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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

WWE's "Total Divas" is a Total Letdown

I finally got to sit down and watch an episode of WWE "Total Divas" last night on the DVR.

My hopes weren't terribly high, considering the show is on E! and the only thing I watch on E! is "The Soup" - a show that lampoons other shows that are on E!. But as a WWE fan - a female WWE fan, at that -  I was hoping for two things going into watching the show:

• Getting to see funny backstage hijinks,

But more importantly:

• An opportunity to see more about the highly talented but drastically underutilized women's division of the WWE.

I was hoping for something along the lines of Ruth Leitman's "Lipstick and Dynamite, Piss and Vinegar." Something that shows the hard work, dedication and guts it takes to be a professional wrestler, let alone a woman in such a testosterone-laced male-dominated profession.

What I got instead was a half hour of grown women obsessing about their boobies not being big enough, and worrying that they're fat.  Oh, but wait! At the end of the episode they say they have to love their bodies as they are, because they have to be role models, which isn't really an admission of liking yourself, really. It's like they're saying "it's ok, impressionable girls who might be watching this episode, just ignore everything we said up to that point."

I should clarify that not all of the Divas on the episode were doing this, and the three in question were probably doing it because it was scripted in some fashion for them. The problem I have with it is the WWE Marketing Machine which made them feel they had to do this in the first place.

As a rule, the WWE tends to completely ignore their female fan base. Go to the WWE Shopzone and search 'women's clothes' and you'll see what I mean. Their main demographic is young and adolescent males, and catering to their hormones makes the most business sense to them - Brie Bella said as much in this episode. But you know what? Those males have sisters, cousins, friends who are into WWE also, and the message you are sending them is that in order to be successful, you have to look and act a certain way. It's no different than fashion magazines airbrushing out skin realities or photoshopping a perfectly gorgeous size 10 down to a size 0. And it creates unrealistic expectations for the boys watching the shows about what women and girls should be like in reality.

The WWE will usually have one women's match per show on its two main weekly shows, Monday Night's "RAW" and  Friday Night's "Smackdown."  RAW is a three-hour show.  That's one match, in three hours, despite having 17 women on the roster. I think about an hour and a half of "RAW" is threats and yelling between the various male wrestlers. Frankly, I'd MUCH rather see Natalya vs Tamina than listen to Paul Heyman' fork-stuck-in-a-garbage-disposal-sounding voice yell any day. And the women's division championship belt? It was redesigned a few years ago from looking like a proper championship belt, like the men's division, to a pink, sparkly butterfly belt. Spare me.

Sometimes they don't even air the women's matches on the telecast. Rarely do you get to see them in action during the highly promoted Pay-Per-Views either, though the WWE is quick to use their images and boobs to promote the hell out of said Pay-Per-Views. Last year, while watching a Divas promo just before Wrestlemania 28 started, I tweeted this: "Nowhere in that @WWE Divas promo did they show or mention the Divas ACTUALLY wrestling." It was a 2 minute long promo, and not even one glimpse of actual wrestling.

The thing is, all the Divas in the women's division are very good athletes, and rarely get more than 2 minutes in the ring to show it. I love the Funkadactyls - I see they are starting to get a push, and with Natalya no less, who is hugely talented herself. Tamina Snuka is fantastic, and Layla is too. The WWE has a great bank of talent in its women's roster - they should use that roster to show that these women can put on a great match as well as any of the male wrestlers do. Calling them "Divas" in itself is obnoxious - why not call both the men and the women "Superstars?" Why divide them in the first place?

The fact is, the WWE has a great opportunity with "Total Divas" to promote the fact that these women are tough, talented and work really hard. To spend the episode obsessing over their bodies was a sad waste of an hour. Instead of Nikki Bella reading a tweet that said she was fat and responding with "That made me sad," she could have said, "Who cares what you think? I love me!"  I like that she has dessert or a glass of wine with her meals, and that she is curvy. Because you know what? Most of us are. And that's fantastic. Her sister, Brie, obsessing over losing three more pounds (from where?!) is a perfect example of the BS we are fed as women about what it means to "look beautiful." The only voice of reason on that episode was Trinity, who tried to talk sense into Cameron, telling her she didn't need a boob job, and and that the boob job would get in the way of her actual work performance.

So how about it, Vince? How about stepping into this century and letting your women's division do what they're supposed to do? Let them kick some more butt, let them promote healthier body image, and let them inspire other girls to be tough and strong, and proud. Because right now, you're not providing programming for your female audience; you're lampooning it.

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