Reality TV Isn’t the Problem, You Are!

While on Twitter a few nights ago, I couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming number of hashtags followed by “Love and Hip Hop:Atlanta.” I saw everything from disappointment and mockery to laughter and word for word quotations. I was tempted to get up and watch the show myself, but then it hit me. Why provide viewer support, even if only watching to criticize, to a show that is exploiting my people: African American women?

Through the growing popularity of “reality” television, and more importantly, Black reality shows, I have noticed a troubling trend. While many of my fellow critical thinking college peers have identified everything wrong with shows like Basketball Wives, Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Love and Hip Hop, they still watch them faithfully and deem them as entertaining.

I have unsuccessfully tried to wrap my head around the notion of guilty pleasure since the reality TV phenomenon began. I just don’t understand it.  As a Christian African American female college student, I believe that if you don’t agree with something, especially something that is negatively affecting the lives of others, it is your duty to do everything in your power to change it.

Can someone please explain to me the logic behind chronically watching shows that degrade, humiliate, and distort the images of the women who have done more to build this country than any other demographic in America?

African American women have raised our children (everyone’s children), fought tirelessly for equality after cooking soulful dinners, and have endured the unimaginable. And the list goes on. How is it, then, entertaining to watch descendants of such courage and strength parade skimpily clothed on national television cursing, fighting, and bickering with each other?

If you are a socially conscious Black woman or a barely aware Caucasian man, I have words for you. If you do not agree with the portrayals of any given demographic on any given show, STOP WATCHING IT! Stop listening to songs that reduce women to “ass and titties.” Stop attending events that use pornographic images as advertisement. And stop condemning the negative portrayals of Black women if you have no intentions of changing them!

We cannot afford to keep watching trashy television and allowing executive producers to think that what they’re doing works. Because it doesn’t.

Unfortunately, boycotting stereotypical television is not enough. We must communicate WHY we are no longer watching these shows and propose feasible changes to such programming. Producers and filmmakers think and speak in currency. We must articulate our concerns in a language that they can understand.

We must show them that there is a market for quality Black television. That there are millions of potential viewers who feel disrespected and misrepresented. And that there are people who would support progressive programming. If we do not make them aware of these facts, they have every right to keep producing the same coonery that has earned them billions of dollars and sustained a growing “industry.”

The journey to a world where Black women are stereotyped as the respectable, God-fearing, and diligent individuals that we are begins with YOU. I dare you to hide your remote control the next time “Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta” airs. With your free hour, open a new Word document and start a letter to VH1 demanding the accurate and diverse representation that we deserve.

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