WWE and John Cena have done a tremendous job over the past year-plus raising awareness for anti-bullying through the Be a STAR Alliance. The organization promotes “positive methods of social interaction” and encourages “people to treat others as equals and with respect” while shedding light on the serious effects bullying can have on victims. Their work with young people is unquestionably a worthwhile endeavor both WWE and Cena deserve to be commended for.
However, recently Cena’s on-screen actions have done anything but mirror his behavior behind the scenes. While that’s fine for adult viewers who are fully familiar with the actual line that exists between the two, the very demographic that’s most at risk for bullying is also the one who in many ways think both Cena the performer and Cena the man are the same person.
Three incidents in particular come to mind as of late where Cena’s scripted actions could be perceived as glorifying a larger, tougher individual – himself – not simply physically attacking but publicly humiliating a much weaker adversary. The first two involved his treatment of Eve Torres a few months back and John Laurinaitis at Over the Limit. The most recent occurred last night on Monday Night RAW when Cena got a crack at Michael Cole.
Rather than simply hit a quick Attitude Adjustment for the pin, Cena opted to put Cole through a series of embarrassing antics, perhaps appropriately starting with a “noogie”. Is Cole’s character a jerk? Of course – he’s a weasel. But he’s also a shrimp who was stripped down into his boxers, had BBQ sauce poured on him, was sprayed with a fire extinguisher, and beaten up throughout. He was as defenseless as they come and instead of just simply being put out of his misery he was made to be a complete fool.
The message the attack sent to young viewers, as did Cena’s storylines with Eve/Laurinaitis, was that it’s okay to bully weaker individuals as long as you have a good reason to dislike them. This was not a “heel” acting out against a clear victim. It was the company’s biggest star who is supposed to “rise above hate”. And, also important, it’s not the way he is booked against those who might have a chance against him, just those who have none.
That in itself promotes bullying, not fights it, and if WWE is serious in their intent to combat the problem it seems they need to change his character’s conduct in the future or punish him for it in the present. There’s no reason to tamper with the classic face vs. heel dynamic, just don’t thrust the latter’s face in a toilet bowl or give him/her a wedgie to prove an unnecessary point.
PHOTO CREDIT – WWE