Tag Archives: reality tv

A Black Feminist Comment On The Sisterhood, The Black Church, Ratchetness, And Geist

By Guest Contributor Tamura A. Lomax; originally published at Feminist Wire

SisterhoodThere’s been much talk about TLC’s new show The Sisterhood, a reality show about the lives and struggles of Ivy Couch, Domonique Scott, Christina Murray, DeLana Rutherford, and Tara Lewis, five pastor’s wives in the Atlanta area.  While some critics are threatening to boycott the show, and others are framing it as evidence of black [male] preachers losing their way (which I guess is synonymous with the Black Church losing its way, but that’s another issue), millions of others, myself included–a former “first lady” and black feminist scholar of religion, race and media–are flocking faithfully to the television screen on Tuesday nights with popcorn and bottled water in hand.

And let me be clear: like many, I’m “sick and tired of being sick and tired” of the operative mediation of the global racist and sexist imagination through black women’s corporeal realities.  I’m tired of mass-mediated notions of “black womanhood” being both the adjective and the noun that modifies and constricts space, time, and meanings. I’m tired of black women consistently serving as—through both overdetermination and consent—televisual artifacts for establishing white, black, and other “normalcy.”  And yes, I’m sick and tired of black women functioning as cultural mediums for soothing primal fears, representational tropes for suckling the collective fascination with black female sexuality, and work-horses for demonstrating a mastery of unscrupulousness and otherness.  I’m tired.

And yet, I’m also admittedly drawn in to this show and others like it, week after week.  Like so many others before them, Ivy, Domonique, Christina, DeLana, Tara, and many other reality TV women, inspire all kinds of repulsions, attractions, and anxieties.  However, they also satiate [some of] our ratchet taste buds.  Can we have a moment of honesty?  The Sisterhood is a hit show.  And this isn’t because no one’s watching it.

So what’s the draw?  The Sisterhood creates a conflict between public politics, private realities, and personal taste.  However, this war between the emperor’s coat of high culture and the everydayness of his nakedness is nothing new.  This ongoing juxtaposition highlights the ever-increasing tensions between the “cultured” and the “ratchet”: the former drawing attention to so-called taste, tact, refinement, civilization, and genius, and the latter calling attention to the so-called vulgar.  While the former is purported to arise out of the Geist–the intellectual inclinations–of our times, the latter is purported to spring forth from the worst of black culture.  However, what better communicates the spirit of the time than the ratchet?  And no, I don’t mean the ways that ratchet gets deployed to project a collage of derogatory meanings onto black women’s bodies.  I’m referring to the ways that ratchetness often undergirds the ricocheting of raw emotions and missiles of unfiltered truths.

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Quoted: Black Folks Don’t Need To ‘Own’ Shawty Lo

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Stop owning the idea of black dysfunction. Stop repeating that “we” act this or that way. Stop believing that every ill-advised or socially unacceptable act of an individual black person (or 20 black people or 1,000) is a blight on the whole of the black community or YOU personally. Stop pretending that all black behavior is endorsed by the black collective. That racist America thinks this way is no endorsement. But taking to comments sections to proclaim loudly your disgrace at how other black people are living is an endorsement of credit-to-your-race type thinking as well as the idea that the caricatures the media treat us to really are representative of our race.

Stop it with the black shame. Shawty Lo is not the black community. If the white guys over on Gawker aren’t hanging their heads over Mick Jagger, his many children, and their mothers, then you can still hold your head high in a world where Shawty Lo and “Fighter Baby Mama” exist.

I know what you’re about to say: “But…but…but…72 percent of black children born out of wedlock!” Right. The face of family is evolving all over the world–not just in America and not just among black people. Marriage rates are at an all-time low in the United States and across Europe. Rates of cohabitation and children born to unmarried parents are up. And these combined statistics don’t always add up to economic and social decay. (Hello, Sweden!) We need to begin figuring out how to adapt to these changes. And if you want to, you can lament that the changes are occurring. But here’s what you can’t do: pretend that Shawty Lo and his family are representative of single-parent or nontraditional black families. Because you know damn well they are not.

