I hate Love & Hip Hop and Basketball Wives. Really, I hate all the VH1 and Bravo-sanctioned reality series' showing neck-rolling, sucker-punch-throwing, rapper/athlete-loving black and brown woman at their very worst. Forgive me for not considering their beefs, brawls and baby daddy drama to be entertaining -- really, it just makes women of color look like buffoons.
Following the embarrassing precedent set by shows like For The Love Of Ray J and Flava of Love, the stars of these series' are masterful at the art of blaxploitation. It's almost as if they're trying to reinforce every negative stereotype about black women -- scary, since there are so few black female characters on television to balance things out. And yes, white women have their share of tacky reality show characters -- but for every "Mob Wife" there are a slew of positive white female characters to watch on TV. Not so for our black and brown women. Gone are the days of Good Times, The Cosby Show, A Different World, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Girlfriends -- all shows with multi-layered black female casts we could be proud of. Now, it's all coonery, all the time.
While rap has always been associated with violence and aggression, Love & Hip Hop's professional girlfriends and wanna-be stars make cast member Olivia's old G-Unit crew look like the Jonas Brothers. The entire series revolves around catfights between friends, fist fights between acquaintances, and "diss records" directed from mother to daughter-in-law (the worst offense). The stars' antics are so thuggy that, to ensure the safety of all cast members, a clause was added to their contracts stating that only plastic eating utensils can be used during filming (lest someone decide to fork-stab her co-star over a rapper boyfriend). Seriously? The plastic utensils rule is usually reserved for the penitentiary or pre-school.
But these are the women we're dealing with.
Exhibit B: Basketball Wives: New York. First of all the name of the show is a direct contradiction to the premise. None of the women featured are currently married to NBA players. The show is riddled with mistresses, "ex-fiancees" (an abstract title at best), and baby mamas. The show's creator, Shaunie O'Neal, is the only one who's ever been married to an NBA baller. And aside from Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Anderson -- both of whom were relevant five and 15 years ago, respectively -- none of the male counterparts were anything more than NBA Journeyman. Michael Olowokandi and Eric Williams are two of the most unappealing, untalented players in the history of the game! I wouldn't want to watch a show about them -- so how could the adventures of their bimbos generate so much interest?
The Kim Kardashian/Paris Hilton "sex tape to super-stardom" blueprint has skewed our perception of what celebrity is. With these women rising examples being force-fed to the population, can we blame our daughters, nieces, and little sisters when they want to be just like them? The stardom of the cast of Basketball Wives, Love & Hip Hop and plus-ones like Amber Rose and Cat Stacks make being a groupie, jump-off, or an athlete/rapper's girlfriend seem like a lucrative career choice. These women have publicists, clothing lines, and charge thousands for club appearances - fame that can be attributed entirely to the men they've been with romantically. What incentive is there for our little girls to aspire for more?
In an age where "Snooki" is paid more handsomely than Toni Morrison to give a speech at the same graduation (Rutgers University, class of '11), it's not surprising that this reality smut dominates our airwaves. It's okay to be entertained by these women, just know the consequences of your glorification. It's human nature to want to imitate praised behavior. Don't be appalled when Kimbella or Evelyn becomes your teenage daughter's role model. As we continue to support these shows, we're also perpetuating the vicious cycle that creates them. The little girls watching their weave-pullin,' drink-throwin' lifestyle today will be living it tomorrow.
Follow Sharief Easterling on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Carnegie_Kid