Sometimes we forget things. We fully intended to discuss Jack Swagger and the reaction to him on the most recent edition of our podcast, and just got sidetracked and forgot to. This however turned out to be serendipitous. So much more happened to Jackie Swags since we finished recording last Tuesday evening.
In response to this, we recorded a supplemental podcast. Thirty extra minutes to listen to that soothing Laugh Twin tone! Unfortunately, the audio quality got a little jumbled and is not up to posting. Sorry about that! In lieu, here is a recap of some of the points that we hit on.
For a bit of exposition (you know, so when future generations find this post and need a refresher), Jack Swagger had been off TV for a few months. The internet joke that Brandon Stroud invented was that he was on Mars, and we subscribe to that. He came back to TV shortly after the Royal Rumble, renamed his ankle lock “The Patriot Act” and tried to get into the #1 contender Elimination Chamber match. Six days before the event (February 11th), he debuted his new manager, the xenophobic Zeb Colter. Colter cut a promo about how he didn’t recognize the America he fought in Vietnam for and saw “faces that aren’t like my own.” This wave of overt racism and immigration reform fueled Swagger to win that Chamber match, where he is slated to face at Wrestlemania the Mexican Good Guy World Champion, Albert Del Rio.
On Tuesday, February 19th, Swagger was arrested in Mississippi after a Smackdown taping. He was given a few misdemeanors most notably a DUI and possessing a small amount of marijuana. On February 20th, popular conservative political pundit Glenn Beck posted a discussion he had on his program about the first Colter/Swagger promo on his website.
To say he was unkind to WWE would be very kind to Mr. Beck. In the 17 minute clip, he and his cohosts take express the idea that WWE is not culturally elite. As such, Glenn Beck will not take any guff from the WWE about his beloved Tea Party. He then went on to play and react to the promo during the segment. Here are some of the highlights:
- First they need to be clear. THESE PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE WWE! THEY DON’T WATCH IT BECAUSE IT’S SO BENEATH THEM! OK!? IT’S JUST STUPID WRESTLING!
- Beck expresses empathy towards Linda McMahon for losing her two senate campaigns, but thinks that she is now “showing her true colors” as a “progressive Republican”, which he sees as barely better then “the other side.”
- Swagger’s lisp is made fun of as is his “dumb voice.”
- They knock the creative team because of how not-coincidental the “Colter” surname is, in relation to conservative pundit Ann Coulter.
- The show picks out a few moments of Colter saying xenophobic things, such as the “faces that aren’t like mine” comment, followed by Beck and his crew saying that they have never met a Tea Party member who has said things that extreme before.
- That was followed by a protracted discussion regarding what situations “Speak English” is acceptable. Long story short, Beck and his co-hosts think that classes taught only in Spanish do a disservice to both the Latino and non-Latino communities, and how speaking English will improve everyone’s lives. He also will give any immigrant a nice little pat on the head if they are trying to speak the language, as explained in a charming anecdote about a friend’s Korean wife who struggles with the language and can only be understood every fifth word or so (according to Beck).
- Colter mentions serving in Vietnam- so now WWE is making fun of the troops in Beck’s estimation. This is followed by a protracted discussion about how Glenn Beck is the only person who values Vietnam veterans for their service and how many of them have come up to Beck, sobbing their way through joyful appreciation that Glenn Beck is the only person who made them feel like they truly came home.
- Colter uses the phrase “protect and defend” in the promo so Beck infers that WWE is portraying gun owners in a negative light.
- Swagger then repeats “We the People” as he has been doing during this run, so now WWE is mocking the Constitution.
- The clip ends with Beck being mystified over who these characters are supposed to be, because he’s never met a Tea Party member like that.
