TPFKATL Bring The Pain: The Harris Brothers' white supermacist gimmick
May 11, 2003 - 3:57:00 PM
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By Mike Sempervive, Lounge Television Critic
Jukebox: Blur's "Tender," Johnny Cash's "Long Black Veil" and The Cardigans' slow, puffy version of "Iron Man" to celebrate WWE's two new slow, puffy guys that made the song famous to wrestling fans.
- Just before I begin, a boxing note: Hey Oscar, it's called a left hand. Use it.
- Racism is a fact of life in society. And since many angles and storylines in professional wrestling revolve around problems and issues that are in our everyday lives -- and in the lives of the wrestlers themselves -- it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that NWA-TNA has decided to use the Harris brothers long-rumored racist mentality to create a storyline. And....
Excuse me. I'll be right back after I vomit.
Wednesday nights show was more proof that professional wrestling is able to operate so bizarrely compared to any other form of entertainment that it's almost troubling. Where else can you have two guys whose long rumored affiliation with racist mentality can be rewarded with a push.
I know, I know. The number one excuse for these types of lowest common denominator angles is that movies and television shows are able to take serious issues from everyday life and build plots around them. And since today's wrestling is essentially an "action adventure/drama series" then the writers of wrestling should have the equal right to create storylines of that ilk for their audience.
But in television drama, nine out of ten shows that do that type of show are the 8 to 10 p.m. type of shows. Ones that are meant to be for the viewers that just don't want, or aren't able, to deal with the intensity of the later programs. They let you know where the racist stands quickly -- they're wrong. They're the bad guys. And if they aren't established as a bad guy very early on, then they play it straight and don't let their cards be known until someone catches them, and when they do they are usually exposed while being caught in the act. Most of the shows that style aren't the type to actually use any "truly" derogatory language on their broadcasts.
The tenth show, is the one like Law & Order, Oz, or The Sopranos. If you wanted to put it in movie terms, it would be a Spike Lee joint. The ones that lay it out there for the adult viewer. Those shows have complex characters that have levels of depth to them. They also aren't afraid to use their hateful words as weapons. With absolutely no doubt, no matter if they are able to draw any sort of sympathy with the viewer somehow, they are stamped as being a flat-out bad bunch of people.
Now try and forget for a minute that no self-respecting television network would use two guys who have the image that the Harris's do of being neo-nazi-ish, in roles that celebrate those actions (akin to that would be hiring David Duke to play a Klan leader or having Tom Metzger be a white supremacist), it's just not right. And also throw out the window that this whole story is just a low-down, and un-inventive way to give two guys -- who don't deserve it -- a push.
Try and look at them as "TV characters." And look how TNA seems to not be able to figure out which type of racist character that they want. And if they want to do that type of "dramatic" television, they can't have both.
So would Ron & Don fit the "earlier bad guy" role?
Are the Harris's, ahem, "characters" wrong? You'd think so. But since TNA now has two heel tag teams that are playing the race card -- and it's inevitable that they will face off -- it will force fans to actually cheer for one of the two teams. This isn't a usual heel vs. heel match. Those usually fall under three categories. Two stars with competitive egos fighting for a high prize like a championship (Benoit-Angle), gimmick-type matches (King Kong Bundy-Kamala), or ultra-violent blood wars (The Sheik-Abdullah). Since only one of the four is a guy who could be considered a legitimate star (or truly effective worker) anymore, racism is way too serious to be considered just a gimmick, and none of the guys are "madmen" characters, then it's a match where you want the fans to choose one side or another. Now you could try and make the fans hate both, but that's horrible idea for the company. It will either create apathy or just make fans boo the match the entire time. Either way, it doesn't make good TV to have a match going on with the fans just booing, or being completely silent. And if you want fans to cheer to create a de-facto face, who do you want them associated with? The racists or the reverse racists? (And if you are going for, for people to choose the lesser of two evils, then you'd have to be a complete idiot)
Are they bad guys? They should be, right? They're racists for God's sakes. But, aren't they a part of the fan-friendly, "cool" heel group, S.E.X? Didn't they "save the girl" just last week by beating up the guy with the most heel heat who was assaulting a woman? And if you put real life into the equation, one of them must be almost angelic, right? How else would you be able to keep your job after you wear an SS t-shirt on national television, and then a half a year later get rewarded with a major push? (And for those of you that would like to throw the fact that Target sold shirts like that unknowingly in their stores, also remember that the Harris's have been asked to cover up racist tattoos in the past.)
