In this book, Lowery A. Woodall III explores the ways that diverse populations are portrayed, stereotyped, and sometimes villainized in the WWE’s colorful and dramatic programming. Each chapter examines the surprisingly complex and multilayered representation of marginalized populations throughout the modern history of the WWE under the leadership of Vincent K. McMahon. Through weekly shows like Raw and SmackDown, pay-per-view spectaculars like WrestleMania, and a vast library of wrestling-related material on their streaming platform, Woodall argues that the WWE and McMahon have created calculated and carefully curated representations of diversity that are viewed by millions of fans worldwide. What effects do those representations have on the men, women, and children who consume WWE content? How are wrestlers and performers impacted by their on-screen portrayals? This book explores these questions and demonstrates that when representations are inaccurate or problematic, more than just kayfabe is in danger of being broken. Scholars of professional wrestling studies, media studies, and communication studies will find this book of particular interest.
Lowery A. Woodall III is associate professor of the Communication and Theatre Department at Millersville University.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Coming Down the Aisle
Chapter 1: ‘But I Don’t Want to Be a Diva’: The Struggle for Gender Equality Within WWE Programming
Chapter 2: “Well, Let Me Tell You Something Brother”: The Glass Ceiling For African American Performers in the WWE
Chapter 3: The Missing Link: Exploring the WWE’s Attitude Towards Mental Health
Chapter 4: Wrestling With God: Representations of Religion and Spirituality in the WWE
Chapter 5: Behind the Curtain: The WWE’s Problematized Relationship With LGBT Characters
Conclusion: Sticking Around for the Dark Match
About the Author
“By focusing on WWE programming as a text and Vincent K. McMahon as an auteur, Grappling with Representation in the WWE offers a critique of representation in WWE that ranges across the entire history of the promotion. The chapters focus on a range of identities from sexuality and race to mental health and religion and open up important new avenues in the academic study of professional wrestling.”
"World Wrestling Entertainment, under the care and control of Vince McMahon, had a long history of problematic representation, including sexist, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic constructions of wrestling characters and stories. Woodall's incisive analysis centers McMahon as a source of such content by using film studies' concept auteur theory. Focusing on McMahon presents a new perspective on these representation issues in professional wrestling and suggests how to apply this concept to other areas of popular culture. This book is a must read for professional wrestling and popular culture scholars."
“This text is the total package! Far ranging historical insight coupled with incisive analysis of the place of difference, race, gender, and a host of other topics in the representative traditions and processes within the WWE. By focusing on specific embodiments of the various representative acts, Lowery A. Woodall III brings the realities of the representative acts into sharp relief, considering their effects on both audience and character. This is one you'll want on your shelves, and that's the bottom line!”