American Gladiators 2008 is the greatest and most necessary remake in the history of television. Not only because it allows Laila Ali to pretend she’s a woman, but because it gives us common American folk a second chance to root for the everyman, the weekend warrior, the true American heroes like shark fisherman, Adam Levin. In order to fully comprehend the spectacle that is American Gladiators 2008, one must be familiar with the original version that aired twenty years ago. The show was more or less a culmination, no, wait, an explosion of the Reagan-inspired misogyny, racism, violence, and sweaty homoerotic fervency that saturated the movie and television industry throughout the 1980s.
Let’s be realistic, nobody watched the show to see the women compete and nine times out of ten, a black contestant was pitted against a white contestant. Hell, the only original black gladiator was portrayed as an untrustworthy two-face named Gemini who happened to suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder. And remember Malibu? Kip Winger’s gay surfer brother from California? At its heart, the original American Gladiators was truly a shameless celebration of stereotyping, homosexuality and mullets, rather than a competition of any real substance or prestige. Reruns air every weeknight on ESPN Classic.
American Gladiators 2008 borrows many of the “events” from the original version but provides us with bigger sets, brighter lights, better looking contestants, better looking gladiators, and the opportunity to masturbate to Hulk Hogan’s mammoth biceps. Not surprisingly, as this is American Gladiators we’re talking about, all the sexism and stereotyping from the original version has carried over into 2008. Now, because Hulk Hogan is not at liberty to call the black contestants ‘lazy niggers,’ the viewer is forced to pick up on more subtle discriminatory cues. For instance, just after the women’s Gauntlet event, Hogan said “Okay, now we’re gettin’ serious because the men are up next.” What, the women’s events aren’t to be taken seriously? Is that what you’re saying, Hulk?? Agreed. In another segment, Crush says the Joust is her favorite event because it’s fun. Immediately afterward, the announcer seductively says “I wonder what else Crush does for fun.” Like, what?! This show is amazing.
The gladiators this time around share all the inflated stereotypical characteristics as the original batch, only somehow they’re less gay. Crush, for example, is totally hot, which you simply can’t say about any of the original female gladiators, who were all roaring, roid-addled berserker dykes. And what’s going on with Toa? Must he have the bone necklace and lavalava over his spandex? Apparently he’s The Rock’s cousin but he’s certainly one of the worst gladiators on the show. Also, his eyeliner is super duper gay. Fury is the one I’m iffy about. Is she a lesbian? She certainly looks like she hates men. How many tortured cocks have bled under the callous tip of her pugil stick? Hang Tough is apparently her favorite event— the only event, mind you, where she has an opportunity to wrap her legs around another woman. Justice and Mayhem are clearly the token, ugly black guys and don’t even get me started on Hellga. The only solid, undeniably intimidating gladiator is Wolf, who whips his mane around and howls every time his name is mentioned.
Let me take a moment to talk about the contestants. If anything can be said about the original American Gladiators, it’s that the contestants— mainly rednecks, lesbians, and poor blacks— were, for the most part, serious competitors. AG 2008 offers up lazy, heartless dregs of the lowest quality. What a sorry bunch of fucking pussy-footed amateurs. Chad Knight, the professional skateboarder, might have put on the most dismal performance of the opening night, scoring, what, two points? And Jessie Foster, the toilet paper saleswoman , injuring herself?? Pure comedy. Still, the contestants can’t be blamed entirely as two crucial things have changed since the original. One, it’s not the 1980s anymore; Paul Kersey is dead and Rocky is washed up, people. Rambo, on the other hand, is not. Two, virtually all of the events are lesser knock-offs of their previous molds. The Pyramid is now half its original size and the Power Ball goals are wider than Sequoias. Don’t these people know that only serious challenges like, say, a black gladiator or a more attractive woman, bring out the real American spirit to compete and conquer?
All in all, with gratuitous flexing still very much a part of the show, AG 2008 is 100% entertainment. Hopefully, if it lasts, they’ll introduce different events or revamp some more of the archaic ones. I also wouldn’t mind if some of the female gladiators were, well, less feminine. Zap never confused me the way Fury does. They must promptly fire Laila Ali because her interviews with contestants are worse than some of the performances. Unless she’s absorbing punches, she has no right to be on television. Honestly, I’d rather have her father hosting the show.