Why are so many of the mainstream examples of black women negative ones?Why don’t we have reality shows that exhibit the women as they embark on new career paths or attend college?We are constantly bombarded with casts full of women people describe as “ratchet”,”ghetto”, or a number of other derogatory words. It’s disappointing, it’s demeaning and I hate that this is a central part of pop culture.
While channel surfing one lazy afternoon I landed on a show on VH1, I got a call from a friend and stopped flipping. We talked about in depth about food, she was at Trader Joe’s and I was helping her pick out dinner, and college because what else is there to talk about?The credits for a new show started to roll and as I recognized the opening credits of the show, our conversation transitioned into one about reality television. Namely, the negative and blinding light that shines on black women who are featured on these shows.
Half-watching, half-listening to my friend on the other end of the line, I observed as the women physically fought with one another, forcalled into question the paternity of the other women’s children, the list goes on and each thing is more troublesome than the last.
Honestly, when it really boils down to it, watching these caricatures live out fake plot lines and deliver lines from a script to create manufactured drama is embarrassing. These shows, which have millions of viewers only help to perpetuate the negative stereotypes that black women are forced to deal with. Imagine a random non-black person watching one of these shows, seeing 5 or 6 women behave in ridiculous ways demeaning themselves and each other, would this influence the person’s perception of other black people?Would it lead them to believe that we all act in a similar way to what is depicted on t.v? It’s unfair to black women who don’t choose to live their lives that way to have to live in the shadow of those on t.v who do.
After condemning the shows we disliked,w e started talking about the short-lived show ‘Blood,Sweat and Heels’, which focused on career women and their lives. We watched as they created event planning companies, modeling agencies, celebrated published books and worked to make names for themselves in their specific industries.
It was entertaining because the central focus of the show wasn’t the drama, the yelling or the fighting, it was about women on the path to finding success in their careers and it was a fresh look at black women on reality t.v. The cancellation of the show was upsetting because it was a perspective on black women that we desperately needed in today’s society.
I don’t scream at my friends when I disagree with them. I don’t throw drinks at people and neither does anyone that I know. I am capable of sitting down at dinner with people and having functional conversations about the world and our society.Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that off-camera these women are capable of doing the same, but their lives off camera are irrelevant as we only know their t.v personalities. I love reading and consider myself pretty nerdy because of the books,t.v shows and movies that I’m into. I’m in college and I have an unquenchable hunger for knowledge and learning. And I hate that despite all of this, despite all that I am and aim to be, it can all be overshadowed by t.v shows that accentuate and create damaging stereotypes and portray black women in an unfavorable light.
I have to admit though, I used to love these shows. And I watched them religiously up until a couple of years ago. But after growing up and thinking more deeply about my identity as a black woman and the way we are represented in the media, I just stopped. I get the appeal of the shows, they’re funny, they’re entertaining and we know more than likely that the producers edit and spin the characters so they appear more belligerent than they are.So we can give them the benefit of the doubt because they’re not really like that, it’s just the way they look on t.v,r ight? It doesn’t actually matter though because the facts remain the same. The shows cast negative lights on people of color and perpetuate standards for our behavior that more than likely are untrue.