Strength In Numbers?: From G’s To Gents and Reality TV’s Diversity ‘Achievements’

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García


I couldn’t help but think about this media meme* making the rounds while watching MTV earlier this week.

The story by the L.A. Times cites shows like “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor” in talking up reality television’s willingness to cast more minorities compared to scripted programming. And sure enough, folks like “Biggest Loser” producer Dave Bloome pop in with self-congratulatory rhetoric like, “We’re looking to create shows that everyday people can relate to, and for that you really need a true representation of the population.”

But both reporter Greg Braxton and the people he cites ignore what I believe is a key factor behind those numbers: the shows that stimulate what some fellow bloggers refer to as The Douchebag Economy.** Because while it’s good to note, for instance, that “Survivor” had three black contestants and a latina in this year’s cast, or the diverse array of troupes in “America’s Best Dance Crew,” is anybody willing to make the argument that shows like “Flava Of Love,” which featured a POC protagonist and a diverse cast, and spawned the equally hideous though diverse “I Love New York,” was beneficial to … well, anybody?

Does emphasizing diversity excuse Ryan Seacrest for showcasing Khalood Bojanowski on Momma’s Boys? (SPOILER ALERT: As the show ended, Jojo picked a white girl, and Mrs. B is still a racist. Happy ending, right?) Seeing POC lie, cheat and make stereotypical buffoons out of themselves – how could I forget you, “I Love Money”? — isn’t any more beneficial to our respective communities than seeing it on police-procedurals or sitcoms. It’s the same sickness, just a different strain.

… Which brings me, of course, to From G’s To Gents.

bentley1I admit, I dismissed the show and its’ gimmick of sending thuggish individuals to a finishing school run by Fonzworth Bentley during its’ debut last year. But I gave it a shot after learning it was brought back, because I thought it was interesting that this show was retained, as opposed to, say, The Money & The Power. What could Diddy’s ex-manservant provide that Fiddy didn’t? Compared to similar shows, the answer seems to be, Jamie Foxx as an executive producer (which the show loudly mentions), and just a bit more heart.

Unlike “The Girls of Hedsor Hall” or “Rock Of Love: Charm School,” which mostly featured drunk middle-class young white women, the guys coming to Bentley for help are, while drunk at times themselves, as interested in the lessons in ettiquette, fashion and such as they are in the $100K purse. Most of the remaining contestants say they are or have been homeless; one says he is a recovering drug addict. And Bentley, to his credit, appears to be invested in helping his would-be proteges. During the first-season reunion show, we learned he arranged, off-camera, for resources to help various contestants after they were eliminated, a pledge Bentley has repeated this year.

Also to his credit, the challenges Bentley (and Foxx, presumably) have devised seem to be veering away from the wanton humiliation other shows like to inflict on contestants. Last week’s episode had the players taking part in a battle-rap challenge – but without the use of slang or cursing, so as to emphasize the week’s lesson in eloquence. Though guest-star Chamillionaire didn’t add much to the proceedings, the idea was clever. Clever enough for me to not give up on “G’s” just yet.

* Hat-tip to The Cruel Secretary and CVK for the heads-up on the Times story
** Specifically, my friends The Slackmistress and BeTheBoy
Images courtesy of MTV