Update: Apparently Glenn Beck is taking issue with the Colter character expressing anti-immigrant sentiments that make the Tea Party look bad, even though Colter has only used language that would be right at home on Beck’s radio show or Fox News.
As Media Matters wrote last week:
Beck targeted the Colter character on his radio show, arguing that Colter is “demonizing the Tea Party.” Beck also accused the WWE of “mocking me for standing up for the Constitution.” Beck’s co-host Stu Burguiere complained: “It seems that the villain, the guy you’re supposed to hate, is this stereotype of a conservative that I’ve never met.”
Despite the Republican Party losing Latino voters by more than a 3-1 margin in the last election, and widely acknowledging that Republicans need to do more to speak to and attract Hispanics, some Republicans still remain doggedly and xenophobically anti-immigrant, yelling at them about hating “illegals” and painting citizenship as the “extreme” option in the debate.
These Republicans, it turns out, could learn a few things from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), whose fan base has changed over the years, leading the WWE to change in order to better court them. Here’s the story, from Oliver Willis at the Daily Banter:
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has a pretty long history of engaging in negative ethnic stereotyping. WWE’s wrestling characters have played up ethnic names and accents – from communist Russians to fight-loving Irishmen – in order to rile up their middle class audience base.
This has been particularly true in recent history with Latino characters. In the early ‘90s, the WWE had a wrestler named Razor Ramon, played by Scott Hall. Razor Ramon was a walking talking Miami Vice villain, a Cuban stereotype with a thick accent and a five o’clock shadow who was a complete bad guy. Similarly, in the early 2000s, the late Eddie Guerrero’s wrestling persona used the catch phrase “latino heat” and promised to lie, cheat and steal in order to win a match…
Things have changed.
The WWE recently reintroduced a wrestler named Jack Swagger, and his manager, Zeb Coulter, anti-immigrant characters who make YouTube videos while standing in front of the Tea Party co-opted “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. In the past, Oliver Willis writes, a character like Colter would have been a base favorite of wrestling fans, who might politely be described as “animal-brained.” But, as Willis puts it:
Colter is the bad guy, and the audience is unambiguously booing him for his anti-immigrant world view. His argument, lamenting for an America in its past glory days, and whining about jobs being taken away by “illegals” would be right at home on Fox News or conservative talk radio. But the audience is booing it.
The story line has been turned up a notch now, as Swagger is scheduled to fight Alberto Del Rio, the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion (one step below WWE Champion) at the upcoming Wrestlemania pay-per-view event.
Del Rio’s character is that of a fabulously wealthy Mexican millionaire (maybe billionaire) whose extravagant lifestyle includes an exotic car he enters the arena in each week, and a personal ring announcer who introduces Del Rio in Spanish.
Until recently a bad guy, Del Rio recently flipped into the good guy role (wrestling is really just like a soap opera, with allegiances constantly shifting).
On Monday’s edition of WWE Raw, Colter and Del Rio had a debate about immigration that really could have been ripped right out of cable news. Colter again complained that undocumented workers were taking American jobs and weren’t hard workers, while also whining about it being politically incorrect for him to refer to “illegals.”
He was booed. Loudly.
Del Rio responded by describing America as “the greatest country in the world,” which was the motivation for immigrants coming here to seek a better life for themselves.
This argument from Del Rio, coming from the Latino character in response to the right-wing xenophobe, was roundly applauded and prompted a “USA” chant in the arena.
Sure, it’s a silly, goofy, over the top fake wrestling show – but it is also an entertainment vehicle that historically has had its finger on the pulse of its audience, changing itself to pander to the cultural zeitgeist of the moment.
WWE boss Vince McMahon, a modern day P.T. Barnum (and husband to a failed Republican Senatorial candidate), tends to give his audience the heroes and villains needed to attract eyeballs and open their wallets. McMahon and WWE have discovered that a pro-immigrant hero attracts applause and cheers, while an anti-immigrant villain is laughed at and booed.
The character who would be right at home between The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity is the bad guy.
Maybe somebody should tell the Republicans.
Someone should really tell the Republicans, indeed. It seems more clear every day that they are the only people left who haven’t climbed onboard support for immigrants—and immigration reform.