Smart Marks 10.5.13: Child's Play
Posted by Dino Zucconi on 10.05.2013
This week, we break from the usual quit hit format for a more in-depth look at "WWE for Kids" and everything that goes along with it. Let's get angry at each other!
Hello again, and welcome everyone to another edition of Smart Marks, where the only rules for the column are Talk about wrestling, jerk. Unbound by anything stricter than that, we arrive here each weekend for a nice little break, and to discuss any type of topic regarding our favorite pseudo-sport.
Last week, I ended the column with a simple question: Is WWE "for kids"?
As we know, ever since the return to PG, this has been quite the sticking point for those that hate WWE. Whereas when I was growing up the insult was that Vince ran a "circus" while the NWA/WCW ran a more "wrestling" based product, nowadays those that don't like Vince's particular brand of entertainment like to distance themselves from it by portraying it as for children. Only simple children would like WWE, with their John Cena posters and Be a Star hats and all that jazz.
But... is that valid? Is it fair to WWE? I'll get to my take in a bit. And make no mistake, while I believe 100% in my opinion, as always, I'm not here to lecture you guys. We might disagree a bit. Maybe Brad B will make an appearance and use his trademarked catchphrase fifteen times in a comment. Who knows? Either way, let's break this down.
I got a good amount of feedback last week, with most of it landing on the "Of course WWE is for kids" side of things. However, how people felt about that definitely differed:
Reader Pinky offered: I have no issue with WWE being aimed at kids. The reason I've been a fan for so long is because the WWF at the time hooked me when I was about 7-years-old. At that age, we think it's real. It's like watching Superheroes in action. Being a kid an going to a live event was absolutely amazing.
Derrick Cannon nearly echoed those thoughts, saying: WWE is for kids in a sense that many wrestling fans get hooked as kids. I personally was hooked as a kid and it has been a wild adventure seeing WWE and other federations transition from generation to generation. As children wrestling has a sense of magic.
austin idol was a bit more apathetic to the whole thing, as he said WWE for kids? So what, breasts are for infants doesn't make them any less fun.
However, not everyone agreed, as Billy Pilgrim jumped in with No, WWE isn't for kids. Kids don't stay up until 11pm to watch Raw (4am in the UK - and they broadcast it, so somebody is watching it). Nor do kids pay $44.95 to buy the Pay-Per-Views. Susan G Komen doesn't get involved with the WWE just to make kids aware of breast cancer, they do it to go after the adults with disposable income.
So right off the bat, let me say that I was shocked to see that while most agree with the idea that WWE is for kids, I didn't catch anyone going off too harshly about why it's the worst thing in the world. I also appreciated Billy's counterpoint- while the content may have changed, many of WWE's practices have not. Late night wrestling programs don't exactly cater to the child demographic. One could argue the pay per views, while being bought by the parent, are still directed towards the kids, but I still get the point being made.
Judging by the responses I received, it appeared that most fans are just fine with WWE being for kids, pointing out that it's the magic of it all when you're a child that sucks you in, and if you're lucky enough to stick with it as an adult, well, even better. However, my curiosity that initially spurred the question remains- why is WWE is for kids! supposed to be an insult? It appears that (at least among the people who happened to read last week) that most were absolutely fine with this idea. It wasn't offensive, and it wasn't off putting that WWE may in fact be "for kids."
The Common Denominator
However, not everything came up so rosy, as I finally got- somewhat- the answer I was looking for. Reader dalpe said Last night, I watched the "Ecw most violent matches" dvd and I can definitely say that wwe is for kids lol, no doubt.
This is, like I said, what I was waiting for. I didn't get the pure hatred I was hoping for, but it was a simple answer, without any hyperbole, that compares it to another product and states that "of course this stuff is for kids."
Don't worry- I'm not making this a feedback fest. I was happy to see dalpe's comment for one simple reason: I am of the opinion that ALL wrestling- not just WWE- is for kids. At its absolute base, professional wrestling is a simple form of simulated violence (though never completely over the top) wrapped around a morality play, usually using such familiar ideas as "good vs. evil" and "crime never pays." As a kid who grew up watching He-Man and Thundercats, I don't consider all violence to be an adult thing. That's just me.
