Does reality TV really trash Black women? Then why do so many watch it….

Yesterday a few of my friends and I  had a conversation on gmail where the conversation of Black Women and reality shows came up. There were some who loved these shows and didn’t see the problem with them, there were some who DID see the problem but said they couldn’t NOT watch the weekly debacle, then there were others who were adamantly disgusted by the whole thing. Seeing as how I’ve never watched any of the shows in question, I couldn’t add anything to the conversation that wasn’t based on pure emotion and circumstantial conjecture so… i stayed out of it. But something did come out of the conversation as I was  given links to two different recent stories that touch on this very topic.

I’d like you to review them both….

Donald Trump’s birther battle with President Obama may have captured all the headlines, but the drama that’s really had Trump viewers glued to their sets is the catfight between his Celebrity Apprentice contestants Star Jones and NeNe Leakes.

The show has been a runaway hit for NBC this season, thanks in large part to the sniping between Jones, the embattled former cohost of The View, and Leakes, the former stripper turned Real Housewife of Atlanta. “Bossy, manipulative, conniving,” is what Leakes called Jones during a visit to The Ellen Degeneres Show. And how does Jones feel about Leakes? “I really don’t make a point of spending a lot of time with strippers,” Jones tells a NEWSWEEK reporter over pastries in Los Angeles.

The mud-slinging makes for watchable TV, but it also highlights an unsettling new formula for the reality-TV genre: put two or more headstrong African-American women in the same room, and let the fireworks begin. From Oxygen’s Bad Girls to Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise, the small screen is awash with black females who roll their eyes, bob their heads, snap their fingers, talk trash, and otherwise reinforce the ugly stereotype of the “angry black woman.” Take VH1’s Basketball Wives and Love & Hip Hop, which feature the scorned ex-wives and baby mamas of rich NBA stars and rappers. No episode is complete without a bitchy confrontation or a threat to do bodily harm.
“What I see now on television for the most part is a disgrace, as far as how we’re depicted,” says Diahann Carroll, who was the first African-American woman to star in her own television show, Julia, in 1968. “I won’t and don’t watch it.” Phylicia Rashad, who played Bill Cosby’s lawyer wife in the iconic 1980s comedy The Cosby Show, recalls what the late NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff told her after the show went off the air. “He said it was going to get much worse before it got better in terms of diversity,” she says. “He was right.”
As any fan of Jersey Shore knows, reality TV is an equal-opportunity offender when it comes to stereotyping. “Listen, there are plenty of white women acting a fool on television every night,” says Holly Robinson Peete, the runner-up on last year’s Celebrity Apprentice. “But there’s a balance for them. They have shows on the major networks—not just cable and not just reality shows—about them running companies, being great mothers, and having loving relationships. We don’t have enough of that.”
Reality-TV producers are understandably sensitive about such criticism. “We certainly do not intend for these shows to suggest any one group of people act a certain way,” says Frances Berwick, president of Bravo Media. “With Real Housewives of Atlanta we found a group of women who were actually all friends, and one of them happened to be white. We saw their friendship as something fascinating and relatable and the audience agreed.” [source]

The above article  touched on a few points here and there, yet I felt that it stopped short of really asking the million dollar question that is this:

” If these shows make Black women look so  terrible, why do Black women flock around the tv to watch them?”

It’s a fair question really, and one that Christelyn Karazin of Madame Noire wasn’t afraid  to ask….

The next time a black woman gets salty because some non-black person thinks she’s an expert neck-roller and inflictor of verbal castration, she’d better be sure she didn’t contribute to that stereotype by watching Real Housewives of Atlanta, the hot mess also known as Celebrity Apprentice, Basketball Wives and the Bad Girl’s Club.

Watching any of these shows passively gives credence to the notion that all black women are b*itchy and can’t get along with people, while networks fatten their wallets with ad dollars while we act a fool.

I’m just gonna say it: the women who participate in this coonery are sacrificing the GLOBAL reputations of black women, and once the shows’ producers are done using you *cough* Star Jones and Nene*cough* they’ll move on to the next black woman willing to feed a stereotype for a buck.  The previous ‘tools’ will remain “C”- and- “D” listers, and Donald Trump will get richer off of the apparently winning formula of making black women look like they breathe and fart fire.  Remember Omarosa?  Just barely…right?

