(originally published March 14th, 2005)

I’m a big fan of professional wrestling. I’ve been watching it since I was 10 years old, the year my dad went to Vietnam. I appreciate the talent and strength of these big men, who can do some amazing things with their bodies. As much as people think it’s fake, just let one of them get into the ring with a professional wrestler and they’ll learn immediately that it’s not fake. Fake isn’t the same as scripted; but that’s another story for another time.

I bring up wrestling because it’s popular. One reason why wrestling is popular is the one thing I don’t like about wrestling. That is, it caters greatly to stereotypes. I remember back in the day when the top Native American wrestler had to be “Chief Jay Strongbow”. The top black wrestler had to have the name “Bobo Brazil”. The Russian was “Nikolai Volkov”; the backwoods wrestler was “Hillbilly Jim”; the Iranian was the “Iron Shiek”.

In today’s wrestling, those stereotypes have become a bit more subtle and altered, but they’re still there. We have Muhammad Hassan, supposedly Iraqi who does nothing but rant against American imperialism (by the way, turns out he’s not even Muslim, and is from Syracuse, of all places). We have Rene DuPree, who’s supposed to be French and does this dandy little dance that is the epitome of what most Americans think of the French. Every Japanese wrestler has to be a karate expert; every Mexican wrestler has to be a high flyer (that means they jump off the top rope all the time). Every Samoan (is there another sport where Samoans are prominent in America?) has to wrestle in barefeet.

I love wrestling for the trash talking; I love wrestling for the athleticism I see. I don’t like how it perpetuates stereotypes, but the fact is that the rest of America does, even if they don’t know it. And that’s why there’s still a very long way to go in this country.