Tag Archives: reality tv

Muslim Girls: the New Tokens of The Real World

By Guest Contributor Diana, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch

This is the true story of seven strangers, picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.

Those words have forever ushered in MTV’s “real” drama-filled saga, The Real World. The Real World has long been known for its token cast members: in an all-white, heterosexual cast, MTV would often cast one or two people of color and/or from the LGBTQ community, ostensibly to heighten tensions and increase ratings.

Season 19 of the Real World saga, set in Sydney, Australia, offered viewers a new entrée to salivate over: “the Muslim woman.” Parisa, an American-Iranian woman, was the first Muslim to appear on The Real World. She was the only person of color that season, and replaced both the token gay and black cast members. I guess they thought one Muslim woman was enough to conjure up the drama the other two token characters promised.

Wendi Muse at Racialicious put it best, saying:

Maybe they felt like throwing a brown Muslim girl into the vanilla pot would liven it up a little, but honestly, I feel like this is MTV’s as-per-usual approach to diversity: do something controversial, put the people (or person, in this case) of color in an awkward position that makes them react in an outrageous, albeit usually justified, way, then sit back and watch the ratings go up.

The show had not aired at this point, but Wendi’s predictions were right. The season’s most memorable moment was when fellow cast member Trisha pushed Parisa in a fit of rage. Drama had been brewing between the two cast members since the first episode, and eventually led to Trisha’s horrifying outburst.

Continue reading

Kid Nation meets Indians

by guest contributor Rob Schmidt, originally published at Newspaper Rock

Usually I don’t watch reality shows. They’re too hokey and manipulative for my taste. But I had to look when the penultimate episode of Kid Nation (airdate: 12/5/07) featured Indians.

If you don’t know the premise of Kid Nation, it’s simple. A bunch of kids have been “left alone” to “pioneer” in a Western “town” set up in the “wilderness” near Santa Fe. “40 Kids! 40 Days! No Adults!” is the show’s tagline.

I use quotes because it’s obvious the whole thing is staged. One adult acts as a moderator on-screen and other adults are just off-screen: holding cameras and asking questions. Knowing little about the show, I’d guess that every scene is planned and executed by a director with a script. The kids have some latitude about what to say but they’re basically puppets.

How contrived is Kid Nation? In the episode’s inevitable competition, the kids have an hour to move shacks from one location to another. What are the odds that the last team will complete the task with exactly one second to spare? Pretty good if it’s a staged “reality show.”

Indians to the rescue?

As “Where’s Bonanza, Dude?” opens, it’s Day 35 of 40. Led by a “town council,” the faux Bonanza City seems to be under control. Why then are the kids checking an “1885 journal” for help?

Supposedly written by Bonanza City’s first settlers, the journal says the townsfolk failed to explore beyond the outpost’s borders. It advises the readers to seek out the people who lived there “centuries before us.” It even includes a map.

In theory, this is a valid idea. America’s plucky but ignorant pioneers often relied on the Indians they met. Starting with John Smith at Jamestown, they frequently had to find help or die.

Using Indians as practical and philosophical guides from the beginning would’ve been a worthwhile approach. But the show is almost over. What possible aid could the Indians provide at this point? It’s hard to imagine.

The premise might as well have a flashing red light and blinking sign that says “gratuitous.” It’s painfully obvious that this is going to be a gimmick. Apparently the show’s creators want to get the town council off stage for an hour so the other kids can shine. They might as well have sent these pseudo-leaders to the mall.

Igloo or teepee?

So the town’s four honchos wander off into the semi-tame “wilderness.” (I suspect it’s grazing land on a ranch.) Eventually they come over a rise and spot…what? “It looks like an igloo,” guesses one boy. No, it’s…teepees.

Is there a single child in America who couldn’t tell an igloo from a teepee? I doubt it. But let’s assume the show’s creators found the one kid dumb enough to make this mistake. Let’s pretend it wasn’t a scripted moment. CONTINUE READING >>

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match: MTV Looks at Arranged Marriages

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

I usually avoid MTV because of its basic lack of programming that interests me. This weekend, however, I happened to catch an episode of True Life, which chronicles people in different walks of life going through different life experiences. The episode I happened to catch was entitled “I’m Having an Arranged Marriage.”

I can’t find the episode summary on MTV’s website, but the summary goes like this: MTV follows three people on their journeys through arranged marriage. The show follows Najwa, a Pakistani-American Muslim woman; Rohit, an Indian man living in America (who I believe is Hindu, but I couldn’t get a definitive statement from the show); and Arwa, another Pakistani-American Muslim woman. All these people have college educations; Arwa is currently in law school.

