To the Deelishises…
To the Deelishises, Boots, and Buckys (Flavor of Love); The Omorosas (The Apprentice), Corals(The Real World), and Taneishas (Bad Girl’s Club);The Atlanta “housewives” (Bravo), Basketball “Wives (VH1), and girlfriends, jump-offs, baby mommas or whatever other term given to these loosely delineated relationships of VH1’s Love and Hip hop Atlanta:
There is no doubt your affiliation with the aforementioned programming has not only significantly increased the value of your personal bank accounts, but has also garnered notable increases in viewership for their host channels, in turn increasing revenue for their producers and writers. It may even be stated that your participation in these shows has extended your five minutes of fame to fifteen in a world where it takes only seconds of exposure to achieve fame or lose favor and be forgotten.
However, in light of all your seeming gain from the successes of your presentations on small screens (assuming that endless club appearances, mediocre product lines, countless promotional photo shoots with no particular sponsors and or profits, and casting calls and careers that amount in inevitably more reality television is considered a success), one must ask what cost you paid with respect to your dignity?
Now, I’m not judging. No, that’s not my forte, or my interest. I am simply asking if – after you auditioned for the season, signed the release forms, acted an ass on camera, and left your likeness and reputation to the whim of the editors in pursuit of fame and funds – you ever once considered the almost irrevocable effect you would have on the large-scale perception of Black women, and more importantly, the minds of black girls and young women set to one day become Black women themselves?
Where do I begin? The stereotype of black women perpetuated by the media and incubated by society (i.e. Black women as the welfare bound, domineering, ignorant, sexually immoral, yet highly religious, government freeloader) used to be an archetype found only in the characters written and endorsed by white writers and fed to the community by those who did not know us. In the era of television where the sitcom, rather than the reality television show, ruled (circa 1970-1998), there were a plethora of series dedicated to showcasing the progressive side of the African American experience. Many shows boasted characters that were not only indicative of real people in our world (i.e. Moesha (1996) and Roc (1991)), but housed content that was relevant, provoking, and heartfelt. Then somewhere around 1999, perhaps inspired by Y2k and the impending doom of the new millennium, a new genre was created where people did nothing but be themselves.
Enter MTV’s iconic “The Real World” (which had actually premiered successfully in 1992, but gained popular acclaim during the early 2000s) and CBS’s “Big Brother”. CBS debuted in the show in 2000, and is about nothing other than people aware of the fact that they were being watched and the dynamics that ensued thereafter. The show not only capitalized on its reality TV platform but also on its social experiment composition, which is similar to George Orwell’s “1984”. Soon, every genre of television possible was converted into “reality” while (ironically enough) the casts and circumstances became more and more scripted, and the finished products less discreet about it.
Enter you all. Now that last paragraph probably meant nothing to you. I just figured you might like to know your place historically in all this mess. From a Black woman to Black women – whom I know with the greatest conviction have feelings, thoughts, hopes, and aspirations like we all do – any endorsement of our presumed inferiority; footage of lewd, reckless, violent, or just plain ignorant behavior; petty arguments; admission of shallow aspirations and motivations fueled by money and men’s status; and no real contribution to the overall environment other of the hate and gossip you monger about one another and those around you is an outright obstacle, and an act of sabotage to the advancement of ethnic women the world over. That might be an understatement.
I am consistently disenchanted by the portrayal of Black women as angry, raging bulls, as acted so convincingly by characters like “Bad Girls’ Clubs’” Taneisha and Natalie Nunn, or Coral from “Real World New York”. I am thoroughly disgusted by caricatures of Black women as victims, mindless, crazy, and status obsessed sex objects (see: the casts of “Flavor of Love” and “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta”). I am intensely incensed at the violence depicted as the primary method of communication between us and the whining about men on “Basketball Wives”.
WE deserve to be represented and written better. WE deserve (after centuries of oppression, true victimization, and marginalization) to be shown in a light as wide and as well rounded in regards to who black mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, companions, partners and people are as the fake asses and titties found on the leading ladies of these programs. Do you women truly believe that career goals as an actress, model (runway, commercial, print, etc.), or even entrepreneurs can really be attained given the light you’ve shown yourself in? Am I going too far to wager that you’re still somehow unfulfilled emotionally and spiritually every week at the end of each episode?
I am reminded of a time when there was allegedly honor amongst women, and genteelness and couth were desired attributes in the feminine. What happened to the art of being a lady? When did we learn to no longer covet its mystique?
I am disappointed in you ladies heralding further fragmentation of our little girls’ social skills and identity. I am most disappointed in other media outlets like VIBE magazine calling women like Ms. Lozada a “new role model” in the Black community. Quite frankly, if that’s the new role model, than we need to return to the old immediately.
In closing, to the Black women of Reality TV and hopefuls wishing to one day sit in their confessionals: I am praying for you as I am praying for all of us in these times of deception and dishonesty. Though your lies may be lucrative, I pray for the day when you no longer seek these reality series, or producers who sponsor our crucifixions seasonally, for fame, success, or wealth. I pray that you learn to consider success as the contributions you give to your communities and your children, your feelings of fame from the fact that you are loved and valuable, and your measure of wealth from good health and good constitution of your hearts and minds.
On that note, be blessed. And next time your shows are on, look at the screen and then look in the mirror and try to remember which your true reflection is.