Reality TV-Please let us get our house in order
By Rachel Miller-Bradshaw
Watching the new season of +VH1's +Love & Hip Hop made me realize one of two things-that there is either a concerted effort to depict the Black Family as nothing more than baby mamas, rolling stones, and Mandingos or the psychosis of our community is so entrenched in our thinking about it’s structure that we relate to and frankly are more entertained by negative representations of the Black Family. There is a movement to repair the matriarchal structure of the Black Family reverting it back to a two-parent household where both a mother and father live together functionally to raise productive and morally upstanding children.
Networks are driven by ratings-which in turn brings in the advertising dollars. The business of television is understood, but ratings cannot be the sole determining factor when representing the African-American community-a community by the way, that has endured denigrating images through film and later television. Some will argue that African Americans should stop supporting these shows if we are so disgusted by how families are represented.
Watching both Peter Gunz and Stevie J impregnate various women with no marital commitment perpetuates the “rolling stone” or “buck” image that has followed black males post-slavery. Filming these men’s antics and promiscuity, probably amplified for the cameras, is successful at proving one thing; this is empirical evidence that a percentage of black males have inherited generational behaviours of mating with women, creating families, and then removing themselves from the unit afterwards. Another show airing on the same network “Black Ink” is filled with storylines of each of the tattoo artists having children with various women, child support issues, and volatile relationships with the mothers of their children.
Network executives can continue to do better by highlighting more shows like TI & Tiny: A Family Hustle that displays the lives of a hip hop Brady Bunch. The show is positive displaying a couple’s love for each other while successfully raising children, some from previous relationships.
Couple Chrissy Lampkin and rapper Jim Jones, original cast members of Love & Hip Hop- dissipated from the entertainment brand and now present a better familial storyline including Ms. Lampkin taking on the mother role of Jones’s son who stays with them for the summer.
Based on interactions with fathers participating in my feature documentary ON MY OWN, and also during my frequent visits to fatherhood organizations I truly believe that Peter Gunz, Stevie J, and the Black Ink cast represent a percentage, but not the majority of black fathers in our community. They are not the norm. Images are powerful, and reality TV executives should keep that in mind when looking for juicy television. When you see better, you do better.