–Tami Winfrey Harris, “Black America Is Not Shawty Lo,” Clutch Magazine 

 

Open Thread: Reality TV And Race

Request in the comments yesterday:

kdlmn • 14 hours ago
Could we have a reality show open thread and/or round table on racialicious sometime please? Just a suggestion. Reality shows seem to be together with crime shows the only area in which PoC are overrepresented–cause it gives the viewer yet another possibility to ridicule PoC (added bonus: women of color. women on reality shows in general are always catty and back stabbing, never help one another). There are so many offenders here that I don’t know where to start. The last ones I saw were “Hollywood Exes” (3 Black women, one Latina, one White woman) and “My Big Fat American Gipsy Wedding”, which is especially appalling as it comes just when the Hungarian and French government have in different ways declared that Roma are Open Game. In Hungary a right wing politician recently had a DNA test published to prove that he definitely had zero Roma ancestry. So gross.

Mickey • 7 hours ago
I agree about a round table discussion about these so-called reality shows. Whose reality are they showing? Most of this stuff is edited to make certain people fit into stereotypes the public automatically buys in to, especially regarding PoC. I watched a couple of episodes of “Hollywood Exes” and, although it is not too bad compared to other shows of its nature, the Black ex-wife of R. Kelly and the White ex-wife of Jose Canseco sort of get on my nerves.

Consider the thread open! A couple things I’ve noticed after the jump. Continue reading

For Better Or Worse, K-Town, The Reality Show, Is Finally Here

by Guest Contributor Jen, originally published at Disgrasian

After two years of hype surrounding every aspect of the so-called “Asian Jersey Shore,” K-Town premiered today on YouTube. The reality show was so thoroughly dissected before it ever saw the light of day–Is this good or bad for Asians? Does it promote or break down stereotypes? Is this something to be ashamed of or to celebrate?–the 12-minute pilot is, inevitably, something of a letdown. It’s not quite the trainwreck it was originally touted to be, and without something to really rubberneck in the pilot, the whole thing feels a little bland, actually. The guys and girls kind of blend one into another, a cheesy, homogeneous mix of muscles and eyelash extensions. The teaser for the rest of the season doesn’t give you much to hang onto either: They drink, party, have a few fakish conflicts, rinse and repeat.

Let’s hope the next ep has more to gawk at, or, at least, offers clearer stakes–how very fuddy-duddy of me to want them, I know–because a show like this that once promised to be new and “groundbreaking” could get really old, fast.

[YouTube: K-Town Episode 1]
[The Leaked K-Town Sizzle Reel: Mystery Revealed]

Me, The Muslim Next Door – What Muslim Reality Shows Should Be

By Guest Contributor Nicole Cunningham Zaghia, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch

One of the main criticisms of TLC’s All American Muslim was that the show’s characters were representative of only a small part of the American Muslim community.  If you felt that way, then a great antidote is Me, the Muslim Next Door, a web documentary produced for Radio Canada International.  Filmed in Montreal and Toronto in both English and French, Me the Muslim Next Door is over two hours of audio, video, and still photography, broken up into 4-6 minute segments, with each of the show’s participants having several segments.  These segments took place in the participants’ personal landscapes – at home, on the street, with their families.

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All We Are Gonna Say About Basketball Wives

Now, if you happen to be like me, an avid viewer of VH1…

And you just so happen to find Basketball Wives playing around the time Single Ladies goes off, so you catch little bits of the high school drama that happens when you allow seven women to act on their pettiest personal impulses…

And you just so happened to catch this episode, where they let Tami fight whatsherface:

And you remember how, ahem, different Tami is since the first time she was in a sticky situation on reality TV:

And you just so happen to remember when Shaunie tried to say she isn’t a fan of drama

As you see on the show, I’m not a big supporter of the bickering, drink throwing and fighting, but when you put a group of strong, independent and vocal women who are going through or just came out of a bad relationship together, there’s bound to be a little drama.

