Monday, October 28, 2013

Ronda Rousey and fake nice vs. real mean - or why I stopped watching this season of The Ultimate Fighter

Over on, Ben Fowkles wrote a bit on the realness of Ronda Rousey.  He rightly noticed that it's absurd to give Rousey's mean-spiritedness and pettiness a pass because it's "real".  It's a false dilemma between fake nice and real mean.  I would not take either.  How about real nice?

I don't even think that Rousey is "real mean".  That term, itself, actually elevates her behavior.  It's petty.  It's not even mean in an overly aggressive way, but mean in spirit.  Watching it, I am struck by what a spiritually small person she is.  It's quite marked.

In particular, Rousey has an inability to understand normal human social behavior.  Things that stood out in the episodes I saw, though not limited to them, are:

  • Saying that Miesha Tate was celebrating Shayna Baszler's pain after Baszler lost to Juliana Pena.  That Rousey didn't understand that Tate was celebrating Pena's victory, not Baszler's loss, after Rousey's more than fifteen years of experience with competitive martial arts is baffling.  (And, of course, Rousey freely celebrates her own and her team's victories, even when someone is badly hurt.)

  • Rousey telling Dennis Hallman that he shouldn't fight Edmond Tarverdyan while the show was filming - not that they shouldn't fight at all.  But that Tarverdyan, who challenged Hallman, should not suffer the consequences of his bad actions and that Hallman should be the one who backs down.  That's the bizarre part.  That Rousey was telling Hallman to back down after Tarverdyan challenged him, rather than trying to stop her coaching staff from challenging visitors to fights.

  • Calling Tate a racist because of a couple of practical jokes that made fun of Tarverdyan's uni-brow - especially because these practical jokes were after Tarverdyan challenged Tate's friend Dennis Hallman to a fight.

  • Rousey's inability to grasp that when Tate is nominally polite to Rousey in public, it isn't being two-faced.  Tate has been very clear, very directly to Rousey about the bad blood between them.  But because Tate maintains a small modicum of courtesy in necessary professional contact, Rousey creates the chimera of Tate being "fake nice".

  • Rousey's inability to grasp that even if Tate is being fake nice that doesn't rationalize Rousey's bad behavior.

  • Rousey giving Tate the bird after Rousey's fighter won and Tate attempted to congratulate her.  Rousey is graceless in both defeat and victory, particularly confounding given Rousey's long association with competitive martial arts.

It just goes on and on!  Rousey clearly has trouble grasping normal human social behaviors.  (I am biting my tongue to stop opinion as to the reasons why because armchair psychology is fraught with dangers.)  She acts strange and surrounds herself with people who validate her bad behavior, like Edmond Tarverdyan.

This is not to say that, for instance, her feelings aren't real.  I'm sure they are.  So what?  Part of growing up is learning the social rituals that grease the wheels of society.  You learn that it's uncool to challenge people to fights, even if you don't like them.  You learn that when someone is polite to you during work, it isn't treachery.  You learn that just because someone is mean to you doesn't justify bad behavior on your part.  When you're in the fight game, you also learn (or, rather, know, for Rousey certainly knows) that to celebrate in victory does not imply that they're celebrating the suffering of the loser.  You learn how to accept the accolades of the coaching staff that loses to you as being a sign of respect and not some kind of false emotion.

It doesn't mean that Rousey is not a charming person in the right circumstances.  I do not doubt she's loyal to her friends or a contentious coach.  But there are so many examples in just this one show where she has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of understanding of normal social human situations.  It's petty and mean of spirit, even moreso than other rivalries on TUF, including Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz.  Justifying Rousey's own bad behavior by turning Tate into a bugbear just rubs salt into the wounds of bad behavior.

Rousey isn't "real mean".  She just petty and nasty.  I don't think that the show's portrayal is particularly biased, I don't think that they're taking things out of context.  It's hard to take flipping someone off out of context.  It's hard to take defending your thug friend's attempted assault on a visitor.  She's full of spite and bile.  Saying she's mean is too nice, I think, too big a term for Rousey's behavior.


  1. "You learn that when someone is polite to you during work, it isn't treachery."

    Right? If I nod hello in the hallway to someone I've argued with, it's not THE NOD THAT HIDES THE KNIFE.

    1. Unless you're a self-involved narcissist who thinks that everything that happens must be about her. Not, y'know, that Miesha Tate just wants to avoid crazy psycho girl's drama, but that Miesha Tate is treacherous, backstabbing two-faced liar girl who sits up at night just dreaming of ways to hurt Ronda Rousey. Because that's what everyone does, spends all their time thinking about her, Ronda Rousey, which is why it's okay for Rousey to be a nasty, unpleasant human being, or something something rationalization for being mean-spirited something something.

      Rousey's behavior is so consistently nasty, it was hard not to draw conclusions in the post, let me tell you.