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.