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Opinion: Stereotyping Heath Slater diminishes progression

(Courtesy of WWE.com)
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The WWE is finally paying Heath Slater back for all his jobbing over the years. “The One Man Band” has been going through a marvelously entertaining angle in which the undrafted Superstar is literally (kayfabe) fighting for a contract. It has resulted in the WWE Universe coming to realize that not only is he solid on the microphone, but he is a talent worth cheering for.

Even better, the WWE has him now tagging up with Rhyno. The two are competing in the SmackDown tag team tournament, which will culminate in the crowning of the Tag Team Champions.

After beating the returning Headbangers on Tuesday, with The Hype Bros awaiting for them next week, it appears rather obvious that the oddly formed duo will be headed to the championship match as well.

This is all good. Even if it doesn’t result in them winning the title, which it shouldn’t, the WWE and Slater are working together to get the wrestler over — and, man, it is sincerely working.

Then Tuesday happened. The tag team won their match, but that’s not what should trouble fans of the red-headed rascal. It was the video package that was mostly well done, but is bordering on stereotyping a group of poor white people living in trailers.

Slater, Rhyno and Renee Young themselves were all mostly fine. Each played the role given to them to near perfection. This has very little to do with any of them, or Slater’s fake wife. It has everything to do with making Slater a comedy act again, but also once again playing to the lowest common denominators while trying to create a background for a character.

This “trailer park” angle is rooted in the same sort of simple mindedness as the WWE’s use of xenophobia to turn Rusev — or most other foreign wrestlers — into heels.

The company assumes there are no nuances in life. That everyone who lives in a trailer is simple minded, has low goals, and sends their kids out into the world to find them money. All of which are obviously not the case, as most people who live in trailer parks are no different than people who live in an apartment, or a house, or a mansion — they too are just people.

It is actually somewhat infuriating this is the route the WWE is attempting to go in building Slater’s character. Is it as infuriating as turning nearly all foreigners into bad guys simply because they are foreigners? No, because that’s a form of actual bigotry, as the WWE is counting on Americans not understanding non-domestic traditions in a way that makes all non-United States aspects of a person “evil.”

This is more along the lines of turning a trope into a running gag, and all it is really doing is (barely) reworking this tired stereotype in a way that fits Slater — which it doesn’t. Him being from West Virginia does not make him dumb, or poor by correlation, or anything else that video package didn’t even infer to, but spoke directly about.

We are rooting very hard for Slater to continue to get over in the WWE Universe. His singles free agent run, popping up on SmackDown and Raw, was really entertaining.

But we should still be fearful of what the WWE tends to do with Slater in these situations. Instead of turning this into a more serious, potentially even dark story about a man trying to keep his job to feed his family, the company instead turned to some bad early 1990s sitcom jokes, in a way to have Slater be their own Larry The Cable Guy, I guess.

Hopefully the WWE rectifies this.

After all, it doesn’t help Slater become as over as he could be if he were allowed to play this in a more serious way. Also, well, it’s borderline unethical, uneducated and disgusting storytelling.

Opinion: Stereotyping Heath Slater diminishes progression

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