I wasn’t very surprised with I read Allison Sameuls’ Newsweek article that calls out television networks’ new schtick of putting two hungry black cats in a cage to watch the bloodbath, while addicted fans watch the debacle from the comfort of their armchairs, fingers greasy with popcorn.

The million-dollar question is, why the cuss are we paying people like Donald Trump and  all these cable networks to make us look bad?  It might be easy to rationalize that, hey, it’s not like you’re like that, and it’s just trashy TEE VEE.  But then, don’t ever travel to China, Japan, South America or Eastern Europe.  And we shouldn’t be surprised if an international corporation is squeamish about hiring us–ever.  Because television is the new encyclopedia.  And if we’re okay with that, then the devil has indeed done his dirty work.

Now I can remember having very harsh opinions about such shows as Flava of Love, I lvoe New York, love these nutz, etc. So much so that if you were a Black person who avidly watched either of these shows I would never have a conversation with you on racism or stereotypes. Frankly I felt and still feel that if you supported either of those shows every week, you lost your right to ever complain about racism and stereotypes as you’ve done nothing but help perpetuate both by tuning in.

Being a little older now, I’ve grown a tad more liberal in my stance, yet  I still perk an eyebrow or a silent side-eye to a lot of it.

Sometimes silence says it all.

Since I don’t watch these types of shows, I’m in no place to pass judgement or even comment on them.  Like I always say: Unless you’ve  listend to watched, or have first-hand knowledge of a subject, you should never bother speaking on it. Therefore I have to hush and simply look towards those of you who have watched and formed an opinion based on first-hand knowledge.

So for those of you who have watched the shows in question,  are they truly that bad or is this a matter of people looking too deeply into something.

I’m curious to hear both sides of the aisle on this one.

When not responding to the dictate:" Will the Defendant Please Rise.." CEO and Creator of OHN;Slaus, is a comic illustrator and Social Media whore who spends his free time building legos, playing video games, drawing fantasy characters and being abused by his wife, two sons and cat.

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  1. FubsyNumbles says

    "Electronic aids, particularly domestic computers, will help the inner migration, the opting out of reality. Reality is no longer going to be the stuff out there, but the stuff inside your head. It's going to be commercial and nasty at the same time" – J.G. Ballard.

    Not that I've seen many of these shows, but I think Ballard gets it about right……

  2. OHNCantTakeIt says

    I think I've watched Real Housewives once or twice just to comment along with the Twitter folks. Couldn't keep up with it though, it's just too fvcking ridiculous. And there is no way I'd watch Celeb Apprentice, Basketball Wives or any other of that nonsense. I see ignant black people every day…..why the hell would I want to watch them get paid to be ignant?

    I've forgotten the title of a book I read last year, but the writer spoke of her and her husband's experiences traveling abroad, and how black people in America are viewed by the rest of the world. In a nutshell, most people believe what they see in the shows, in the movies and in music videos. And how positively have we been portrayed in those?

    Sorry, can't support the coontasticness.

      • says

        Right. I've got dreams of filling my passport with stamps from all over… To know that I'll be viewed as another loud-mouth, attitudinal, angry black bytch is disheartening. Can't say it's unfamiliar though; that's the perception that many people here have of black women as well.

        • says

          I've been all over the world and it never fails to stupefy someone in another country when they see that I'm well-spoken, use good manners, don't litter, refrain from acting a natural fool out in public, and actually bothered to learn how to ask basic questions and make casual remarks in their language instead of the American standard of loudly asking "who speaks English?"

