Sometimes I wonder if male oriented programming has any idea how to write for their female audience.
Since the start of the year, WWE has been working with an emotional abuse storyline that has seen rookie AJ Lee continue to fall under the spell of Daniel Bryan. After his loss at Wrestlemania 28, Bryan began tormenting the young Diva, to the point that she has become completely unhinged, making out with Bryan’s opponents, lashing out at everyone in her path and dressing like her male counterparts. While Lee has done an exceptional job playing pint sized psycho, this storyline has unsettled me for quite some time.
First of all, it would seem like Lee (who is going to referee Bryan’s WWE title match against CM Punk at the next Pay Per View event) is going to turn on well meaning anti-hero CM Punk (who has only attempted to help Lee) and realign herself with her abusive beau. What the eff kind of message is that to send towards women?
I have often said that while WWE is great entertainment, sometimes they have no idea how to write a storyline for a woman. There are some exceptions, storyline writing for Trish Stratus was always excellent and the antics of Laycool (Layla El and Michelle McCool) were something women could relate to. Women understand what it’s like to be bullied by other women. Even the humbled El apologizing to the women she tormented was something a female viewer can relate to.
However, Lee’s descent into madness has been entertaining and uncomfortable. Lee once had a friend in NXT winner Kaitlyn, who offered to help her insane friend only to feel a couple of solid slaps. Now, speaking as a woman who has seen her share of heartbreak and upset, there is no way my best friends would have gone AWOL for nine weeks while I went bonkers, but there is no way they would leave me just because I slapped them. They would see that there was a problem and attempt to help me. The fact that Kaitlyn was erased from the storyline (with the exception of a recent encounter w/ Bryan last week on Smackdown) proves that male writers do not understand the dynamic of female friendship. Celeste Bonin’s Kaitlyn is one of the few Divas who can effectively portray emotion on camera, as evidenced by her previous segments attempting to help Lee. Writing Kaitlyn’s continued attempts to protect her friend from the continued machinations of Bryan would have been a storyline that women can relate to, as well as given a second Diva a chance to shine. Even Diva’s Champion Layla is floating with no real storyline or opponent, only Lee is showcased.
However, what bothers me is the lesson here. Most women in abusive relationships feel like that they are alone, isolated and have no friends who understand. They feel that if they push their friends away, then they don’t have to see what’s happening. This storyline has pretty much said “Yes, if you are an emotionally abused woman, your friends will leave you alone to fall apart, so you may as well stick with the abusive jerkface, or throw yourself at as many guys as possible until one loves you.” The best possible ending would be for Kaitlyn to assist CM Punk in aiding Lee, helping her reclaim her sanity and turn on Bryan once and for all. Pairing her with Punk won’t do either; women who have been abused should not jump from one relationship to the next. Having Lee struggle with her sanity while pursuing the only goal she should have; the Divas Championship would be the best way to help her keep her nutty character without her becoming the poster child for PTSD.
While yes, wrestling is just TV and yes, AJ Lee is playing a character, as are Bryan, Punk and Kaitlyn, but much like 90210 or Days of Our Lives, WWE needs to make sure that abusive relationships are not glorified as romantic. Much like the controversial EJ DiMera/Sami Brady rape turns to a love story on the aforementioned Days, its hard for women to understand that these relationships are bad when their favourite shows are glorifying them as romantic. The AJ Lee/Daniel Bryan “love story” was emotionally abusive before their violent breakup and her subsequent insanity. Repairing them sets a very unhealthy precident. Break them up and allow Lee to grow as a character without being a victim.