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Are we no longer capable of cheering for true-blue heroes?
By MATTHEW BYER - SLAM! Wrestling


Hulk Hogan

Recently my brother Josh visited me here in Victoria, BC, and as a gift he brought with him a whole stack of WWE magazines from the 1980s and early 1990s. Flipping through the magazines my gaze fell on the numerous colourful covers depicting the heroes and villains from that era. It was a time of true-blue heroes standing up for all that was moral and ethical in the world. Yet it caused me to re-examine what happens when what is moral and ethical in the world seems like it's been lost; can we still cheer for the true-blue hero when we have so much in doubt?

About a year ago I wrote an opinion column about Why John Cena Gets Booed. In the article I posited that one of the primary reasons the fans were booing John Cena is that the WWE was portraying him much as they did Hulk Hogan in the 1980s. I still believe I was correct in that assumption, however, I think as I've alluded to above it goes further than that. John Cena is the WWE's attempt to depict a true-blue hero who is standing up for what is moral and ethical in the world. His character is depicted with no obvious flaws and foibles. The feet of clay that John Cena the wrestling character might have has been well hidden and that in many ways is part of the problem.

In the last couple decades we have witnessed some truly disheartening times that has resulted in a lot of disillusionment amongst people throughout the world. We've seen political leaders start wars not for the betterment of people, but financial profit. Yet many of those wars continue and soldiers' lives are sacrificed for business interests. Those aforementioned political leaders soiled by continuous scandal have had their souls bought and paid for to such a degree that they allowed our financial systems to be turned into rigged casinos whose sole purpose is to transfer the wealth accumulated by everyone else to the one percent richest in our society. Even then with all the deregulation that was done to allow this to happen many of them still broke the existing laws, but have failed to face punishment and are even allowed to keep the wealth they stole.

The consequences of those actions have led to people losing their homes and their jobs, and several countries having their economies on the brink. When people vote at the polls the belief seems to be that they are choosing between the lesser of the evils and not for someone that is genuinely interested in making the world a better place. If someone is a politician what is paramount appears be their own self-interest and that of their friends.

Part of the reason CM Punk's promos of 2011 were so effective is because he was tapping into the frustration and anguish that many are feeling about what has been happening in our society. His depicting himself as The Voice for the Voiceless was one that connected to how people feel about the decline that the world has been experiencing for the past decade. It truly does feel like you cannot even say how you feel about the state of the world anymore without being shouted down.

Our celebrity obsessed culture has gone into overdrive to such a degree that the actors, artists and musicians are now seen with all their flaws exposed to the world. No longer do we see movie or television stars as these perfect icons; especially not with our media constantly exposing the poor choices they've made and the demons that haunt them. In the past all of these would have been put to the side where we didn't see it as much, but now it is center stage for the world to comment on. Under that kind of constant stress it really is no surprise that so many of those who are famous wilt under the pressure and bring ridicule, embarrassment and pain to their front doors. Privacy is nonexistent and the cracks are not only seen, but overanalyzed to death on the 24-hour news cycle.


Salute along with Cena. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
Against the backdrop of that is it any wonder that the attempt by the WWE to portray John Cena as the true blue hero has failed? The idea of 'Rising Above the Hate' as John Cena so often champions seems an impossibility in this environment. In many ways it is hypocritical as it requires the audience to believe against the overwhelming evidence they've seen that this time the hero that John Cena plays is one that has a basis in reality. People are no longer capable of suspending their disbelief that a hero can exist without flaws.

In many ways the rise in popularity of comic book heroes in the movies is evidence of that. All of the heroes depicted in those movies have feet of clay. They make mistakes and have very real problems with how they deal with the world. By having those flaws it allows the audience to lose themselves in the fantasy of the movie because they can see themselves to some degree in the character that is up on the movie screen.

That same ability to self-identify to a limited degree with the comic book hero does not exist for the audience with John Cena. We've felt betrayed by too many figures that all of us looked up to and aspire to be. Sadly, society is currently too cynical to believe that there could exist a hero that is pure and isn't as susceptible to the temptations of our baser nature that all the rest of us are.

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    Matthew Byer is a Senior Project Manager who lives and resides in Victoria, BC. He does wish that it was possible to believe in heroes as he thinks people at large could really use that in these difficult times. Yet the reality of todayís world would seem to inform the stance that itís not possible right now.