          Ladies, we all aren't Tiffany "New York" Pollard, get out there in the world and show people we have class…otherwise their opinions of us will never change. Michelle Obama can't do it all on her own;)

  3. That_Dude says

    I have watched — at least once — Flava of Love, I Love NY, I Love Money, Charm School, Atlanta HW, and even some of the 'classy' ones (Let's Talk about Pep, Fantasia, Love & Hip-Hop), so…yeah, I'm part of the problem. The funny thing is, I only watch the Black RH…barely watched any of the other ones. There is the train wreck potential that does draw me in, I admit it. And talking about it on twitter/FB, but I also think that many Black people watch because it's the only time we're on TV. Yeah, it's when we're acting a natural-born fool, but people will watch to see themselves — and in some way they can relate.

    • That_Dude says

      I stopped watching Celeb Apprentice because of Donald's ignance, not Star & NeNe. I don't lump Apprentice in with the others, because it probably wouldn't be as coontastic if not for NeNe — she's just bringing her reality chops into another arena. To get noticed, you have to make noise — and she's really good at that. look at Lil Jon — he's been calm. But there are soo many people who take the attitude that 'it's just TV. If I stopped watching every ignant person, what would I see?' Not realizing that others take this as gospel…another reason I'm tired of Madea but I digress

  4. says

    I refuse to watch the Basketball Heauxs (because really…how many of them are WIVES), Real HouseHeauxs of Atlanta (again…how many of them are actual WIVES), anything on BET, anything on VH1 (with the exception being VH1 Soul because I like some of their music shows), etc because I REFUSE to acknowledge or participate in giving these networks ratings with their depiction of Black women. I know too many examples of positive Black women (including those that frequent this site) to disrespect them, their image and what they've worked to achieve, and slaved to gain. In 10 years (give or take a few…really general number here lol), we've gone from a Black woman winning movie's highest honor…to Black women getting into an argument/fight because someone doesn't know what food stamps are (and the only way I even know that happened is because of Twitter). REALLY, THOUGH?!!?

  5. says

    popping in quickly during a break in this boing conference

    these shows are a hot ass mess….and show sistas as loud, gold-digging whores…yea I put it all the way out there

    Slaus remember our convo that prompted you to watch Tyler Perry movies…the same folks (that I know) that bash his movies saying they portray blacks in a bad light…all watch these shows and have no issue and no shame in doing so…I never understood that…and still don't…

    these shows are described as "reality" shows…so they are showing the "real" TP movies are fictional…so why get upset at fiction but watch these "reality" shows with no issue

    I can't stand any of these shows…but they suck you in…just like a trainwreck would…

    I tried watching a few of them and found myself saying why the hell are these shows on TV…who is watching them and keeping them going…

    let me get back to this conference…

    I could go on and on about this…

  6. TracyTrips says

    All women act like fools, they just do it in a different way. White women on these shows *try* to act like they're better than everyone else hoping that we'll forget that they are desperate for attention by letting cameras into their lives. That one homegirl with a hairline that goes down to her damn eyebrows put herself in millions of dollars of debt by tryin to look cool for the cameras. They try to be slick with their backstabbing and shyt talking then act shocked when they get busted. Black women for the most part don't care. They don't care if a camera is on them they're gonna call a fool a fool. Sure, they act like just as bad as the white women sometimes…just in different ways. They don't hold it in when they are pissed off and whisper it into Mary Jo's ear that Sally Jo is being a bitch. They walk right up to Sally Jo and TELL her she's being a bitch. Straightforwardness. Blunt. Called for? Maybe not., but I think it gets misinterpreted as portraying them in a bad light when really…compared to the white women, they're just upfront and honest. and…Loud. Of course this is just *my* opinion…but I think that's why people are so attracted to the shows that have more black women. I'll watch one of these shows and sit on my couch curled up goin…' OHHH NO SHE DIDN'T! HOLY SHYT SHE'S GONNA CALL HER OUT!'

    It's foreign to alot of women because you're told to not act like that…and I'm sure there's alot more than I that wish we WOULD act like that a little more often.

    Oh…I will also say that as much as I love me some NeNe she has lost her damn mind on Celebrity Apprentice.

  7. FubsyNumbles says

    I would have thought that anybody still watching anything produced by or featuring the Trump (which, by the way, is another word for "fart" in Britain), is merely propping up his sad, bigoted, vainglorious ways….or have I got that wrong?

