(originally published July 25th, 2005)

I’m a television wrestling fan; there, I said it. A few months ago, they introduced a character who was supposed to be Arab-American. He was kind of a radical, condemning America for being racist, while, along with a sidekick, seemingly complementing arabs in other countries who were fighting against Americans with terrorist tactics.

A few weeks ago, we all know there was this terrorist attack on the subway in London. On that same night, even though the Thursday night show is taped on Tuesdays, the show ran a disclaimer on what was to come during the broadcast. What they showed was the sidekick basically being whipped by this one well known wrestler, in essence committing a “suicidal act”, so that the main Arab character could have many masked Arab henchmen come in and brutally attack the other main character, so that the main Arab character could then get into the ring and strangle the other main character. Finally, they carried the body of the sidekick out of the ring above their heads, while this supposedly Arabian music played loudly throughout the crowd, and the main Arab character laughed.

Two weeks ago, instead of having either of these Arabian characters on the show, they had a “lawyer” come out into the ring and read a speech, saying how, because his safety was threatened, they were refusing to come into the ring until the main event two weeks later. Once again the disclaimer was run during the show. On the wrestling pages website, there was a one paragraph note which indicated that the network had asked for discretion in this particular storyline, and the wrestling organization had decided to acquiesce by not showing this character on TV anymore until the main event, and would decide after the pay per view whether they should have this character anymore or not.

I was troubled in two different directions by this action. My first reaction was “good, because this character shouldn’t have been on TV in the first place.” Wrestling has traditionally blurred the lines between good and bad taste, and having a character supposedly of Arabian descent (who just happens to actually be from the Syracuse area, by the way) say such vitriolic things about America in the present climate was over the line in my opinion. My second reaction was being bothered because, as much as I hated what this character was representing, I felt that it was somewhat important to have a character of Arabian descent, real or not (I don’t know the true ethnicity of this man) be a part of wrestling. Why he couldn’t have come out as a positive character, so that wrestling would be taking the high road in showing the rest of America that Arabs weren’t bad people, instead of jumping onto the stereotype and inflaming people, was beyond me.

So, I was at an interesting crossroads; was it better to have a “bad” Arabian character, or no Arabian representative at all? What an interesting conundrum to deal with; I’m glad that, in the long run, I don’t really have to make this call. But I’m also troubled somewhat that it’s come up in the first place.