On Where My Mind Goes With WWE’s Apology (Apologia?) To the Russian People

It is a curious state of affairs and a reflection on the liminal nature of kayfabe that WWE feels it must apologize to the people of Russia about Big Show’s satirical disrespect to their flag on RAW this week. Recall that WWE readily apologized about Lana’s mention of the Malaysian Airlines plane in Eastern Ukraine, while Lana herself dismissed the kerfuffle about what she said as “blah, blah, blah… propaganda.”  These apologies are calculated — finely crafted characters like Lana and the Big Show (who was the one who pulled down the Russian flag on Monday, prompting the apology) both are followers of scripts. They didn’t just make these politically incorrect choices on their own. WWE is continuing to develop cunning political satire here, and then playing on their own history of being a company to push the envelope too far with their offensive stunts. Now they just apologize in advance. Could they be simply drawing the media’s attention to them by offering preemptive apology press releases?

But We! The! People! don’t really want Lana to be apologetic, do we? We relish in her snide retorts and overall disrespect for everything we stand for. We actively appreciate her representation of a certain cruel Russian stereotype.  It gives us such a cathartic release. Care to speculate why we don’t demand from her an apology for her boorish behavior? That’s not to say I’m particularly offended when she insults America, because she’s right 3/4 of the time. Oh come on, admit it, she often has a point about America’s decline. And then she gives the sweeping gesture and calls out “Vladimir Putin!” and flashes his face on the screen as the one who can save us all, and the whole thing dissolves into the absurd for me. But on some level, all of this is stirring up something animal in us — whatever raw emotional survival archetype is lurking beneath our patriotic tendencies as a nation.

Let’s face it — Jack Swagger is a sad, sorry excuse for an American hero. That’s no disrespect for the wrestler, but for the gimmick they’re making him do. That stupid shirt, hand on the heart, the “We! The! People!” chant that has basically lost all connection to its historical meaning. Don’t get me wrong, an admirable patriotic American hero is a wonderful thing. Swagger is just not wonderful. And Zeb, such a chump (not the wrestler, the character). A large number of us don’t really identify with those two, and yet that’s what we seem to want in this era for an American hero. A guy who is prone to failure.

John Cena, on the other hand, is a far more noble American hero, and his positive affirmations (“Hustle, Loyalty, Respect,” et. al.) are simply flawless. He  works hard, takes care of himself, and tries to be good to people. (The character John Cena does all this, at the very least.) And yet quite a numerous few of us are secretly hoping for his fall, ready to wallow in the story of his decline. We may outwardly complain about the successes and failures of these assorted patriotic wrestlers in their matches, but WWE knows they are getting at something by thwarting us — perhaps digging at our deeply buried self-loathing so we can finally confront what it’s all about before it’s too late for us. They’re really playing up Jack Swagger as a milquetoast and rubbing our noses in John Cena’s prolonged successes in an attempt to make us get our shit together as a country. It’s starting to look that way to me, anyway.

I was recently talking with my son about the Cena problem, and found myself explaining why Cena is such a tricky, complex character, despite straightforward appearances, and how Dean Ambrose could be the man to finally take him down as a functional babyface. I shall write about it all in another post. Also just about to post some art criticism about Rob Schamberger’s wrestler portraits, soon as I get a chance to do a final edit.

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