Have they been hiding they're cards playing the role of good, while really meaning evil? Nope. The race-baiting commentary last week means they've made a stand. So, if the Harris's aren't quite wrong (from the aspect of having the fans choose between them, the racists, or the guys that will yell in your face until you admit that you are), and they aren't established by the show as being really rotten to the core, nor did they hide their cards, then that must mean they are probably the more complex, more adult-orientated type of characters.
Well, look at what type of character that they've played throughout the years: thugs. That's it. As the Bruise Brothers, they were simple guys who beat people up. Ditto for DOA, Creative Control, and just plain old Ron & Don. Saying that those two are deep and complex is equivalent to saying that Ric Flair had average stamina and weak promo skills. They have zero complexities, and because TNA is so limited in being able to dedicate the immense time it would need to give these guys any type of them (this isn't a newer guy like Red who you're trying to sell the fans on, these guys have been thorns in most wrestling fans sides for a long, long time), they won't have the ability to develop anything significant at all.
How about their use of language? They avoided any sort of the "traditional" no-no's with their answers. Why? They're white supremacist characters, right? The cards are out on the table for them. And since they are supposed to be characters for the more mature audience, shouldn't they be using language that matches it? Why are Killings and Konnan throwing around "spic" and "nigger" while the two guys that are supposed to hate "their kind" don't? I don't think the Aryan guy from Oz, or one of the Italians from Do The Right Thing, would be asking "which one's the white guy" when it comes to who's winning American Idol, they'd be saying "the one that ain't a nigger." They wouldn't be saying the "brotherhood (read: minorities) runs the street, the brotherhood (read: Aryans) run the pen. Don't forget that." It would be much, much harsher and more direct.
So here we are. The Harris brothers are heels, but are in the clique of the cool ones. They've laid out their cards on the table as being in the wrong, but they're maybe not as wrong as the other guys who are playing race. They really should be looked at as bad guys, but they still have a soft spot to save someone who is getting beaten up by the guy who is without a doubt the most hated in the company right now. They're in a racism storyline that, to be successful, has to be pretty complex, but the characters they play are paper thin. Hey, they're secure enough in their beliefs to use racial language, but they seem to be scared to really push the envelope.
Why? If Vince Russo or whoever is writing this is so secure in the knowledge that this is a brilliant idea, then go all the way with it. Stop pussyfooting around. They can't be in the "cool" group if they're racist can they? With a locker room full of non-racist gimmicks, will the skinheads be playing the "hero" for the damsel in distress again?
If they really think they have enough of a handle on race in America, don't try and slide them in there with the "interrogator" segment, make a big f'n deal of it. Do it with some major impact. Since real life is what they want to portray, isn't having two nazi's come out on the program and be in the locker room more pressing than, well, most of the other stories that are going on? Wouldn't the company be apologizing and spinning all over the place?
You know that all previous stories like this in wrestling have never proven to be successful. In fact, they almost all just come off as classless. (The last example of that being the Triple H-Booker T "class warfare" angle that led into WrestleMania. That only had elements of the old school "chauffeur's cap/shoe shiner" feuds of the past, but fans still regurgitated all over it.) So if TNA is going to be successful with it, they have to try something new, something daring, something shocking -- but yet thought provoking and of high caliber. It's just too bad for all of us that with the looks of things on the surface, the odds of that happening are slim and none.
And slim just hailed a cab.
- Just a note before I go, you may wonder what I would have done instead of having the Harris segment. Have Christopher Daniels and Glen Gilberti begin to break apart over Gilberti's want of the NWA title, and start angling the "Fallen Angel" out of S.E.X., and into the arms of the New Church (where that character belongs). That way there's no excuse that Gilberti isn't truly trying to improve and get away from being Disco, and it would give Daniels a chance to be where he belongs, competing for the World title without having to cut the promos.
- Well, I guess that's it for this week. Thank you very much for reading and responding to all of us here at the Torch, we really appreciate it. If you have a little to give, please donate to the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. Thanks.
Wade Keller's favorite writer Mike Sempervive would like to ask all of you to sign a petition to pledge support Ron Killings before he gets pissed and quits the wrestling business for good. He also takes jukebox requests, send him some at MSempervive@pwtorch.com
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