    Anyways, seems like Ballard is about right, judging the majority of opinions, thus far…….

    • says

      Way off topic: I enjoyed that little fun fact you threw in. I'll have to start using that on unsuspecting loved ones. "I feel like trump!" *poots* Yeah, that'll be fun ^_^

      • FubsyNumbles says

        Exactly. Had he done what he did over here, and then been exposed, he would henceforth have been called The Fart/ The Trump (with the inserted knowing emphasis)……

  8. Chitown_Sista says

    *sigh* I hate these shows. I hate anything that depicts african americans in a negative light whether it be mr droopy pants in front of me in line or the loud ignant chicks on tv. I TRIED to watch Apprentice but could not. I TRIED to watch BW when the reunion was on because I didnt see the season it was on, to see what all the hub bub was about but alas again I.COULD.NOT. It makes them look so STUPID! When something makes you cringe, it is time to exit stage left. And like Beth and Slaus said, how are you goin to bad mouth stereotypes bein perpetuated but still support it being on tv? UGH. So backward I dont know what to say!

  9. CaspercutieSTL says

    I watched some of the VH1 shows and peek in and out of RH of Atlanta. They are an embarrassing
    train wreck. I agree with what was said in one of the articles. There is a lack of diversity in the image
    of black women on television. Outside of some sitcoms, shows with positive images rarely last long
    on television.

  10. unkle ruckus says

    I started boycotting BET back in 98, getting caught watching a movie before I realize what channel it’s on. I’m doing the same thing with these “reality shows”. I even stopped going to Atlantic Station when they were filming RHOA in the area, just so I wouldn’t release the hounds on the coonery. I cringed when I saw a message board for Ochocinco’s dating show on VH1 and the biggest complaint is that there weren’t enough black women to represent. #facepalm. Nope, every time a new dating show arises, I make it a mission to pick up three books from the library. That way, I know I’ll be too busy to check it out.

  11. Sugafree says

    At one point in my life I would've gone on a tirade about negative images in the media, racism, cooning, blah, blah blah, but you know what, I think I'm over it. I agree that a lot of these reality shows and TP included depict Black folks in a negative light but you know what? Some of us are negative. Some of us are ignorant. Some of us are foolish as fugg. The problem I see is the balance. I don't mind a little Nene ignorance here and there but can I also see Claire Huxatable again too? What gets me is that we get so busy selling ourselves short( like we are not smart enough to know the difference between fact and fiction) that we don't contribute enough time and support to the positive depictions. We spend all this time and energy complaining about negative image this and that. Damn White man, rich man that and this instead of just doing shyt and encouraging the positive when we can. Giving the money to them so they can get ahead. Erasing the negative is not going to bring forth the positive. Sorry but that never works. The reason folks can make money off ignorance is because we bring so much damn attention to it(positive and negative. Mostly negative) Instead, let's put the energy in the positive stuff and not worry about how much ignorance is on tv because frankly, no matter what we do, it's going to stay there for as long as it's entertaining and gotdammit, Nene cussing Star out was fugging entertaining to me. I could enjoy it and talk shyt about it all it once. Who doesn't get off on that just a little? But at the same time, I will support some positive shyt too. It's all about balance.

  12. Cosmolude says

    I've seen some of these shows maybe once or twice, and that's only because I was at a friend's house and they were watching it but I just thought they were boring so I turned away. I don't know what's going on and I don't care. I just get irritated when people act really stupid and start arguing and fighting for dumb reasons. I used to watch The Apprentice because they were competing for something and were involved in completing a task so there would be a reason for conflict. That type of conflict doesn't bother me but I get annoyed when people try to "show out" by always causing problems.

    I feel like I can't constantly complain about the shows and watch every episode. I know people who complain about the way black women are portrayed in the media but they never miss an episode. Where do they think others are getting these ideas from? I don't like how people expect me to act like the women on these shows do but look perplexed when I don't. I'm not here for your entertainment.

