Black Women In Media: Reality Television Edition
These days there are more and more television channels who capitalize on reality television shows. From Big Brother to Real world, the shows are constantly growing in popularity.When we watch these television shows we, as an audience, are often too consumed in the entertainment, fights, love, and drama. Its hard to see the bigger picture of how reality television can negatively affect the image of a gender, race, or religion. For my project I want to focus on reality shows like Love and Hip Hop, Basketball Wives, and Maury that portray African American women in a negative way. The shows help classify us as seductive, angry, manipulative and materialistic. They constantly expose the drama in the lives of the characters and rarely expose something positive. I believe shows similar to these are reassuring the stereotypes of Black women by dictating what is shown and the context in which it is shown.
Love and Hip Hop is a series on VH1 which follows a group of mainly African American and Latino women who are, in someway have connections in the music business. The show captures the drama and fights between lovers, friends, and enemies increasing the overall appeal. The show chronicles the ladies in their ups and downs with their cheating boyfriends, backstabbing friends, and trying to break into the music industry. To the audience the women come off as unintelligent, dishonest, and violent. One of the shows creators and executive producers, Mona Scott Young is widely famed for being the genius behind the show. However, what most people fail to realize is that Scott-Young is joined by 4 other executive producers who are white males. There are even unconfirmed wide spread rumors that the show is scripted and the women are portrayed this way on purpose.The show is mostly watched by women ages 18-49 and have an average of 3.6 million viewers weekly according to the Nielson ratings.
Similarly, the Maury show also illustrates African American women badly in media. The show focuses on a range of issues like shocking sex secrets, polygraph tests, out of control teens, and its main subject paternity tests. The Maury show takes advantage of the problems that his guests face and uses it for the audiences entertainment. He recruits largely minority women to come onto his show to find the father of their children or to expose a sex secret to their spouses. The show is widely seen as entertaining but in the bigger picture, Maury purposely casts African Americans because he knows that people love to watch them and it will keep his ratings high. Maury's show classifies Black women as sexual and promiscuous further adding to the harsh stereotypes being reinforced.
For this project I will write an article exposing these reality shows for enforcing stereotypes of black women and portraying them negatively to a large audience. Through my research I have read articles, by Bell Hooks who is a professor and writer who focuses on race, culture, and gender. She claim that many media sources purposely in certain roles to make it believable and in some instances compelling. When she interviewed the director of "Smoke," Wayne Wang, she asked him why he used a black boy to play the role of the theif. Wangs response was "This will give this movie more zip to make the thief black, it will make it more compelling to people. It will give a kind of good guy, bad guy quality to it and it will just make it all the more stimulating, because he would have to admit that the fact that he simultaneously in making that choice is also reproducing certain kinds of racial stereotypes." This is an instance that reaffirms the fact that certain shows and films purposely represent African American women in a negative way. Most of the time they do it for ratings or an increase of popularity. My article will set out to expose the television industry for enforcing stereotypes of black women which are unjust. I will try to get the article published in a local magazine or newspaper because my audience will primarily be Media students who have a hand in changing the way people are represented on television in the future.
Resources.Youtube video on Bell Hooks
Love and Hip Hop Episode Recap
Bell Hook on Cultural Criticism
Bell Hooks Video on Popular Culture