Monday, September 27, 2021

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A Londoner’s Eye: Give Rima Fakih a Chance on Tough Enough…

(Well this is awkward… After a four month absence, I am back with just my second blog post. David puts me to shame, don’t he?)

The news earlier this week that reigning Miss USA, Rima Fakih, will be a contestant on the impending revival of WWE Tough Enough lit a fire under my pen. And it seems it also lit a fire under a lot of you too. The recurring theme seems to be: “Great, another model in WWE.” Other criticisms that have popped up include: “It’s a slap in the face to the masses of independent wrestlers that auditioned,” and “Why doesn’t she just do the Diva Search?”

The outpouring of criticism from fans and purists to Fakih’s appointment, in my perhaps unpopular opinion, is shortsighted and once again exemplifies the hasty nature of the Internet. (Shocking, right?)

As soon as a story is out there, there’s a knee-jerk reaction it seems. Look no further than Henry Cavill being cast as Superman. That news a few weeks ago spurred outcries that too many iconic superhero roles were going to British actors and not American ones. Sure, Superman may represent Americana but first of all, it’s fiction! Secondly, the character is not going to be British, so what difference does it make? Before a single frame of footage had been shot, poor (gorgeous) Henry Cavill had a target on his back.

Sound familiar?

Trust me, I get it. I’m not trying to be the ‘big bad wolf’ or tear anyone down. Fans, perhaps none more so than wrestling fans, are impassioned. And when it comes to the beast known as WWE, they are often frustrated with the product presented and feel the need to release their frustration on the Internet. It’s understandable. But what about reserving judgment? For all we know, Henry Cavill could give an Oscar-worthy performance as Supes, and Rima Fakih could actually surprise you with her tenacity on Tough Enough.

A few things to consider:

WWE is a business at the end of the day. And what do businesses want more than anything? Money and publicity. Sure they’ll say, “We give fans what they want,” but that’s just appearances as with any company. Tough Enough is a product being put out by a business. Think of it as an iPad. It’s a product sold by Apple for a profit. Tough Enough is the same thing. By bringing in ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and Rima Fakih, the show gets buzz and publicity from the press, blogs and Internet in general, which boosts its profile going into the season premiere on April 4th.

We can sit here and argue just how much publicity a D-list celebrity like Fakih will bring to the show, but the fact that I’m writing this piece at all is publicity. Negative or positive, the attention is there and that’s all the show needs.

Another thing to consider is that it’s television, or more specifically: reality television. WWE doesn’t even call itself a ‘wrestling company’. It’s ‘entertainment’ and it’s a variety show. The emphasis is rarely on the wrestling. After all these years and multiple Diva Searches later, are we all that surprised that WWE would include a pageant queen in its show? What astounds me most at the criticism thrown Fakih’s way, however, is that this show in its purest form (like most reality competitions) is about novices being trained to become professionals. Rima is a novice when it comes to wrestling and will be training to become a WWE Superstar. Is that any different to when Nidia was on the show? This isn’t the same as being thrown out in the ring to wrestle the Women’s Champion on Monday Night Raw, though you’d think it from the detractors.

Did I mention that it’s reality television? Reality television regularly relies on known(ish) names to boost its profile. Remember that one time Ashley Massaro was on Survivor? Viewers and critics tend to watch that much closer to see how these people will fare on these shows. And oftentimes, as has become the accepted norm, we watch to see them fail. Bristol Palin on Dancing with the Stars, for example. Fans and critics, from what I understand, had a blast with her. I didn’t watch that show, but a show that I do watch is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The most ‘famous’ housewife going into the premiere of the show was one Camille Grammer. She was, of course, the wife of Frasier star, Kelsey. Viewers and critics — not without some provocation I should stress (she was indeed a wreck at times!) — picked her apart. She was dubbed ‘the most hated housewife ever’ by one publication.

Maybe Lady Gaga was right: people do want to see those in the public eye fail.

In the case of Camille Grammer, she — and by extension, the show — were the talk of the press, blogs and fans. In turn, ‘Beverly Hills’ scored record ratings. The producers lapped up the attention.

As much as it would suck for her personally, one can’t help but wonder if Fakih has been positioned to play a similar role on Tough Enough by the show’s Hollywood producers, Shed Media. Reality shows with villains work. People are already begrudging her for being on the show, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to see fans and critics judge her that much more harshly than the rest of the pack. Perhaps Tough Enough could too acquire the buzz and ratings of Real Housewives.

To bring it back to the woman herself, I offer my respect to anyone who wants to be on the show and is willing to put themselves through the physical exertion that it will require. She may be ‘taking a spot away’ from an independent talent that worked tirelessly on their application for the show, but that is the nature of the beast. Not everyone makes it — this time anyway. The producers obviously hope that the Rima gamble will pay off and lead to ratings which will mean a second season and a second chance for those who didn’t make it this time.

Rima is putting her body through its paces. Not mine and not yours.

You never know, you may actually grow to like her when the show actually premieres in six weeks time. Why not wait until you see her on screen before making up your mind?

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