LGBT storyline] appropriately.
While this is a step in the right direction of dragging pro wrestling kicking and screaming into the 21st century, much like the reformation of their women’s division, actions mean so much more than words. Will we see an openly gay character by next year? Will that character be gay themselves, or a straight performer shoved into an awkward and ultimately offensive love story? Is this an opportunity for closeted Superstars to be comfortably living their lives publicly? Or is she referring to her Kinsey Scale-busting entrance at WrestleMania 32?
WWE is often hamfisted in their approach to anything even remotely progressive, so fingers crossed this is one thing they don’t completely f*ck up.