Taking BET to Task
Look. To begin, this isn’t a wrathful indignant attack on BET’s programming or how they “poison our people” by some overzealous Black righteous type. I’m pretty sure you can find enough of those on the internet. The programming on BET isn’t more ignorant, terribly done or shameful to people in general than the programming on its Viacom sister networks (MTV and VH1) or a lot of what Bravo shows. “The Game,” while poorly written and simply not good, is no more so than “Single Ladies” or any number of the reality shows on these networks. It isn’t more ignorant or terrible simply because BET is black. Furthermore, I listen to 2 Chainz. I can’t really ride a high horse like somehow the music I listen to is acceptable and the shows themselves are not. Ergo, the programs themselves, I don’t have a problem with.
With that being said, I still have a problem with BET. By purporting to be at least pro-Black interests, then they inherently have a greater social responsibility than MTV or VH1. By branding themselves as an actual actor in Black society outside of just entertainment, then they have been saddled with this responsibility. They could brand themselves purely as what their name suggests, entertainment for Black folks (and just be UPN or the CW), and I’d be fine, but this isn’t the case. Especially when they are curiously steadfast about voting programs and doing church shows on Sunday and HIV/AIDS awareness. That’s why I got angry at them for not showing Little Brother’s videos a couple years back because they deemed them “too smart” for the target audience. That’s why I’m mad about what happened on Twitter Tuesday night during President Obama’s State of the Union address.
I saw the trending topic during the address and thought it was just some reaction to something Obama said. Then I saw that tweet. And realized that The Game was on. And then I realized that BET and the people working with the show itself were actively tweeting to try and get people to switch from the address to The Game. BET later tried to apologize after a twitter uproar and then chastised the composer of the above tweet, but tried to make us forget that it was tweeting stuff like this (since deleted) at the same time:
I’m not gonna ask BET to change its programming times and actually show something important. Even though they haven’t actually covered any breaking news items of importance to Black folks in months. They shouldn’t have to do that. I won’t disparage those who watched the show instead of the address, because I’m pretty sure a good amount of White folks were watching Cheers (or whatever show White people watch) instead of the address. I’ll even congratulate BET for showing the address….at 1 AM. But why couldn’t they just shut the fuck up during it?
Is it not enough to make money from some of the stuff they show on BET? Why do they have to exhort their audience (black people) to turn AWAY from a particularly important SOTU address to watch THE GAME? It comes back on at 11. I doubt BET’s ratings took a huge hit from the SOTU, given the amount of those who were going to watch The Game instead anyways. This was another example of BET, which, like it or not, plays a major role in setting the Black social agenda, actively persuading people to stop doing “smart stuff” and start consuming their prepackaged meal of mind-numbing nothing. The act itself probably didn’t mean much, but BET has a habit of doing this type of thing a lot. And then they suck us in with kinda positive stuff like “Black Girls Rock”….but then immediately follow it with videos of Nicki Minaj (inexplicably horribly) shaking her ass directly after.
Like I said, I’m not here to be angry at The Game itself. I watch the Grilling channel (yes…it is a channel) and find replays of 90s NBA playoff games and episodes of Chopped to be the best thing on TV like ever. I have no judgment if you watch The Game, or of the show itself. I’d be just as mad if BET exhorted people to stop watching the SOTU to watch some of the silly shows I like. My problem is with BET constantly using its place in greater Black culture to its advantage, but then casting aside the responsibilities attached with that place in the name of “entertainment.” BET is for us and by us, although no longer owned by us, and I think has a duty, as the premier Black media vessel on EARTH, to be about more and to push us to care about more. How do you participate in Rock The Vote campaigns and ask people to turn away from important Presidential speeches. How can you half-heartedly try to get Black folks out to vote and totally not give a fuck about them being informed on the issues? It just doesn’t add up to me.
But perhaps I’m just ranting.