The show first follows Najwa as she goes to pick up her fiancé Zeeshan at the airport. Najwa and Zeeshan are engaged but have not married yet; this visit will be the third time Najwa has seen Zeeshan, even though they talk frequently over the phone. Meanwhile, Arwa goes to several dates set up by her friends and family in hopes of finding someone to marry, even attending a conference that attracts other professional Pakistani-Americans. Her mother keeps bothering Arwa about her arbitrary deadline: announce an engagement by the end of the year. That’s some serious pressure.

Both girls do not wear hejab, and at first glance, you wouldn’t even be aware that they were more conservative, family-oriented women. I’m big on not judging a book by its cover, so I was kind of pleased about this. Both women talked about how they thought they’d find their own husbands (rather than being set up by people in their community), but are willing to try their family’s traditions.

What I really appreciated is the fact that the show highlighted these women’s experiences as their choice: Arwa mentions that she tried to find her own husband, but she’s okay with her parents trying to find him for her, too. Often, the words “arranged marriage” conjure images of veiled women who have no say in who their parents choose for them, and a lot of people think that arranged marriages trap women and are loveless. There’s also this idea that any Muslim man is a good Muslim man, and all a girl has to do is find a Muslim guy—any Muslim guy—and marry him. Muslim marriages—whether arranged or not—work just like other people’s: compatibility is key!

This episode refuted a lot of those ideas, likening arranged marriages to something as simple as just getting set up by your friend who thinks she has a friend you’d like. The idea that one size fits all is also not applicable here: Arwa met three different guys, and rejected two of them (unfortunately, the one she liked didn’t call). Najwa, after realizing that she had different priorities than Zeeshan, ended the engagement herself. At the end of the episode, Rohit was the only one who actually got married! Arwa went back to law school (if I remember right, she was on summer break during the show’s taping) and Najwa’s family continued to look for a match for her.

While the reality of arranged marriages is different for everyone (personally, I think I could do a better job of picking out a husband for myself than my parents; some families prefer to rely on social networks, some families let their children find their own mates, sometimes arranged marriages turn out badly, sometimes love matches turn out badly) and MTV’s portrayal really only illustrates how arranged marriages work within the U.S., I was pleased to see none of the gimmicky stereotypes. My only real complaint is that it would have been nice to see a Muslim man getting set up. On the whole, not bad, MTV.

Who wants to marry a US citizen?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Believe it or not, that’s a reality show currently being shopped around to various cable networks, according to this Reuters story:

Los Angeles company is touting a new reality game show called “Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen” that aims to create televised matrimony between legal citizens and immigrants who have temporary visas.

The show’s backers at Morusa Media hope to make a sort of love match between reality TV and a national obsession with immigration. But the producers make no promise that a marriage will occur or lead to U.S. citizenship.

Show creator Adrian Martinez said that Morusa Media has not yet found a network to produce or air the show, but he is currently in talks with one cable TV network and already has signed up contestants for six episodes.

America’s Next Top Model: saved by the chong!

by guest contributor Jasmine, originally published at news from the flip front

OMG.

So in last week’s episode of “America’s Next Top Model”, Tyra reveals that the models not eliminated in tonight’s episode will travel to China to continue in the competition.

So how did she tell them? Did she say “Hey, y’all are going to China!” Fuck NO. She had lion dancers come out and dance around, two martial artists comes out with swords, and Tyra herself waved a big-ass fan around. This after a stilted fake-ass conversation with the lion, wherein the lion invites them to China via a number of poses and copious blinking. Did I mention that this week’s guest judge, poor man’s Tim Gunn Neil Hamil of Elite Model Management, and Twiggy had to wave fuschia flags around in the air while this nonsense was going on? And yes, if you listened in the background, there were gongs. GONGS! I half-expected Tyra to give everybody chopsticks and challenge them to style their hair with them. But maybe that’s the next challenge?

I’m trying to remember if ANTM has pulled this kinda shit before. Oh right — contestants in Cycle 4 had an assignment at a Los Angeles animal park where they posed like animals, right before learning they were going to South Africa to complete the season. I mean, ignorance is nothing new on television, especially in reality television, but COME ON, people. If I wanted ethnicity to be painted as broadly and as badly as this, I’d just ride It’s A Small World and be done with it.

[rolls eyes]

Excuse me, I need to go eat some Kentucky Fried Panda now.