What Dalpe's comment- and anything similar to it- does is highlight my thought and strengthen it. ALL wrestling- WWE included- starts off for kids. When it's not for kids anymore, like ECW, they have to go out of their way to let you know that this isn't the usual wrestling you're used to do. And what would the "usual" wrestling you're used to be? Anything that isn't like ECW, which is going out of its way to be "for adults."
And make no mistake about it, ECW built its entire fanbase on constantly reminding them that THIS IS NOT THE USUAL WRESTLING YOU WATCH! THIS IS DIFFERENT! THIS IS EXTREME! They successfully tweaked everything wrestling was while still borrowing liberally from its roots. They HAD to hype that they were completely different from everything else to seem special. And while Raven/Dreamer, Bubba Dudley, and Joel Gertner may not have been for kids, I'd say that Chris Chetti or the Blue Meanie easily were. Even ECW, I'd argue, didn't completely break away as being NOT for kids.
That's the other thing I don't want to have mistaken here- I'm not saying that no wrestling is for adults. There are clearly feds out there- past and present- who have gone out of their way to be as violent and disgusting and brutal as possible, with the hopes of drawing in more mature eyeballs. That absolutely happened. But to get there, they either had to do things drastically different from a "usual" wrestling federation, or they had to turn it all the way up to 100 to make it work.
WCW never went out of its way to say it was for kids, and it certainly had a more mature tone to it (at least before Hogan and friends showed up), but you still had the Ding Dongs, Trucker Norm and Sting for the kids. The AWA was for kids. Smoky Mountain was for kids. Memphis was for kids. The WWF and now WWE is for kids. Hell, the Attitude Era that many of us like to cling to as the last good time was so far removed from wrestling at times that of course that product barely resembles what we have today. And Vince still had to say to us "HEY FANS! We're going to change things up DRASTICALLY in the coming weeks and months, so be ready!" He wanted to keep his Hulkamaniacs as they transitioned into teens, and he was able to keep them for a while. Still, even while going Attitude and being more grown up, there were still a plethora of action figures, posters, and other things commonly associated with adults and not kids. I'm being sarcastic.
So, the point? To me, the point is that many fans have forgotten what wrestling is. I'm not saying there are not leagues out there that cater only to adults. I'm not saying that WWE doesn't walk the childish side of things more often (and more egregiously) than other places, either. It can absolutely be ridiculously cartoonish. However, arguing that WWE is for kids as if it's some sort of insult specifically for WWE and its fans seems like nothing more than immature griping from people who don't like it.
I mean, is it really THAT much more mature to watch grown men pretend to fight in brightly colored wardrobes because they said "Shit" or bled all over? Are you really that much cooler than those who don't mind sitting through a Santino Marella match? I love WRESTLING- from the most benign WWE inspired nonsense to the bloodiest deathmatch video you can show me. I don't try to make myself seem cooler amongst my fellow fans by bragging that I don't watch "that kiddie shit" because the truth is, it's ALL kiddie shit, even when they try to sell you that it's super hardcore and mature. It's still make believe. Isn't that the arena for kids, anyways?
It's fine if you didn't like what happened on Monday Night RAW, or the last WWE pay per view, or if you just hate WWE altogether. You're always entitled to your opinion. Some people- myself included- just appreciate an opinion being defended, instead of some super aggro insultfest to justify your feelings. You may feel WWE is for kids, and you may think it sucks, but really- what separates you from the 8 year old cheering John Cena when you're doing it at the Ring of Honor show for Davey Richards?
It's ALL for kids. Sometimes, they just specialize it a bit to entice the adult crowd, too.
That'll do it for this week. Make sure to catch me in the Battleground Roundtable, as well as the Fact or Fiction and Buy or Sell's from this past week! Enjoy your WWE, your TNA, your indies, your lucha, and your puro.
It's All Wrestling. It's All Stupid. We All Love it.