Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Should VH1 Be Boycotted?

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A few weeks ago media watchblog “What About Our Daughters?” went after cable station BET because of their new show “We Can Do Better” (previously named Hot Ghetto Mess).  Activists felt that the show was an affront to African Americans by showcasing the worst of our behavior. 

It’s apparent that someone has been clicking around the channels because finally someone caught a clue that for the past few years VH1’s programming has spiraled down into ghettofab territory.  Flavor of Love (FOL), I Love New York and Charm School, three of their most popular shows, are known for depicting women (mostly black women) in a bad light.  The racy women were often physically confrontational, argumentative, and barely dressed.   Flavor of Love has been compared to a modern day minstrel show with the same uncultivated women back to misbehave on Charm School.  There have been grumblings but groups haven’t been putting the pressure on the network to change their format or take them to task about the images until now.

It all started a month ago when it was leaked that VH1 passed on a show called Interracial Love.  The show would be more in line with ABC’s The Bachelorette show and have professional black women looking beyond race to find true love.  The network felt the show wasn’t a good fit with its current programming.  An employee with VH1 leaked to the shows creator that the main reason they decided not to go with the show was because the station likes to show black women as being ghetto.  Now a boycott has been called (I’m unsure by whom; looks like Black Press Radio is helping to promote it) and they want viewers to refrain from watching the station.

I’ve only seen a few episodes of all three shows and was literally disgusted by the behavior of the women and the men each time I tuned in (and then quickly tuned out).  I am saddened by the decision that VH1 had decided to pander to low brow television.  But then, we have to admit that it sells.  We might not like it, but this is what America wants to see and there is an abundance of black people waiting to give it to them.  From our position here in the 21st century we look back in time and feel ashamed of the black performers in yesteryear.  We look at Step’n Fetchit, Hattie McDaniel, and Bojangles Robinson and wonder how they could take parts as servants, sometimes slack jawed, unintelligent and embarrassing to us now.  We don’t see the irony of it now, how what we deemed as acceptable entertainment for black performers might make our elders cringe.

My daughter is one of the ones who don’t get it.  She likes to watch those three shows when she finds the time.  At first I chastised her for watching it but then decided to take a different approach by using the show to point out aberrant behavior and the correct way for a young black woman to act.  Then one night we happened upon the Marx Brothers “A Day at the Races”.  She’s a big Marx brother fan and we watched it together peacefully until it got to the Lindy Hop dance routine.

The rolling eyes and large grins offended her. “I don’t like this,” she said.  “This is an embarrassment to black people; it’s racist!  How can they show this on television now?”

“How can they show I Love New York?” I asked her.  “It’s just as embarrassing if not as racist.”

She mumbled at me, saying it wasn’t the same thing but now has stopped watching those shows with as much regularity as she once had.

I wonder what African Americans would watch if we didn’t worry what the majority at large would would think of us.  Do we really prefer low brow comedies over something more substantial?  Would the majority of us rather watch movies like Soul Plane and How High as opposed to Eve’s Bayou or To Sleep with Anger?  One young woman from FOL had been going to schools to talk about her time on the television show.  Once upon a time we took networks to task because they showed us as nothing more than prostitutes, pimps and thugs but as soon as we could get a bit of control and tell our own stories through music and videos we cast ourselves as prostitutes, pimps and thugs.  Is this truly how we see ourselves?

And is this the only way that white America wants to see us?  Will they only throw dollars or give air time or view television shows that only show black people as poor or debase or criminal?  Back in the 70s white critics found the Evans family as credible but 10 years later in the 80s thought that the Huxtables were farfetched.  A black upper middleclass family where the father is a doctor and the mother is a lawyer, married with five well behaved children?  This was not reality they said, forgetting that their most popular program was about a war that lasted three years but the show was on for 10 years. 

Boycotting VH1 is a good idea, even if nothing should come of it and they go ahead and create more editions of each show.  We have to let the powers that be know that we don’t enjoy watching black folk coon for the almighty dollar and it would be better to see them bag groceries than debase themselves in front of millions of people.  African Americans are multifaceted and we can do more in front of the camera than run for the cops or run for a ball.  We have stories that stretch outside the hood and even inside the hood there are more of us scrapping and striving than shucking and jiving. 

But you ain’t never gonna see that on VH1.


Written by rentec

7 September, 2007 at 2:10 am

One Response

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  1. maybe because many African American mothers feel that it is a harsh, unforgiving world they should be harsh and unforgiving? It can be hard for any mother, really, to relax and maybe harder if you feel like you are being more harshly judged.

    Limewire is cool. Hope it doesn’t crash on you.


    28 October, 2007 at 11:11 am

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