Due to their interesting choices in programming, VH1 might be better referred to as “The Evil Empire.” Their endless stream of reality TV shows tend to focus on taking otherwise irrelevant black people and making them as recognizable as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (I’m serious: There are black kids who could identify a Basketball Wife before they could identify Dr. King – don’t even try Malcolm X or Harriet Tubman). There is then this awkward rat race, where famous people with no talent end up doing outrageous and embarrassing things so they can remain in the public eye.
It’s sad. It’s annoying. It’s degrading. Sometimes, it’s just downright embarrassing. Not that we should spend all of our time being worried about what white people think about us, but our people are far more dignified and diverse than the coonery that reality TV executives love to market and elevate. Bill Cosby’s shows used to make black kids want to attend HBCUs, but VH1′s shows are putting our kids into rehab and STD clinics. This is not a good tradeoff for our people.
So, here are a few ways that VH1 just might a psychological version of the Tuskegee Experiment:
1) Promoting sloppy and tragic decision-making: A teacher recently told me about a little girl in her first grade class who was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She said, “I want to be a basketball wife” (as if this were a real profession). Stories like this remind us that our kids are always watching and that the entertainment they absorb is (as Dr. Christopher Emdin at Columbia University so eloquently explains) a form of education. Not only are they learning about possible career choices, they are also learning about life choices: Sleeping with the wrong person, having a baby at the wrong time, spending their money in the wrong way and valuing the wrong things. Then, when that little girl is 31 years old with no education and four baby’s daddies, and also can’t figure out why she’s so depressed that she’s unable to get out of bed in the morning, we wonder how she ended up in such a hopeless predicament.
2) You’re now helping people to sell sexx tapes? It’s one thing that the 44-year old single mother Mimi Faust is celebrating her inner freak by promoting a dirty tape, that’s her right. But it’s another thing that VH1 is helping to promote the tape in order to improve ratings for her show. Maybe this is where the FCC should step in and say, “Hmmm, maybe we shouldn’t have a show on the public airwaves that mass promotes the idea of making a dirty tape in order to pay the bills.” Maybe someone needs to stand in front of their building with picket signs. Maybe a group of psychologists should come forward and share the findings of research showing that marketing messages actually do impact the thinking of young children. Should we do something about this, or should we just act like none of this makes a difference in our society?
I won’t even talk about Mimi’s poor daughter, whose friends at school are going to be able to look her naked mother up on the Internet. I hope Mimi’s daughter knows how to defend herself from bullies, since the rumors in middle school are going to be so vicious that she’ll need both Dr. Phill AND Iyanla Vanzant to get over the trauma. I should probably call my mother up and thank her for not becoming a 44-year old pοrn star.
3) Making unhealthy, self-destructive people into role models in the African American community: Seriously, can you please explain what talent most of the members of Basketball Wives possess other than being able to get a rich athlete to sleep with them? Wait…maybe that is a special talent….the kind that men pay for on street corners late at night. From what I understand, most of the “Basketball Wives” were never wives at all. Shouldn’t they just be called “Basketball Baby’s mamas” instead? Most reality TV stars aren’t famous for having a talent…instead, they’re just famous for being famous.
Also, we can’t be upset with people who are simply responding to whatever mental illness they developed from the trauma they endured as children. Stevie J, the man who’s piled up so many baby’s mamas that he’s now a million dollars behind in child support (I’m not joking), says that he is a womanizer because his mother abandoned him. I feel bad for him, I really do. But when we celebrate the self-destructive manifestation of a person’s untreated mental illness, we turn it from something that must be confronted to a thing that is now being celebrated.
Source: Financial Juneteenth | Dr. Boyce Watkins