For a long time now, VH1, the adult contemporary music station turned obnoxious reality-show stream, has irritated — and sometimes entertained — many African-Americans. From Flavor of Love (starring the cartoonish and buffoonish Flavor Flav) to I Love New York to From Gs to Gents, the station seemed to make its business airing shows whose point was to trade in Black stereotypes. In a 2006 piece for the Washington Post, writer Teresa Wiltz asked if Flavor of Love was “demeaning minstrelsy”:
"On the surface, it's very easy to see this as the second coming of Sambo," says Mark Anthony Neal, associate professor of African-American studies at Duke University and author of "Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic."
"The problem isn't Flavor Flav," says Neal. "The problem is Flavor Flav becomes the stand-in for the one or two black people you see on TV. And a figure like Flavor Flav takes on more importance than he should."
In the years since, it seemed like VH1, which like BET is a division of Viacom, was building a monopoly on what some might call “neo-minstrelsy.” Other shows have since come along to offer their own versions of Blacks behaving badly/cattily, most notably, perhaps, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Now there’s a new contender for the throne: All My Babies’ Mamas. If that name alone doesn’t already have you groaning, check out its description, from Tambay Obenson at Indiewire:
Oxygen Media has ordered what they're describing as a "daring" (according to their press release) new 1-Hour special titled All My Babies' Mamas, which will premiere next spring.
The project will center on the complicated lives of one man, his many women, and their many children.
In short, ATL-based rapper Carlos "Shawty Lo" Walker is our "man," with 10 "baby mamas," and 11 kids... and, oh, by the way, a new girlfriend who is the same age as his oldest children.
In other words, be prepared to have one of the worst stereotypes about the Black community — men having children with women all over the place — to be broadcast weekly on Oxygen.
To be fair, it isn’t Oxygen’s — or anyone’s — responsibility to show the more virtuous sides of the Black community. Heaven knows that drama has always been more of an audience draw than calm happiness. But one wishes that more stations would try and focus on showing all sides of the Black community, not just the ones pertaining to combative dating shows and the topsy turvy lives of wealthy musicians and athletes. It's a shame that, after all these years, we have to keep turning to the fictional Cosby Show to see a happy, healthy, secure Black family.
These views do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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