Early this morning during my commute to work, Jacque Reid made a statement so simple and clear-cut that it left me in a frazzled state. The prominent journalist stated something to the effect of “If this show were on a nationally black network there would be such a surge of public dismay and negative uproar…However, since it is not, the response is very different.” Reid was referring to the literally overnight sensationalized reality TV show “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta.” All I could think to myself was “Oh, the hypocrisy of the Black community!”
Before anyone seizes the opportunity of waving the finger of disgust and offense in my face let us reminisce on some leading networks’ other successful ethnic-centered disillusionments. “Basketball Wives,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta” the highest rated show of the franchise, and the outright travesty presented in “Flavor of Love” are all examples in which black individuals allowed themselves to be portrayed in a demeaning, volatile manner.
Ratings speak volumes, as to explain why shows like the former gained season re-ups while others such as “La La’s Full Court Life” fail to match in ratings regarding viewer support. Here are some stats for you to ponder over. According to a post by Elizabeth Black of VH1 Blog, VH1’s season opener of “Basketball Wives” tied as the highest rated episode yet of the “Basketball Wives” franchise. “Love & Hip Hop Atl” drove the network to its highest rated day since January 2012. It also dominated social media its premiering night as “the most social show among broadcast and cable offerings” according to the Futon Critic. VH1 ranks as the #1 cable network among women 18-49 in primetime Monday. Now, knowing that, let’s assume that networks know exactly what they’re doing in digging for successful programming, or should I state more?
After the conclusion of last season’s original “Love & Hip Hop” featuring rappers Jim Jones and Juelz Santana and their fellow cast mates including girlfriends, feisty associates, and other oftentimes outlandish companions ask yourself this; “Did I expect something different?” In a sense, we did get something different. While the first season focused more on wavering relationships between cast members, this season VH1 has provided us with a very different perspective on black “love,” in the industry and meticulously set the standard for young, urban, black livelihood in one of the nation’s top progressive cities for African Americans in the south to date.
Although only in its second airing episode, “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” has sparked so much media and public attention it seems that the reality show epidemic has taken on a new genre within itself; discreditable ethnics in the new media spotlight. Let’s do a rundown of the outstanding character list. We have a grandmother who boasts about her drug and sex trafficking days, a conniving, womanizer of a music producer, a “woman who felt the need to prove she is a woman by posting nude pictures of herself” as said by Jacque Reid, and an array of other women who, according to contributing editor of Essence Demetria L. Lucas, “need therapy — off camera — and just maybe medication… And prayer.”
Erin Harper, doctoral psychology student and blogger, began a petition on change.org to boycott the show. She says that she doesn’t “want to see the show taken off the air necessarily…” because the show offers a significant portion of the demographic that is now represented. She simply feels that the public and even Viacom share a “social responsibility” in raising awareness to the issues presented in these shows. In other words, this should go further than simply entertainment for us. So far, her support has only reached 2,000 signatures. As I sigh out loud I ask myself “I wonder why?”
The attention this show has sparked leaves me thinking why we are so caught up in the hype to begin with. What is it about the show that forces our eyes to remain focused and our ears to remain attentive while at the same time we make efforts to criticize not only the show’s characters but also the producer, network, and everyone involved in its production? There is an appeal present that has enticed us since the beginning and continues, episode after episode, to allure us to watch every week. Even during the show, there are floods of commendation being provided through social media as we just can’t wait to share those “Oh, no he didn’t!” moments. Statements shared on social media sites such as “Stevie J is straight pimping Boo!!!” and “Damn all I can say is that next week can’t come fast enough…” from authors I will keep anonymous flood our computer screens. Referring to Miss Reid’s statement at the beginning, I hope now you can see where my confusion comes from. What is it that we really want from the media? Do we want to be represented in a more respectful light, or simply the contentment in knowing we can get it if we ask for it? Either way, “You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation” as attributed by Billie Holiday.