When news began circulating about the newest incarnation of debauchery called reality television, courtesy of Shawty Lo and all of his baby mamas, a good friend of mine responded with time honored observation, “Negroes stay losing.”
To which I replied that “Negroes stay losing” was actually the original name of the reality series but Oxygen decided to pass for something more politically correct. Somewhere Spike is posted up in a crooked Knicks fitted cap and an oversized matching Knicks bubble jacket saying, well I tried to warn you all in Bamboozled…
Of course, I kid Oxygen Network; but in an era of heighten awareness to cultural insensitivity you have to wonder what effect a program, which caters to the lowest common denominator has on a brand, founded on the guise of providing quality programming for women. And then I remembered “The Bad Girls Club.”
More specifically, Cori Abraham, Senior Vice President of Development of Oxygen Media, said of the upcoming reality television 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.” Yeah that sounds about right. You can knock Abraham for his honesty. Controversy, particularly if it manages to feed off of taboo topics such as culturally insensitivities and stereotypes, always seems to perk interest and curiosity. I’m willing to bet that many of those who most disapprove will probably tune in for at least the first episode - you know, just to confirm their suspicions. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the first few episodes not only trends throughout social networking sites but breaks some rating records for the station. Not bad for a network founded on old reruns of “Kate and Allie.”
However, before we all go rushing to sign that Change.org petition to boycott the show just yet. If you can get past the name of the show, as well as the church fan waving at the fact this is indeed a nationally broadcast show about a black man with multiple black children with multiple black women (and trust me, I understand that is a lot to maneuver around), it is not as frightening as image as it sounds. About five minutes into the 13-minute trailer, I thought about how I know people like this. And if I am being honest, my brother, being one of almost a dozen children by one man with multiple women, is people like this. And his situation is not unique. When you stop to really think about it, there is lots more offensive behavior on television than a show about a different type of family structure.
And let’s be honest, 72 percent of black children being raised in single parent households means that there is some kernel of truth to the whole baby mama/baby daddy meme. And so what? Generally speaking, marriage, in its most tradition sense, is drastically falling across all racial lines, declining by 20 percentage points since 1960. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of people surveyed said they believe marriage is obsolete, including 31 percent of married people. Moreover, the younger generation, which is delaying marriage until later in life – if not indefinitely – are much more inclined than their elders to view cohabitation without marriage and other new family forms — such as same sex marriage and interracial marriage — in a positive light.
And as of late, Hollywood has been all about the out-of-the-box family structure. Shows like HBO’s “Big Love” and TLC’s reality series “The Sister Wives,” helped to mainstream the idea of white polygyny. “Jon & Kate Plus 8″ (and eventually Kate and only her eight), normalized big, white families and white, single motherhood. So how different really is a show about a man, albeit black, with multiple children by multiple women?
And in no way am I trying to revolutionize the guy that gave us the great African American musical classic, “Laffy Taffy”. As noted in the post Unclutching my Mother’s Pearls, or Ratchetness and the Residue of Respectability, by the Crunk Feminist Collective:
“When there’s a show about a woman and her ten baby daddies then we can have a discussion about alternate families. Until then, this just sounds like women with few options capitulating to Black male patriarchy.
By-and-large, I believe this is true. But it is also true that I find something fundamentally off-putting about a brother with 11 kids by 10 different women, even though it appears that he supports them all, claims them all, and works to have some level of relationship with their moms. I’m tired of brothers not having to be emotionally accountable for their relational choices. I’m tired of the way patriarchy’s love affair with capitalism sets men up to think that manhood and fatherhood are tied to one’s bank account.
Patriarchy exempts men from having to emotionally grow the Fawk up.”
In the 13-minute preview clip, which has been making its way around the internet, the co-parents in the rapper’s life are briefly introduced by name before being reduced down to labels (i.e. jealous baby mom; shady baby mom; no drama baby mom, etc…). There also appears to be a hierarchy, which offers more comfort to certain children of certain ”baby mamas” than others. However, Shawty Lo doesn’t seem to fair any better under the rigid, constraints of this male-dictated system. In no regards does it seem like fun to be liable – financial or otherwise – to that many people.