African American Reality Shows: Coonin' in Perpetuity?
We've all heard the complaints, yet we're all familiar with the exact situations and story lines that are causing the complaints....hmmm so you say you don't watch 'em hunh? Yeah Right! Somebody's watching Reality Shows and I KNOW it's not just me. I've bantered with quite a few of you about them...lol
Soooo the big questions seem to be: Are we comfortable with the portrayal of members of our community airing out their drama for the world to see? Why do people like them so much anyway? Are these shows a bad influence on the next generation? Are shows like Basketball Wives, Real Housewives and Love & Hip Hop setting us back generations? Who Cares? All good questions. I'm going to attempt to share my opinions about this "blazing issue" & invite you to share yours.
First Question: Are we comfortable with the portrayal of our community?
I for one can assure that there hasn't been a reality show on t.v. yet that has been an accurate reflection of MY community. Nor have I seen one that even attempted to. Television programming has come a long way from the 40's 50's and 60's when Black people were proud to see one of their own on the boob tube (crime reports, civil rights atrocities & assasinations not withstanding). People no longer rush to the phone to call the Greens down the street to utter the once gleeful words "Girllll there's a black person on t.v." *Thanks Cops*. In 2012 I don't expect to turn on the t.v. and find someone who portrays the level of grace, intelligence, and class that offers an accurate reflection of what I see in the mirror. I'm not on t.v...lol. This is not in the best interest f those who control the Media. We should ALL know this by now. It's about ratings, money, & perpetuating an image and let's face it, the media does not have a history of being on our side when it comes to portraying accurate and/or strengthening images of our community. I don't expect that to change in the near future. What's being aired has been proven to garner earnings and as far as the media goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." If someone wants to put on a backwards tutu and curse out Jesus in pig-latin and it will garner ratings....It's going in a prime time spot on a prime time network. Therefore if a few women want to get together and air their dirty laundry and there's a demographic for it...IT'S COMING TO A BOOB TUBE NEAR YOU.
Next Question: Why do people like them so much anyway?
BECAUSE THEY'RE ENTERTAINING...duhhh. We are a society of voyeurs. We LOVE to be front row center to watch other people's business. Most times it's because it spices up the monotony that is our own lives and sometimes it's because it gives us a break from the chaos that is our lives. C'mon now, who more than us enjoys propping on the stoop, porch, patio, veranda, neutral ground (Seaux 504), park bench etc. etc. to people watch? It's not because drama ONLY happens in our neighborhoods. It's because we like to watch the excitement. So now instead of sitting out in the heat, risking becoming a casualty when something "pops off" we can sit in the comfort of our air conditioned homes and watch it safely. It also gives us insight into how other people run their homes and lives. Sure these shows are scripted, as were very many soap operas of yore and look how long they lasted!!! Soap operas succeded in breaking the color barrier, gender barrier, age barrier, class barrier & many times common sense barrier. Everyone from all backgrounds and walks of life enjoyed losing themselves in the chaotic, dramatic, scripted lives of Erica Kane & the like. How many boycotts did they have to overcome? Don't worry I'll wait...
Question #3: Are these shows a bad influence on the next generation?
I'm really trying to continue to censor myself here, but be honest...with the exception of a handful of examples portrayed by the media how many of them are good influences? And how the HELL are you raising your children that you would even entertain the thought of ALLOWING a t.v. show to be a major influence in the lives of the next generation??? IT STARTS AT HOME PEOPLE. YOU control what your children watch and if you can't, it's YOUR responsibility to discuss, explain, lie about, sugar coat, kiddy pitch what your child HAS seen. Let's face it, it's not reality shows that are the biggest influence in the lives of the next generation...it's how YOU, YOUR DYSFUNTIONAL FAMILY, NEIGHBORS, FRIENDS & EXTENDED FAMILIES are behaving, or NOT behaving that is influencing the next generation. Young people, contrary to popular belief, CAN distinguish reality from make believe. It's what they're seeing in their homes, schools, & neighborhoods that are the real influences in their lives. Gone are the days of telling your child "Do as I SAY not as I DO." I mean be honest, that didn't even work when your mother/father told it to you did it? Didn't think so. We have to be EXAMPLES for our kids. We have to teach them values and morals and self-worth. It is neither society's, or the medias responsibility.
Question #4: Are shows like Basketball Wives, Real Housewives and Love & Hip Hop setting us back generations?
If I hear this one more time I'm going to scream WAAAAKKKEEE UPPPP in my best Dap from School Daze voice. Who gave "them" whomever them is the RIGHT to judge, record, portray or take responsibility for OUR legacy??? Who were the people who elected "them" a hop scotch time keeper for the Black Experience??? Hey we got a black president, take 2 steps forward...uh oh we got a bully named Tammy (even though yall went overboard with the Tammy's a bully crap. Keisha played the victim & yall bought it hook line n sinker....but I digress) take 4 steps back. WTF??? Unh Unh, if they can get a Jerry Lee Lewis & make him a beloved musical genius then we shouldn't have to take a Flavor Flav & chalk 1 up for the team. (sidenote, remember Flav's roots, Public Enemy, just ponder that for a second). This has been an argument in the black community for decades. Remember the NAACP's stance on Amos N Andy? Are you familiar with the collective communities thoughts on actresses like Hattie McDaniel perpetually portraying maids? Remember her answer? Paraphrasing: I'd rather play one than be one. It behooves me that a society that values MONEY, HUSTLIN', GRINDIN' over FAMILY, LOVE, SUPPORT & RESPECT has the audacity, nay the unmitigated gall *I just love that term-neck roll n all...lol* to say Reality Shows are setting us back generations. What's happened in the past is just that, in the past. Our legacy can NEVER be erased. Whether it's recorded or not (remember we come from an ancestry of griots, our history was passed on verbally) our contribution on this earth is evident and can never be removed. And I as a black woman, will not allow you to let "them" negate it. That's an excuse "they" came up with to make you feel you don't have the right to use the same resources they do to make ends meet. Don't fall for that "that's why they think all black people are a certain way" okey doke. That's an EXCUSE. No one knows better than "they" the power, ingenuity & intelligence that is prevalent among the black community. Sadly they are aware of it before we are...think about that one.
With the ever so pressing issues we face in our communities on a daily basis, the fact that we allow ourselves to get caught up in the idea of boycotting television shows because they in your opinion present an inaccurate portrayal of our community as a whole is assinine. If your daddy was a pimp it doesn't make you one. Should you grow up & flip to pimpin' that's your choice. Should your brother grow up to be a doctor that's his choice. Neither of those choices reflect the other so why are you concerned with an ACTRESS who happens to be the same shade as you being a reflection of you? And who the hell elected her the sistah girl spokeswomen anyway???