I never thought I would see the day that I would actually not be annoyed by Tamar Braxton.
She is probably the only person on television, who I actually, as Jazmine Denise Rogers says, took personally. In fact, I used to have a visceral reaction to her big mouth and her even bigger ego. And both (the mouth and the ego) were major reasons why I got turned off to watching “Braxton Family Values.” That’s why I am so surprised by how much I actually enjoy her spin-off reality show, “Tamar & Vince,” which is currently about 2/3 into its first season. Unfortunately, judging by the chatter in my social networks, It looks like I’m probably the only one.
It’s a shame because the show really has potential. There is something so familiar, so classic television, about this couple. It’s like I’ve seen their image before on television. And somewhere around the sixth episode, it hit me: this show is like a modern day version of the “I Love Lucy” show.
I know that this seems like the most unlikeliest, and somewhat dated of comparisons to make, but just ride with me for a moment. For those not familiar with the show, “I Love Lucy” was a black and white sitcom from the ’50s, which starred Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo and her real life husband Desi Arnaz as her television husband, Ricky Ricardo. Basically, Lucy, a bored newlywed housewife with stars in her eyes, tries to become famous in Hollywood, mostly through the unauthorized connections of her husband Ricky, who is an up and coming Cuban-American singer and bandleader. Through her zeal for celebrity, Lucy often finds herself in precarious situations (i.e. trouble), which usually keeps her at odds with her husband, who doesn’t take too kindly to his wife’s childlike and sometimes cartoonish behavior. Each episode usually involved Ricky, at one point, storming after his wife, fist waging and screaming in his Cuban infused English accent, “Luuucy…”
Like Lucy, Tamar dreams of stardom. And also like Lucy, she has considerable flare for clowning and getting herself stuck in drama. Like Ricky, Vince is a successful man in music who has to somehow balance his other work with his wife’s constant clamoring for the spotlight. Both have equally funny and dysfunctional best friends by way of LaShawn and April Daniels, a married songwriter and designer who are confirmed by the WE tv website to be the “Tamar & Vince” version of Fred and Ethel Mertz. If you can learn to not take Tamar’s over-the-top personality so, well…personally, you might just find yourself literally laughing out loud at the constant stream of one-liners, which this show delivers.
But besides the comedy aspect, both shows also showed us the difficulty of navigating relationships, particularly marital life, in the face of individual goals and ambitions.
As noted by the book, Encyclopedia of Television by Horace Newcomb:
“In episode after episode Lucy rebels against the confinements of domestic life for women, the dull routines of cooking and housework, the petty humiliation of a wife’s financial dependence, the straightjacket of demure femininity. Yet her rebellion is forever thwarted. By entering the public sphere she inevitably makes a spectacular mess of things and is almost inevitably forced to retreat, to return to the status quo of domestic life that will begin the next episode.
Most time, Lucy would get caught up in her own undoing, but sometimes it would be Ricky’s dominating hand, which would spoil Lucy’s attempt for glory and freedom. In fact, in some episodes, we literately see Ricky physically spanking Lucy across his knee after committing some form of disobedience (be it whine, speaking back or pouting). Despite the threat of violence and ridicule from a disapproving Ricky, Lucy would continue on, persistent with her quest for personal validation. That was until the second and third seasons of the series, which brought about the birth of Little Ricky. Then, the show stopped focusing on Lucy and her dreams of stardom, and became mostly about Lucy, the mother of Little Ricky (who wound up getting more shine with Ricky Ricardo’s band as an up-and-coming drummer than Lucy coincidentally).
I see this same kind of fight for independence within Tamar. She wants to be famous. She wants to put out a number one album, tour the world and basically get her Beyoncé-super diva on. Nothing wrong with that as a life’s goal (especially when you have the talent to back it up as such is the case with Tamar), however, her husband, a popular manager and record company executive, is mostly thinking family. Unlike Ricky, Vince is very accommodating with his wife’s professional ambitions and at times can appear to be the balance to all of Tamar’s extraness. But clearly the topic of children appears to be a sore spot for Vince, which we learn during this season, was put on hold so that they could focus on Tamar’s career.
And because of this underlying tension, he is often snippy and short with Tamar. And while he hasn’t put her over his knee, he does tend to walk away physically and shut down emotionally, thus alienating and invalidating her points in the process. The two never listen to each other. Instead, they compete and stubbornly stand their ground, even if it means at the expense of their relationship.
Back in the days of “I Love Lucy,” we might have seen a more accommodating and compromising Tamar. One that would say, “Oh screw it, let’s just have a kid” out of love for her husband and at the expense of her own desires. But in today’s culture, one which puts a little more value on a woman’s choice, Tamar is free to pursue the baby of her dreams – her budding musical career. Some may just see her, and her self-interest, as the main reason why they argue, thus another reason to dislike Tamar, however there is nothing wrong with her declaring her individual interest in a relationship. The biggest problem with modern culture is figuring out whether or not we are all ready to honor an unabashed, determined woman. In episode eight, Michael Braxton, father to the entire Braxton clan, spoke on a visit with his daughter and son-in-law about the importance of “respect” to a man in a relationship. To which, Tamar replied, “That just sounds 1959. Like, he tried it! We all want respect.” Ain’t that the truth.