Many people claim society tends to take things too seriously. Sometimes this follows a joke with racist, sexist, or homophobic undertones, and is a card played as soon as someone takes offence: “Oh, you’re taking it too seriously – it’s political correctness gone mad!”
In a world where it took us centuries to even come close to improving civil rights and liberties, one where it’s discovered we were lied to about weapons of mass destruction then simply told “stuff happens,” it’s a stretch to say our society is even close to politically correct. These claims are not valid just because some people are ahead of the game – as, say, Martin Luther King Jr’s allies were – and see something as reinforcing prejudices.
And yet when the roles are reversed, and the powers that be are slighted in some way, no one claims it’s politically correct thinking gone mad.
Dave “Fit” Finlay, of course, is an Irish pro wrestler who had a successful run in WCW then, when it was bought by the WWF, performed road agent duties for what would become WWE.
WWE seeks sponsors that fit with their demographic. With the armed forces frequently seeking young working class men to enlist, it was no surprise that the National Guard became one of the major bankrolling corporations to sponsor WWE shows. But when Finlay sought a heat-seeking short-cut for then-upper card heel Mike “The Miz” Mizanin by having him interrupt the Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem. The National Guard – considering the anthem a key part of their identity and pride – complained to WWE. Since Finlay was producer in charge of the house show, and presumably made the decision for the angle to take place at the event, he was promptly fired.
Now, few can argue that the interruption of any country’s national anthem is a sign of great disrespect (American wrestlers would frequently ambush the Bolsheviks, Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov, as they sang the Russian national anthem in the late 1980’s and early 90’s). Bret Hart interrupted it once as the Patriot stood, hand on heart in the ring – attacking the masked man. We can only assume that this was less controversial because the crowd in attendance did not include members of the National Guard, who weren’t sponsoring the show at that time either. This means that the sponsors are not just paying money to WWE for exposure for their brand in return – it means they are also influencing creative decisions.
This is a dangerous path to follow for WWE, especially since it recently reached its logical conclusion with Randy Orton’s acting role in the movie The Marine 3.
WWE – now fully re-branded from World Wrestling Entertainment, a la Kentucky Fried Chicken’s switch to simply “KFC” – has, per Vince McMahon’s doomed ambitions, pursued the movie-making business, thus we now have “WWE Studios.”
Randy Orton, third-generation pro wrestler, has had a checkered past. Growing up as a child around his father’s wrestling buddies in the WWF locker room, he saw first-hand the wild wrestling lifestyle. After graduating high school in 1998, he joined the US Marine Corps, which didn’t suit him particularly well: he had altercations with his superiors and went AWOL twice before entering pro wrestling in the year 2000 (then-US President George W Bush Jr went AWOL from the National Guard in 1972-73). Orton’s calmed down over the years, and since marriage and fatherhood, seems to have loosened his grip on the rock star lifestyle he’d developed for himself.
Randy Orton won a role with esteemed actor Ed Harris for the WWE Studios movie That’s What I Am, and unlike many of his wrestler-turned-actor peers, didn’t get absolutely slated by the critics. His acting abilities were credible enough. This was another string to his bow as he developed into a man of sensible decisions and careful craftsmanship, in or out of the ring – where he is considered a steady hand.
After the part of private school prep boy John Cena in The Marine, and its follow-up, the imaginatively-titled The Marine 2 inexplicably starring WWE mid-carder Ted DiBiase Jr, it seemed long-overdue for an actor of Orton’s abilities to tackle a role that could prove cathartic for him: portraying a marine on the big screen and perhaps redeem himself.
It was not to be.
Now, even though the marines are different to the National Guard, who don’t even sponsor WWE Studios either, bigwigs U-turned and Randy Orton was pulled from the project due to a few forces complaints – none of which, from all accounts, made it into mainstream media (though to be fair, not much regarding WWE Studios ever does).
You might call it political correctness gone mad – when one man’s brief history contains mistakes that even presidents can make, yet his acting role is affected in the movies. It smells of more than a little McCarthyism, and just fuels more anti-American resentment overseas when people hear about such military dominance over an entire culture.
Of course, it might just also be just another few flickering flames extinguished by the Linda McMahon senate team, paranoid over the prospect of any fires on her road to power and influence over regulatory bodies she and her husband have always wished for.