Monday, September 14, 2009

A Reality TV Junkie & Womanist Response to the Real Housewives of Atlanta...

(this has been brewing in my head for a week. it may not make sense. it may. it doesn't matter much to me. i just had to get it out of my head and onto the page...) (in fact, I wrote this weeks ago and never posted it, but here goes...)

I feel like I always start my blog with, "If you know me well, you'd know..." Well, today is no different. This time the blank to be filled in goes a little something like this "...that I am a reality TV junkie." From the New York City loft with Kevin Powell, Heather B, and Julie to Top Chef, I have seen (and probably love) it all. Ashamedly, I admit that I watched the Surreal Life and all of its spinoffs through the second season of Flavor of Love. (I got convicted when, at the end of one episode of Flavor of Love, I noticed that the company who produced the show was called mindless entertainment.) I drew the line at I Love New York and Rock of Love and Real Chance at Love, but somehow got sucked into Charm School. I don't know, there was something hopeful about watching ladies who embarrassed themselves (and kissed Flavor Flav) get a chance to transform their attitudes and behavior. (Though it took some time and some never got it, but with Mo'Nique as your coach, well...) Here lately, Bravo has had some of the best reality TV that television has to offer—Project Runway (before the move to Lifetime), Shear Genius, and Top Chef. I mean, how great is it when reality show "stars" need real talent to win. Despite my love for Bravo's reality line-up, prior to The Real Housewivs of Atlanta (RHOA), H/housewives never appealed to me. I've always had issues with privilege (my own included, but that is another blog for another day) so watching excessive materialism wasn't my thing. Plus, I don't get the whole socialite thing. But this time the housewives (at least most of them) were Black. So, I tuned in...

In order to justify watching RHOA I used the excuse that I was doing a cultural study. I wanted to...My cultural study quickly turned into an evening event complete with popcorn, girlfriends, and commentary. We laughed and scoffed and gawked and tuned in the following week for more. We (okay, I) were disappointed when the season came to an end. We (me, again) were not invested enough to watch the housewives from any other state. We (you guess it!) were thrilled when NeNe, Sheree, Lisa, Kim, and Candy (I admit DeShawn was boring, but I do miss her) were slated to be on again. But five weeks into the show, I have to turn in my RHOA card once and for all. After the third episode, I knew I didn't need to be watching anymore. So I (as I sometimes do) made a grand declaration that I would no longer be engaging in the foolishness. But two weeks later, as the keeper of the cable, I opened my home up to girlfriends, copped a squat, and took it all in again. I don't want to get all deep with it, but the truth is, my spirit was uneasy as I watched. One of my girlfriends will tell you, there were times on that Thursday night when it seemed like I was trying to do everything except watch the show. I cleaned the kitchen, rolled my hair and deep cleansed my face. I would have ironed my clothes, but I hadn't picked them out yet. Finally, I sat down in one place and as the time passed the show got worse and worse. It was like a train wreck. Not the kind where you are a bystander not able to turn away. It was the kind of train wreck where you are about to get hit but you are so paralyzed by shock you cannot move.

All of that to say, I can't do it anymore. I won't do it anymore. If I am who I say I am, then I cannot support RHOA.

I want to see a show with Black women loving themselves, loving each other, and loving the world. I want to see a show where Black women are content with what they have—where material things are not part of how they/we define ourselves. I want to see a show with Black women supporting one another—career moves, education opportunities, family transitions, etc. etc. I want to see a show where Black female bodies are not being exposed and exploited, by us or anyone else. I want to see a show where Black women speak kindly and compassionately and lovingly to one another. I want to see a show with whole and healed Black women. I want to see a show where Black women are successful because of who we be, what we know, and not because of who we are married to. This isn't to say that I support any foolishness that goes on with the housewives of Orange County, New Jersey, and New York, but as a Black women with a grandmother, mother, sister, a niece, cousins, friends and (prayerfully) daughters in the future, I care about the depiction of Black women in the media. Our lives—my life— are at stake here. Selah.

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