Third Shot and I’m Starting to Feel It – Shot at Love Recap

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

Okay – I’m starting to get bored with the extensive recaps. So, I’m going to leave that to the official MTV blog and just highlight a couple interesting notes from the show.

The Trouble Same Sex Reality Shows

I’m going to let Dan Savage speak on this one, because he nailed it a couple years back:

Sometimes the mail is sooooooooo depressing that I just want to think about other things.

Like Next. Last weekend I was stuck in a hotel room in Portland, Oregon, on account of a teensy, weensy hangover, and I caught a marathon of the MTV dating show. Here’s how the show works: One person—say, a boy—goes on a blind date with a girl. If the boy doesn’t like the girl, he says “Next!” and one of four other girls, all waiting on a bus, takes the first girl’s place. The rejected girl returns to the bus to be cruelly mocked by her rivals. The boy continues barking “Next!” until he finds a girl he likes. Sometimes there are five boys on the bus and a girl barks “Next!”, and every once in a while five gay boys are on the bus and another gay boy barks “Next!”

While the gay episodes demonstrate to MTV’s impressionable viewers that young gay people are really no different—they’re every bit as shallow, vapid, and crude as their straight counterparts—not one of the gay episodes really worked. Instead of anxiously waiting to see which of the five will be chosen, viewers of the gay installments of Next anxiously wait for the five boys on the bus to strip down and get it on. The gay boys on the Next bus aren’t rivals, MTV, they’re all potential matches, which makes the one guy who isn’t on the bus nearly irrelevant. In all three of the gay episodes I saw, the boys on the bus were more into each other than they were into the boy for whose affections they were supposedly competing; in gay Next, the boy who “won” a second date with the boy-who-wasn’t-on-the-bus declined, preferring to run off with one of the other guys on the bus.

Recreating the “five bitchy rivals” dynamic that makes the hetero episodes of Next so entertaining wouldn’t be that hard, MTV. Here’s all you need to do: Put five hairy bears on the bus that are only attracted to pretty twinks, and let them compete for the, er, hand of one pretty twink. Or five white guys that are only into Asian guys competing for an Asian guy. Or five tops and one bottom. Or five Log Cabin Republicans and one CPA. Take a little more care with the casting and preinterviews, MTV, and you’ll be able to solve Next’s gay problem. You’re welcome.

Dan Savage, July 5, 2006

MTV, Tila…why are we acting surprised when some of the non-butch, lipstick lesbians (who are attracted to other, non-butch, lipstick lesbians) start hooking up? You knew that was going to happen. And you’re on a reality show – which means you know at least half those people are lying about their motives/background/sexual orientation just to get on TV.

Snitching Clusterfuck

I personally can’t stand those fucking “Stop Snitching” tee shirts. Every time I see one, I have to forcibly restrain myself from lunging at the wearer and choking them out on the metro. However, while watching Domenico and Ashley screw over Brandi, Rebecca, and Steve, I was overcome with the urge to grab one of those shirts and add the phrase “on yourself.” Seriously, yo! It’s the oldest trick in the book. Domenico said nothing, and Steve snitched on himself. Brandi said nothing and Rebecca snitched on herself. If this was a scripted program, we could have at least got a laugh track. Or a “dun-dun-DUN!”

The Ellen Factor?

Everyone loves Dani. Seriously. From my friends to the commenters on the message boards, it seems like most of the support is behind Dani. According to societal standards, we should not be cheering on the futch as she is outside of society’s prescribed roles for lesbians. She isn’t porno ready. There are other girls who are using their T & A a lot more and accomplishing a lot less. So what is it about Dani? Why is she just so damn likeable?

“She kind of reminds me of Ellen DeGeneres,” commented my boyfriend during the last show.

It was as if someone hit me over the head with a squeaky hammer. She IS like Ellen. Is that why we like her? Has Ellen DeGeneres become the archetype for the acceptable butch? Is Ellen the original futch? Hopefully, someone a bit better versed in queer politics and theory can school me in the comments section… Continue reading

The Words of Asian American Men

by guest contributor Jennifer Fang, originally published at Reappropriate

A little less than a month ago, a panel discussion was put together by The Asian Society focusing on Asian American male identity. The panel, consisting of three prominent Asian American men in pop culture today: The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi, the single best Asian American writer of contemporary pop culture, Jeff Yang, and the ever so swoon-worthy Yul Kwon of Survivor: Cook Islands (whom this blog dubbed the real Super Asian Man back when his show was on the air). These three men chatted for a night on issues affecting Asian American men, and The Asia Society graciously put an edited “clip show” of the event on YouTube for us to view.

