Thanks to the NAACP and everyone who petitioned, Oxygen recently cancelled that triflin show that made a mockery of Black households All My Babies’ Mamas.
Since the controversy around the show, many people have asked who is responsible for the negative portrayal of African Americans on reality TV. The victory over All My Babies’ Mamas is just the beginning. Shows like Basketball Wives and Real Housewives of Atlanta have similar degrading portrayal. When housewife Evelyn takes off her hearing and starts throwing wine bottles at another housewife, or when Nene Leakes interrupts a party to get in someone’s face and tell them off, it portrays Black women as savage, uneducated creatures who don’t know how to act, and reinforce the same stereotypes we’ve tried to get away from. Yet, there’s hardly any fuss over these shows.
So who’s to blame for the horrifying image of Black women on reality TV?
Many like to point fingers at the networks. That’s what we did with All My Babies’ Mamas.
According to an article in Essence, networks create drama on these shows. They cut and edit so that the focus is on fighting and hostility. The normal, everyday lives of the housewives (or wherever else) are often cut out. Degrading our image is encouraged in order to increase ratings.
In an interview Nene Leakes, from Real Housewives of Atlanta told Essence Magazine, “We work for a White man who wants blood out of you. He makes you say shit you don’t want to say and if you don’t, he screams and scratches.” Similarly, Shaunie O’Neal, producer of Basketball Wives said that she went to the network saying the show needed more positive aspects but “the problem is that at the end of the day, the network decides what it wants.”
No. I don’t buy it. I understand that networks sacrifice our dignity for ratings. So what then? Everyone’s off the hook? We just let the network abuse the image of Black women. We allow them to portray us as uncivilized and irrational creatures? When are we going to stop blaming the White man?
If these women cared so much about their image, if they really wanted change, why not walk away? Or is the fame worth selling out?
Sil Lai Abram, writer from The Grio suggests that the viewers are to blame. She says we must stop supporting shows that perpetuate horrifying stereotypes of us.
I agree. So I didn’t pick up a copy of Ebony when they put Nene Leakes on the cover in January. I don’t support products from the housewives (books, fragrances, clothing lines etc.). I don’t care if their products are “Black-owned” if they make their profit by acting like fools on television and displaying atrocious images of Black women.
Everyone who participates is to blame for perpetuating these stereotypes. The network, the TV stars, and the viewers/consumers all play a role. But change is not impossible. If we stop supporting these shows, support petitions similar to the one against All My Babies’ Mamas, and urge media that is supposed to support Black women, like Essence and Ebony, to also stop supporting these programs, we can see a change in the way Black people are portrayed on TV.
See Sil Lai Abram’s article