Should Ratchet Shows Exist Alongside Respectable Black Programming?

December 31, 2012  |  

This year was not a good one in black reality television for anyone looking for edifying or empowering depictions of African Americans on the small screen. Though there were some uplifting shows like OWN’s 6 Little McGhees, the most popular of the genre depicted flagrant infidelity and/or petty squabbles that usually escalated into elbow- and even bottle-throwing.

The thing is, most fans of the reality television genre (like me) aren’t necessarily looking for inspirational content when setting the DVR to record Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta, Dirty Little Secrets, or Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo for that matter. It’s junk food/guilty pleasure/ratchet entertainment that guarantees a mindless laugh after a long stressful day trying to make the donuts.

But with a limited landscape of small screen programming that portrays layered black characters or authentic African-American life, can we afford ratchet entertainment? The answer was a resounding “no,” at least among my Facebook friends, when Oxygen released news that rapper Carlos “Shawty Lo” Walker is set to star in upcoming reality series All My Babies Mamas.

According to blogged reports, and the video that surfaced online, the show will document the rapper and his relationship with the 10 women he fathered 11 children with. In a press release, Oxygen’s SVP of development, Cori Abraham, said of the show, “All My Babies’ Mamas will be filled with outrageous and authentic over-the-top moments that our young, diverse female audience can tweet and gossip about.”

“It’s our fault for watching these shows,” was pretty much the consensus of a few FB friends — “our” being the legions that made the controversial Basketball Wives and Love & Hip-Hop franchises runaway successes.

But is it our fault?

African-American households represent five to 15 percent of the viewing audience of the top-rated reality shows. Clearly, we are not the only ones watching.

Additionally, according to Target Market News, Scandal, 60 Minutes, and Person of Interest were among the top-watched network shows in black households during the week of November 27th — along with cable hits T.I. & Tiny the Family HustleBasketball Wives LA, and Chrissy & Mr. Jones. Yes, reality shows are cheaper to produce, but why aren’t television production companies also racing to create more shows with black female lead characters a la Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope on Scandal or Taraji P. Henson’s Detective Joss Carter on Person of Interest?

As long as African Americans remain underrepresented in the positions that greenlight shows, we will continue to be at the mercy of what the networks and cable channels decide to put out. It is perhaps no accident that Oprah’s OWN released wholesome family reality show 6 Little McGhees.

But the fact remains, if there were more of us helming studios and production companies, we still wouldn’t agree on what the right representation of blackness is. (See critiques on Tyler Perry, Lee Daniels, The Cosby Show.)

After centuries of being stereotyped, misunderstood, and maligned in American culture, we are rightly vigilant about how we are depicted and how others see us. But will there ever be a time when we can enjoy ratchet alongside wholesome black entertainment? Should there be such a time?

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  • shame on you

    ”THEY ALL HAVE SOME FROM OF ”RATCHETENSS” there is only one that ”REAL T.I, AND THEFAMLily HUSLE…love that show its so good to know there are some real men that are loving father hood & family…the dumest and most ratchet is…”BASKETBALL WIVES” all of them and black women are wondring why ”THE TODAY BLACK MEN MARRY WHITE”hahahahahaha
    your killing your self ”RESPCT

  • IllyPhilly

    So does this means they’re never bringing back Girlfriends?

  • We’re responsible. You just can’t give them any power. We are already grouped as a people which is not good. Some black folk act like fools and then we all have to pay the price. So, whether we watch or not, people at large are going to think that we are all like that. It’s mindless TV.

  • The Dyv

    You are absolutely right.

  • Chassie

    no they should not

  • Irene Benjamin

    Amen to that! I agree that shows like this does nothing but a negative effect on the black community. It also allows white people to sit back and laugh at us and continue to have that negative mindset that this is how ALL black people are.

  • Sagittarius81

    I admit I watch some ratchet shows, only for entertainment purposes, but will I watch a reality some irrelevant rapper with 10 baby mamas, hecky no! Yes we need more of the Tia and Tameras, the Sweetie Pies, the Mary Marys, and more positive reality shows than BBWs, Honey Boo Boos and The Bad Girls Clubs on TV.

  • Miss_Understood

    Okay this is a long article but I think I get the jist of it…I DO think that we can afford to have ratchet shows alongside positive portrayals, simply because a large percentage of Americans ARE ratchet…I mean these baby mamas, trifiling baby daddies, get em girls, and all ig’nant folk alike were not just made up, they do exist!

    It may be embarrassing but each of us knows at least 2 ratchet people, some are in our own families, hell some are us…

  • AJ389

    Ratchet tv shows shouldn’t exist at all, period. But that would be in a perfect world, a world that unfortunately, we do not live in. Oh well….

  • Now, I’ll admit, I do have a guilty pleasure for off the hook reality shows, but this show right here (All My Babies Mamas) took the cake with the concept and title all day! I WILL NOT contribute to it’s ratings (if it sees the light of day with all the boycotts and controversies surrounding it now). Who pitched this idea? Who made this up? I swear, it seems like whoever did pulled a Pierre Delacroix (go watch Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled”) and pitched a show idea, hoping to get fired because they were tired of their job, and the execs surprisingly went for it! 2012’s most overused word “Ratchet” doesn’t even describe this minstrelsy!