The “Auf Wiedersehen, Mitches” episode of Real Husbands of Hollywood aired on BET a few weeks ago. The Black Entertainment Television network is one of its kind as one of the few channels that specifically caters to Black audiences. The show exists as an episodic parody of the conflict-driven reality shows that have surged in recent years, such as Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, and The Sisterhood.
Every actor plays himself on the show and the bulk of the comedy stems from real life experiences. When Kevin Hart and Robin Thicke get into an argument, Kevin jokes, “return your style and Paula back to Black people. We had it first.” He was referring to Robin’s wife, Paula Patton, a mainstream African American actress and Robin’s soulful sound. Kevin went on to announce his new R&B album, Hartfelt, for which Robin offers his vocal assistance. Soon after, he steals the melody to Robin’s hit song, “Lost Without You,” and debuts his remix on the Jay Leno show. At Kevin’s video release party, Robin finally confronts him and blasts him for taking credit for his work. While on stage, Robin’s eyes start glowing dinosaur green and he morphs into Terry Crews, an African American actor known for his hyper-masculinity. Terry then proceeds to chase Kevin through the house as the crowd screams in horror. The scene was hilarious, but I couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming perpetuation of one of the most detrimental Black male stereotypes: the animalistic athlete.
As a parody, Real Husbands of Hollywood exists to mock and criticize the often absurd nature of reality television. By promoting the same stereotypes of angry African Americans in the name of comedy, however, the show isn’t doing much to counter these negative images. While the show makes an effort to denounce the pathetic behavior of reality show personalities, it intentionally enacts the same behavior. Kevin even references the show’s hypocrisy in asking Robin, “how long you gon’ stay mad? This is want they want. They wanna see brothas fightin’ like this.” In this scene, Terry Crews visits Kevin’s house (still acting as Robin) after he invites him over to apologize.
Though the self-consciousness contributed to the cleverness of this scene and overall episode, does it excuse the show’s exploitation of stereotypical archetypes? Difficult questions like these are already fueling the never-ending debate on racial representation, comedy, and entitlement. In the episode, Robin Thicke states that, “creation is colorless.” Is it really? There is more content available now than there has ever been. Instead of waiting for networks and studios to green light scripts, artists are able to fully produce their own work and distribute it through the Internet. But due to the lack of such diversity in mainstream media, an overwhelming amount of pressure is still placed on Black filmmakers and show-runners to promote positive images of Black people, even if such traits aren’t true to the story. I am looking forward to the day when brilliant shows like Real Husbands of Hollywood can afford to air in peace.