One of the central thrusts of the discussion was the emasculation stereotype. I agree with all three panelists in their emphasis of Hollywood as being the primary source of the asexualization of Asian males, and how this perception has a deleterious effect on developing young Asian American boys. Kwon said,

When I was growing up, I was very much influenced by what I saw, and more importantly what I didn’t see, on television. Whenever I saw an Asian American man on television, he was inevitably a kung-fu master who could kick ass but he couldn’t speak English, or a computer geek who could figure out algorithms but couldn’t figure out how to get a date. And for myself, I really think I internalized a lot of these images.

All three panelists emphasized the need to change Hollywood’s depictions of Asian Americans, viewing mainstream media as the primary source of the stereotype. After all, the true insidiousness of APIA male asexualization is its effect on the self-image of young boys, which is communicated to them beginning at childhood. In this way, the asexualization stereotype is no different than anti-feminist socialization that promotes gender roles for young girls; in both cases, the images are designed to control those who are principally “The Other” in American society.

Exposed to image after image of Asian Americans as nothing more than the Perpetual Foreigner and the Geek diminishes the self-esteem of boys and introduces an internalized racial self-hatred where one associates one’s racial identity with limited personal and social success. Particularly damaging, however, is how this diminished self-esteem actually discourages radical activism to change the root source of the problem; race and masculinity become linked. This internalized relationship is problematic because Asian American men rarely challenge the association between race and masculine self-worth. They advocate changing the stereotypes of Asian American men (a solution destined to failure as it still promotes dehumanization and objectification), rather than to advocate an elimination of race-based sexual stereotypes altogether.

As a community, we should not prioritize advocating for a hypersexualization of the Asian American male body, but for a humanization. To define us based on race is still to limit our evolution as people to pre-defined narratives externally applied to us based on our race. Stereotypes limit us because it stifles our own self-growth and opportunities, regardless of whether those stereotypes are “positive” or “negative”. As Jeff Yang said in the panel discussion,

…[C]oming from my own perspective, every time I hear people say Asian American men shouldn’t be portrayed as geeky-looking and having glasses and being nerdy and all this, and I’m like, “you guys are all protesting in front of my mirror”. It’s kind of unfair to hold us all to these standards, as incredible as it is to see people like yourself and Daniel Dae Kim and Aasif transcend the historical representation of what Asian American men are, there’s also a sense in which it leaves some of us behind. And I think the notion of manhood is changing. Continue reading

Racism, Conflict, Hypersexuality, and…Personal Development? Lessons from VH1′s “Charm School”

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

If Flavor Flav is the modern day “Steppin Fetchit,” Mo’Nique seems determined to end the minstrelsy.

In her new show, Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School Mo’Nique desires to reverse the damage done to the girls while they were contestants on Flavor of Love by forcing them to reform. She employs the assistance of Mikki Taylor, the beauty & cover editor for Essence magazine, and Keith Lewis, director of two California beauty pageants and the director of a talent agency.

Now, initially, I was skeptical of the show’s concept. Mo’Nique was going on VH1 to teach the girls about etiquette? I love Mo’Nique – but I felt like it would quickly descend into the stereotypical “black woman telling it like it is” with her squawking outdated “sistah-isms” and her keeping it real in the neck popping, eye rolling kind of way.

[Note: This is not a reflection on Mo'Nique's personality. Reality TV, as "unscripted" as it may be, still encourages everyone to act like they have lost their minds in order to create "good TV." And if the characters fail to act up to their roles, creative editing is employed.]

However, I was happily surprised to find that this is not the case. (I still watched two full episodes before deciding to blog though.)

Already, the show has piqued my interest. The show seems invested in changing the girl’s attitudes about life and fame. In stark contrast to Flavor of Love, where the girls were encouraged to confront each other, Charm School intends to make the girls confront themselves. By forcing the girls through challenges that require both team building and competition, VH1 has managed to reveal some very interesting personality quirks in the contestants that were not revealed on Flavor of Love.

Race Watch!

During multiple points in the show, I almost choked to death on my sparkling water. There are major race issues in that household – and you almost don’t see them coming. Standouts from the first two episodes:

- Larissa (aka Bootz) gets confrontational from the jump, saying that she thinks Brooke (Pumpkin) was racist for spitting on New York. She quickly gets Shay (Buckeey – why the hell can’t Flav spell? He could spell alright the first season!) to join in on a thinly veiled reason to exert their dominance over Brooke. Brooke ends up in the bathroom in tears, with both Larissa and Shay holding on tight to their justification. Continue reading