Friday, May 3, 2013
It’s no secret that in the African American community the AA woman is placed on a pedestal, or at least once upon a time they were. Insert rap music and reality television and women have suddenly been demoted to “B****’s,” “hoes” and “ratchets.” As a ‘fan’ of rap I give a certain pass to lyrics as it’s almost become mandatory to defame women in music, but recently it seems that the disrespect has reached more disturbing heights. Sure the rappers who promote such language are AA themselves, but think about the label owners and stockholders; white men and women whom make a profit from the defilement of AA women. Once the last remaining figure of hope for the AA community, this image has continuously been diminished and tarnished with only a comedic symbol remaining. In order to reclaim the prestige and once again become a strong symbol within the African American community, the community itself has to examine the portrayals that have somewhat become the “token” of African American female representation.
The world of reality TV aims to show authentic sides and lives of characters, but if you ask me all portrayals aren’t genuinely authentic; especially when it comes to African American women. As I’m sure there are plenty of earlier examples of the diminishing respect for AA women, yet my earliest memory begins with the first season of the VH1 reality series Flavor of Love; a show where black women (the majority), were pitted against one another for the affection of a man; and by pitted I mean fist fight, bitch slap, and be spit upon. This group of women was the first of the new millennium to showcase the decline of the AA woman. While the masses laughed, AA women and girls received brainwashing that this type of behavior was not only acceptable but normal. Keeping in mind that all of the contestants on the show were aspiring, models, actresses or singers, it’s easy to notice the lack of authenticity within the show, but the effects are long-lasting. For evidence log onto Youtube, use the correct choice words for searching and allow the disturbing truth to sink in.
Moving on from career hopefuls, the media focused on yet another subset of AA imagery, with Bravo’s third installment of the Real Housewives franchise, which to me only projected the imagery that AA women don’t need a male to influence animosity towards one another, but can fight over anything. The Real Housewives of Atlanta has been the most successful installment of the franchise and of the Bravo network, which isn’t surprising at all being that 90% of the cast are AA women. One step above the Flavor of Love hopefuls, this group of women claim to fame came through the presence of the man/men in their lives. At the beginning of the series no one on the cast is “employed” or has a career of her own. Instead they have achieved their “status” through marriage. One doesn’t have to imagine the negative affect this placed on AA women and girls, the results are evident by the lack of focus on education and rise in aspirations to one day marry a musician, athlete, or any man with money who can make her life as comfortable as possible.
In hindsight these shows haven’t been all negative. While the rest of the world laughed, large portions of AA women became angry. Instead of standing by while the media continued to destroy their image, women grouped together to ensure that their voices were heard. Their anger reached its peaked when AA women banded together to demand the cancellation of VH1 series, Basketball Wives.
Following in the shadow of Bravo, VH1 once again used reality TV to portray a negative image of AA women. The show Basketball Wives was a paradox from the beginning being that a large percentage of the cast weren’t actually married. They were instead the baby mothers, girlfriends, or exes of players, with one thing in common; they were black women willing to be exploited. A success from its beginning Basketball Wives had it all: hair pulling, drink slinging, booty shaking, fist fighting and more. Despite major protest VH1 has yet decided to cancel the series—but why would they? I’m sure we all know what type of person makes the final call. It can’t be a coincidence that shows such as these continue to follow the same suit.
The media and society has always been set against the African American male; media portrayals and music does enough alone to obviously discredit and discourage AA men, that it goes without saying. The African American woman however remained a prominent figure in African American homes for years; symbols of strength and perseverance. Of course the media can’t have impressionable girls gaining self-esteem and respect for themselves, so they place the most deleterious, toxic images they can find on television, (in many communities the babysitter). Young girls grow up thinking that it’s okay to emulate such behavior and future generations will only think that it’s natural to behave in such ways.
You may not have noticed the correlation between the degrading of African American women for the amusement of white audiences but it’s happening with alarming results. Next time you tune in and laugh at the buffoonery think about that there is someone profiting from this exploitation, and all the while the image of the African American woman continues to erode. At the end of the day who is really getting the last laugh?
Monday, March 4, 2013
Anyone who knows me should know that I'm a huge television fan. I have a favorite show for just about every genre of television and in recent years I've found television to become friendlier towards the LGBT community. PROPS FOR THAT. What better way to rescind the ignorance of American's towards the gay community then by introducing unaware individuals to the culture; within the comfort of their living room. I have no problem with this and will continue to show support of shows who tastefully display the uniqueness of gay culture but I have one question; where are the representations of black gay couples on prime-time TV?
Of the few prime-time shows that display gay relationships, I've noticed that none feature men of color; and by color I do mean more than just African American's. What does this say about our developing society? Why are White homosexual couples displayed so easily on television but Black counterparts are predominately scarce? I for one thought that in the fight for equality, all races would be included. If the agenda of these shows truly is to promote acceptance of gay relationships, then I strongly believe that it's a failed cause. By only highlighting a certain aspect, or group, misconceptions can easily develop as these shows offer no variety of characters and culture. Just look at the examples:
Modern Family is a critically acclaimed series best known for its display of the evolution of what constitutes as a family in modern society. A key element to the show is the token gay couple, Mitchell and Cameron. Though both men are representations of the diversity of personalities that exist within the gay community, neither character is relatable to black audiences. In fact, the relationship shown in the show The New Normal, closely parallels that of Modern Family: A white couple facing the difficulties of being gay and starting a family. I love the shows but once again none of these men can be considered "relatable" by non-white audiences. Not saying that some of the situations encountered by these characters aren't universal, but it takes more than sexual orientation to make something relatable. How can I relate to these men when we they don't look like me or face the challenges I face. The closest prime time television has come to showing a gay couple of color was with the short lived series the L.A. Complex, but sadly there was nothing healthy about that relationship.
So where does this leave us? What is the future for gay couples of color on prime time television and is that future necessarily a good one? These, I do not have the answer to but I do know that the first step to getting closer representation to oneself on television starts with demanding it. The issue of the lack of diversity of gay couples on prime television goes beyond color, and creates a big misconception as to what the average gay couple looks like. Ask yourself, are the men portrayed on these shows anything like you? And then ask yourself who are these depictions really trying to appeal to?
Posted by Anton Maurice at 11:31 AM