Black Reality Shows: When Did Selling Our Pain Become A Hot Commodity?

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It’s usually hard to find time to just shut down and do nothing.  As someone who is generally on the road at speaking engagements, organizing rallies, or managing my family, I don’t sit back and watch non-news-related TV that much.  But every now and then, I will tune in and catch some of these “reality shows.” Looking at many of the programs, I noticed a common thread: violent and duplicitous behavior.

Whether it’s “Love & Hip-Hop,” “Bad Girls Club,” “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Gossip Game,” “Married to Medicine” or any other show, all I see is a bunch of mostly Black females fighting, cursing each other out, talking about one another behind their back, and just acting plain old crazy.

Did I miss a memo or something?

When did that become the norm?

And the big question is, at what point did we decide that selling our pain was a hot commodity?  It’s called “pain for profit.”  And I would ask, who’s making the real money, but I won’t go there today. Just know that the $5,000 to $10,000 check per episode is nothing compared to the millions being made by corporations broadcasting such foolishness.

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There’s a disturbing epidemic of young girls from elementary school on through high school increasingly fighting, viciously attacking each other, and resorting to violence to solve their conflicts.

Sound familiar?

If you think the images in pop culture don’t have an impact, why don’t you go to Youtube and look up girl fights. Warning:  it’s not pretty.  OK, so reality TV isn’t the only problem, but it is definitely contributing negatively to perceptions of minorities and to the way in which we view ourselves.

When I turn on the TV and see bottles being thrown, women pulling each other’s hair out, punching each other, fighting over men, and cursing everyone out, I can’t just shake my head and ignore it. I can’t get over the fact that I see kids acting out in the same way that I see these grown women behaving.

There will be some that read this piece and say that reality TV doesn’t cause violence.

It’s either the kids are acting like the adults or the adults are acting like the kids. Pick your poison. Either way, the vicious cycle must be broken, and it’s expected that adults should lead the way.

The other argument I hear all the time is that White women do the same thing on reality shows.  Even though they also fight and act crazy on programs like “Mob Wives,” the difference is that White women have plenty of other representation in the mainstream. There are tons of White female actors both on the big screen and on TV.  There are plenty of White female anchors, journalists, TV hosts, etc., everywhere you look.

When there are so few of us behind the scenes and in front of the camera to begin with, we need to be really careful about what we’re projecting. It may be hard to believe, but there are actually some people who never interact with Black folks on a regular basis and shape their opinions of us based off of these negative images.

And it’s also the only image many young kids of color have of themselves in the mainstream. These Black and Brown girls are impressionable and think their lives amount to what’s being depicted, and that is beyond depressing.  There’s just no balance.

In ACTUAL REALITY, women of color are caretakers, the breadwinners, the educators, the working professionals, and every other thing you can think of.

But just from watching reality TV, you would never know this. All we are force fed is the same old nonsense.

Because Black women have such little representation in pop culture, we have to make sure that we’re not acting crazy when we’re on the latest TV sensation. Until Hollywood and TV execs start diversifying their programming and until there’s more of us behind-the-scenes to make some changes, we need to make sure that we check ourselves.

If you have children, make sure they watch something other than a reality show. And if you’re on one of these shows or are an artist or in the limelight in some way, think about what you’re doing and how it impacts our community, because at the end of the day, somebody’s always watching.  And what will the history books say about your contribution to the empowerment of our people?

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