It keeps coming back to one thing – this isn't fair. That frustration is rooted in youthful naivety and idealism, but Hulk Hogan should be better than this. He's the Hulkster. The most popular and inclusive wrestler who's ever lived. Anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s watching wrestling is a Hulk Hogan fan; whether as the heel Hollywood Hulk Hogan or the mask-wearing Mr. America, he was beloved above all others. To find out that he's a bigoted coward is not just disappointing, it's crushing.
Heroism is stupid in its nature. People are people. That's all they should be seen as. Believing that any famous person is more than that, seeing them as some deity is a different way of dehumanizing. It strips from them the power to make mistakes, to err and to do the stupid things that people do, the right to be their own individual.
But this can't be helped. Idol worship is an ingrained aspect of human nature. We need role models and when we find these people, we cling to them and see them as infallible. Hogan, for millions of people, was that hero and for a long time he played the part perfectly. He was such a huge part of people's childhoods that we protected ourselves from his displayed stupidity; the court cases, the infidelity, the general weirdness of his out-of-ring life, we witnessed them all with a superseding excuse: But he's Hulk Hogan.
In his statement after the news surfaced that Hogan delivered a racist tirade caught on his 2008 sex tape – where he blatantly stated that he was a racist before dropping the N-word numerous times and ranting about his daughter dating a black man – Hogan tried to apologize. Specifically, he tried to beg pardon for using offensive language while claiming that it did not represent him as a person.
That's absolute bullshit. Nothing more in this world shows who he really is than that transcript and video. Not the scripted wrestling shows, the bright lights, the leg drops or the WrestleManias and Starrcades. None of that matters, they're all fake. Right there, in the privacy of his own home, under no pressure to behave in a certain manner or to please anyone, he revealed himself. That's who Terry Gene Bollea is. And in his own words, he's a racist.
That's not fair to every black kid who walked around in an NWO shirt while hissing spray-paint noises. That's not fair to The Rock who beams like the summer sun when he sees Hogan. To know that the man who filled your childhood with so much happiness hates you and sees you as closer to a wild animal than a human being feels like the heaviest straw on the camel's back. If you can't even escape into your heroes in a world that constantly belittles your worth, then what more is left?
Confronted with the sudden reality of Hulk Hogan, it's tempting to try once again to mitigate the transgression with context. He's a man born in Georgia in the 50s who wears a handlebar mustache and has publicly supported political figures who have no problem calling all Mexicans rapists. It's more surprising that he went so long without revealing his hatred.
Hogan's also a part of the WWE, the corporation that reduces its black, Hispanic, Latino and Asian performers to nothing more than racist caricatures without a second thought. In fact, one of the first people to defend Hogan after the news was Michael Jones. Better known as Virgil, who was Ted DiBiase's slave and whose character was a jab at the recently deceased Dusty Rhodes, born Virgil Runnels, a man who had been accused of "acting black."
The history of racism in the WWE could fill up several articles. David Shoemaker wrote a concise history of it. Acclaimed playwright Kristoffer Diaz had an interview on the history of the company after the Hogan news broke. And fans have even written about why it's pointless to be a black wrestling fan.
Discussing Hulk's rant in the context of his employer and the racial complexion of his childhood environment, the easy conclusion is that's just how people like him are. It's also a cop-out that relieves Hogan of personal responsibility and diminishes the deliberate charade between Hogan's public hero persona and his private opinions.
Hogan has worked with numerous black wrestlers and has met countless black fans throughout his career. He's shared locker rooms, hotels and buses with his coworkers and has signed an incalculable amount of autographs for starstruck children who adored him. He's stood there and shook hands with The Rock at WrestleMania while The Rock gushed about what an inspiration Hogan had been to his life. We made him superhuman all while he viewed black wrestlers and fans as less than human.
At any given point before that disgusting day in 2008 when his sex tape was filmed, his views could have changed. Hogan didn't live in the segregated past anymore and he didn't live by WWE scripts. He chose to stick with hate. His apology isn't for his beliefs, it's for the shame of them being brought to the public.
And that's hurtful. Few people can ever hope to transcend their vocation in the same manner that Hogan did. He wasn't just a wrestler, he was much more than that. He was our hero. A walking, breathing ideal. Unfortunately behind all of the confetti and loud cheers of hundreds of thousands of fans was a vile and hateful man. There's no forgiveness for that deceit.