Given WWE’s rocky history, is a lesbian relationship in the current era a good idea, or would it be doomed to fail and offend?
It recently emerged that WWE superstars and perennial women’s tag team division also-rans Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, collectively known as Fire & Desire, have suggested a romance storyline between the pair to their bosses on SmackDown.
WWE haven’t ran an LGBT+ romance storyline since 2002, when Billy and Chuck were married on an episode of SmackDown. The entire storyline lasted a few months from the seeds being sewn and culminating in said ceremony… during which Billy and Chuck admitted that the entire thing was “a publicity stunt”, and that the pair of them were strictly heterosexual after all.
The entire thing was a sham. It was cringeworthy, and displayed an incredible lack of understanding, and willingness to attempt to understand LGBT+ relationships and lives.
In the immediate aftermath of “not really we were just pretending lol”, the LGBT+ media monitoring organisation GLAAD publicly denounced WWE over the storyline; WWE had consulted the organization during the story’s conception, and GLAAD (fairly reasonably) felt that WWE had secured their assistance under false pretenses, having not told them how the story was due to end before GLAAD agreed to promote it.
In the same year, in the same company, Eric Bischoff apparently realized that lesbians exist, and therefore immediately decided to grossly sexualise them, because, well, Eric Bischoff. Unforgiven 2002 saw an entire storyline built up around ‘HLA’, which depressingly predictably stood for ‘Hot Lesbian Action’.
Bischoff paraded two “lesbians” out to the ring, promising the crowd said ‘HLA’ as the women in question were apparently due to perform… acts… right there in the middle of the ring, with each other and with Stephanie McMahon.
The entire thing was disgustingly misogynistic, and symptomatic of just how problematic WWE was at the time.
Fast forward seventeen years (where on earth does the time go) to 2019, and to Fire & Desire.
Unlike in 2002, WWE do have someone in said potential storyline who is openly LGBT+; Sonya Deville is open about being lesbian, and has been throughout her time with the company. That Sonya is suggesting this storyline to her bosses, rather than having it suggested by them to her, counts for quite a lot.
Are WWE in a position where they can finally be trusted with a storyline like this, though?
In recent history, WWE have an unfortunate and fairly consistent history with starting storylines, getting a few weeks into it and then just dropping them, seemingly for no reason and with no resolution to said plots.
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It could be argued that they’ve already done this with a Fire & Desire romance once.
Earlier this year, there was regular segments, both backstage and in-ring, that heavily physically implied and teased that Rose and Deville were about to kiss. This went on for a number of weeks, getting more obvious and closer to ‘The Kiss’ as the segments went on, before WWE just stopped it altogether.
Even outside of Fire & Desire, there are examples of the company binning storylines with little reason. We’re still waiting to find out what Daniel Bryan’s “career altering announcement” will be, because it hasn’t been mentioned for months, and was left completely unresolved.
A romance between Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville would, if handled with the care and nuance such a storyline deserves, be a great idea and a chance for real progression in WWE.
Unfortunately, for all the marketing taglines and corporate posturing, WWE’s commitment to the ‘Womens Revolution’ has all but completely derailed and been exposed as empty promises.
Less than four years after the Diva’s Championship was retired and replaced at WrestleMania by the Women’s Championship, complete with promises of progression and equality, WWE are seemingly back to giving their women’s divisions one four-minute segment over entire three hour shows, and writing their feuds over nothing but “who is more attractive” (Mandy Rose vs Nikki Cross), or in Lana’s case, using her as an overly sexualised prop in men’s feuds.
Until WWE can consistently prove that they’re putting women’s wrestling on the same level as men’s wrestling, and until they can prove that they view their female competitors as competitors and not as sex objects, a lesbian romance storyline is a huge, huge risk that, while holding potential to show genuine tact and progression, would more than likely quickly dissolve into nothing more than the sort of ‘HLA’ or “just joking!” drivel that made the product intolerable to watch for LGBT+ people almost two decades ago.