Let’s face it, we all know women like the ones on “Basketball Wives” and countless other reality shows: Women who are vocal if you cross them.

The problem for me is when black women are portrayed as only being that way and labeled different than their non-black counterparts for the same type of behavior. That’s when it becomes negative and damaging to our image.

I’m not saying we have to create shows that only paint a pretty picture about who we are, but there should be a balance and most of all some integrity to the shows we create.

And you look at how the whole show is people letting minor squabbles escalate into drama and violence…

Then this thread is for you.

I’m trying to pretend that I am not actively following this show, but at this point, I’ve seen three eps in a row. I think it’s time to give up the ghost…

Excerpt: The Rise of Reality TV Racism

Note: video slightly NSFW – bleeped out profanity

IN THE BEGINNING, the Network Suits said, “Let them be white,” and reality TV cast members were white. Seasons passed, and they multiplied to a mighty celluloid nation, populated by dominant men and decorative women, Bachelors and Top Models, Apprentices and Swans. We shall remember this age as “BF.”*

After half a decade the Cable Suits gazed upon their Network neighbors’ unscripted creations, saw the ratings bounty sexism had provided, and grew envious. Then the Cable Suits decreed that producers must layer racism atop their misogynistic bedrock, saying, “Let us remake Black people in advertising’s eternal image.” So producers birthed a minstrel show and called it Flavor of Love, and it was bad, and Kentucky Fried Chicken was happy.+ Flavor of Love begat Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School and I Love New York, which begat Real Chance of Love. And lo, people of color began to rule over their own plots of televisual land. But there was much suffering; visibility became a plague on their McMansions. Competing Cable Suits discovered Black Housewives in Atlanta, reformed Black and Latino men From G’s to Gents, and taught White Rappers their place.

And so it was, and so it still is today.

* Before Flavor Of Love
+ For the viewers, it was bad. For VH1, it was the biggest hit they’d ever had. And KFC? Their product placements figured prominently
# After Flavor Of Love
- From Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, by Jennifer Pozner (site includes more video excerpts)

In the Back of the Kitchen

By Guest Contributor quadmoniker, cross-posted from PostBourgie

Top Chef’s contributions to the reality show genre don’t come from exciting cliff-hangers or the evil machinations of those who would only win by cheating: the ingredients that make it work best are good chefs cooking food that looks pretty and makes you want to eat it. Occasionally, there’s a key rivalry or a chef you want to hate. The two chefs everyone hated are now gone: possible-pea thief Alex left last week, and Amanda, the overly-intense, scatterbrained former addict who never seemed to get anything right, was finally voted off last night. But before that, another source of drama this season ended prematurely when Kenny Gilbert, whose long-simmering rivalry with Angelo made him seem more talented than he probably was, was voted off after the Restaurant Wars episode. (Restaurant Wars is the show’s bread and butter: two groups of chefs start restaurants and compete to win.)

Kenny inspired a lot of inappropriately racist, pimpish nicknames, like chocolate bear and big daddy, and, when he was kicked off, an unfortunate number of outdated South Park  jokes (I think you know the one). But mostly he was a gregarious, lovable self-promoter; fans believed he was the big cheese because he said he was every week. In truth, his cooking skill seemed uneven. But whether you think he deserved to go or not, his absence highlights a longstanding problem with the show:  there hasn’t been enough diversity, and it is particularly problematic in the way it portrays its black chefs. Diversity on a reality TV show might not seem the most important topic, ever, but it evidences two things: one, the dearth of people of color at the top of many fields extends to reality contests that purport to propel novices to the top of those fields; and two, shows like this in which contestants are judged subjectively still often pick white male winners.

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