  13. Sugafree says

    You know what I like about freedom? Freedom means you can act a monkey fool. Freedom means you can be wholesome and goodness. You can like it or not like it. Turn it on, turn it off. Yell about it or keep quiet. I don't believe in silencing anyone unless they are truly hurting people. Do I think show like this really I mean REALLY hurt us. For me personally, no. I'm not sold on the idea that we are completely manipulated by the media as a whole. Naw, there is some personal responsibility we have to take for ourselves. I just don't think it takes a genius to recognize entertainment, fake, role playing from real life, information, education. I don't buy it. At some point I believe it clicks in adults brains that this is not real. Now children is a whole 'nother issue, but adults. Naw…

  14. Leo_YardieChick says

    I don't watch them, at all. First, because 'reality' shows are as unscripted as a Hollywood block buster and, second, because I see enough people of all shades acting a damn fool in real life on an almost daily basis. I don't need to support the earning potential of women channeling their inner La'Shaniquiesha for attention and 'fame'.

  15. says

    ” If these shows make Black women look so terrible, why do Black women flock around the tv to watch them?”

    It has been said that people like to see people like themselves on TV. I used to watch a lot of women's basketball. Why? "Cause I can't jump a lick, and I liked to see people who played the game like me…. below the rim. Crazy sisters like positive reinforcement too. The truth is, there are waaaaaaayyyyyyy to many sisters like the ones on TV. And just like a cool, level-headed sister will occasionally watch two hoodrats fight it out just to see how far they take it, TV provides that train wreck effect on a regular basis. Star Jones said she knew why they wanted her on the show, to fight with another Black women. Since she wanted to sell her new book and make money for her charity, she's giving them what they want so she can advertise her book as long as possible That's why other than The Biggest Loser, there is no reality TV to me. You can't fake losing 200 lbs. Sisters don't realize that shows like those that depict them fighting with everyone, particularly each other, desensitize people to Sisters when they actually have real issues. There are folks outside the race that see that as a form of gladiator fight between animals, but there aren't enough of them to keep the ratings up enough to keep the show on the air. If we don't give the advertisers an audience, the shows will go away. Unfortunately, someone will miss them and they'll probably come back.

  16. sexychocopuffs says

    These shows are awful. Not because they exist, but because the full range of Black women is not being represented. No one wants to see a Black Gwyneth Paltrow on screen it seems. No one wants to see Gabrielle Union or Sanaa Lathan playing a superhero, or lawyer, or woman who is strong. Nope. They want coonery, and lot's of it. One time an African taxi driver saw me (I was sporting an Afro puff and my African cloth) as I was hailing a cab. He was so "proud," to have met an "African" sister. I was like "Um….naw, man. I was born here." He was all shocked to find out that my education, diction and carriage had more to do with my parents than with me being from abroad that he began to wax poetic on how Black women are seen overseas. It was enlightening, but sad.

    He's not the only person I've heard this from. Apparently, we're a big joke overseas. People think we're violent, uncouth and angry. Men think Black American women are so sexual that it's okay to harass them in the streets. I wouldn't care too much about trashy reality tv if we had lots of other programs to choose from. But it seems like as soon as we get some good shows with Black leads, they get canned or canceled, even if they have lots of viewers.

  17. aslan357 says

    I don't watch these "reality shows" (ok I watched Flavor of Love when it was out), but that's my preference. I think Holly Robinson Peete summed it up nicely when she said "Listen, there are plenty of white women acting a fool on television every night, … But there’s a balance for them. They have shows on the major networks—not just cable and not just reality shows—about them running companies, being great mothers, and having loving relationships. We don’t have enough of that.”

    Coonery is in the eye of the beholder. There are a lot of things I would consider coonery that someone else may not. But, notwithstanding that, where does one draw the line between coonery and comedy? And, more importantly, where is our balance?

  18. says

    They'll stop making these shows the day people stop willingly acting like common, basic b*tches for a check. Same as the video heaux people like to get up in arms about…can't sell a product that doesn't exist.

    I've seen RHOA and those god-awful shows on VH1 (although I had to give up on Flavor of Love because watching him slob all over those girls made me want to vomit…seriously, free vodka and herpes medication is not worth it)…I wouldn't lose any sleep if they all disappeared right now.