Here’s the thing, Glenn Beck. You’re not wrong. There probably is not a Tea Party member like this. Zeb Colter is not part of the Tea Party. Zeb Colter is an amalgamation and exaggeration of some of the more negative aspects of the immigration issues in this country. He’s supposed to be deplorable. So yes, he may stand in front of the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag because of the imagery conjures up the attitudes and actions of others who have recently done the same, but that does not implicitly mean he is a member of the Tea Party. It’s similar to Matt buying a Dallas Mavericks’ jersey and Adam thinking that Matt’s on the team because of that. The fact is, you can’t call out WWE for being obvious because of the name “Colter” and then criticize them for putting some nuance in the character by saying he is “unrecognizable” to anyone you’ve met in a group that Colter never claims to be a part of. Wouldn’t that be nuance? We’re not arguing that Zeb Colter has depth as a character, but that’s not the same nuance. He pulls from a variety of sources to inform.
In response to Glenn Beck, WWE issued a press release saying how they are an entertainment company and they tell stories using current events with good guys and bad guys. While no wresting fan over the age of 7 believes that WWE is a legitimate sports organization, the culture war will always be that. For whatever reason, people who don’t like professional wrestling think that people who do like it never know that it’s all “fake.” And yet, a large portion of the mainstream media bit on this “Tea Party” character like a bunch of marks…
This is where WWE went wrong. It should have stopped with the press release. Maybe you have Swagger/Colter do a promo on Raw about Glenn Beck, milk the press a little more, and move on. But nope. Gotta keep kowtowing to the mainstream press even though they are laughing at you. Which is when they released these two YouTube videos.
Good Lord, do we hate these. The issue is not that people (including Glenn Beck) don’t know WWE is an entertainment company. The issue is that the entertainment you provide is not entertaining for some people. Breaking character to talk down to your opponent is not a good way to win friends and influence people. All it does is showcase how thin skinned WWE can really be.
Who is most likely going to watch videos on WWE’s YouTube channel? Not Glenn Beck and not the mainstream media, that’s for sure. So why expose the characters like that? Why should Zeb Colter of all people be citing diversity statistics? Why are they explaining how a story works? They pretty much demystified the entire story telling process, stopping just short of saying “Spoiler alert: Albert Del Rio wins at Wresltemania!” These two videos are smug, self serving, and do more to make WWE a joke then any “Brian Pillman pulls a gun” or “Who killed Mr. McMahon?” or “Snitsky terminates Lita’s pregnancy” angles ever did.
Oh wait, those are factual inaccuracies in these videos where the sole purpose was to showcase facts about WWE. Intelligent response- you’re doing it wrong.
One thing Beck touched on that we omitted from the above bullet points was who exactly the audience for Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger was for. We think that’s a valid question. It’s no secret that Vince and Linda McMahon are outspoken Republicans. WWE certainly skews to the right (although we don’t think it’s a outwardly conservative show). So why are they making a character that a sizable percentage of the audience would want to relate to such an ugly caricature? Well part of the reason may be to get some mainstream press from a media that might not typically view WWE as part of their radar. But another reason is slightly more…cynical.
Is there a reason Glenn Beck picked up a week old promo less then one week before Raw is in his current hometown of Dallas, Texas? This is wrestling, afterall. If it smells like an angle, it probably is. What’s to say that a little cross promotion between two audiences that, according to Glenn Beck, are similar won’t happen? WWE did invite Beck to have “five unedited minutes” on Raw tonight, should he elect to attend. It all seems very convenient to us.
Now, we don’t expect Glenn Beck to show up on Raw. He’s already RSVP’d no, saying he was “busy doing anything else.” And believe this- if he does show up there is no way it’s “five unedited minutes.” It’s going to be a part of the show. Maybe Swagger and Colter are too outrageous for even Glenn Beck? Maybe Glenn Beck’s involvement is what keeps Swagger in the main event post-arrest. It even deflects some of the attention off the arrest, serving as a defacto damage control.
However, knowing WWE we know these following truths to be self evident. Swagger and Colter will cut a promo tonight on Glenn Beck, whether he is there or not. If he’s not there may very well be a Glenn Beck impersonator. Also, Vince McMahon will be on Raw tonight. That has been promoted due to his fight with Heyman. But, if they go with the impersonator, we’ll give you even money on Vince coming out to “STAND UP FOR WWE!” and call the impersonator “Peck” or “Fleck” or something, similar to the whole Denver Debacle thing. It’s never above WWE to derail their own show for the night just so Vince can assuage his ego.