Race and Reality: Why Isn’t Black Reality TV Getting The Credit It Deserves?

April 5, 2014  |  

An article featured on The Hollywood Reporter questions why the success of rating kings like “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Love And Hip Hop” isn’t getting the credit that its counterparts may.

Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta” swelled to a network best of 4.6 million viewers in February. VH1 has shared similar ratings success with shows like “Basketball Wives” and “Love and Hip-Hop”.

“Race and Reality” sheds light on the fact although reality shows with predominantly black casts are now among the biggest hits on television, their audiences still remain predominantly black. In a trend labeled “The Tyler Perry Effect”, Starcom MediaVest Group executive vp Esther Franklin, who researches media and consumer habits of African-Americans and other minority groups says that although she doesn’t see this trend extending on broadcast, she expects it will continue to play out on cable:

“I think you’re seeing the viewership increase because of more opportunities for African-Americans to see themselves and their experiences reflected back to them.”

The “Tyler Perry Effect” refers to producer/writer/actor/director’s successful move into TV, first at TBS and now OWN, which reinforces the fact that there is a hungry African-American audience to be tapped outside of traditional black-targeted networks.

Although The National Association of Broadcasters projects African-American buying power rising 25 percent to $1.2 trillion between 2010 and 2015, there is still a disparity between advertising revenue for white viewers — black audiences still command smaller rates for networks. This may explain why networks remain careful not to outwardly own the trend, even if their slates speak for themselves.

CEO Mona Scott Young, who segued into TV with her hit, “Love and Hip Hop” notes how positive reality TV has been for the black community:

“It’s opened the doors, and people want to hear what I have on the slate.”

“I think there’s a real interest in African-American culture overall. It’s an underserved audience.”

But who exactly are these shows opening doors for? Although these shows are ratings kings, it’s mostly because the black community supports them, and their audiences still struggle to find diversity. Franklin cautions the success of these shows send a message that doesn’t represent the black community in it’s entirety with the fighting and sensationalism these shows are often know for:

“I think it’s a double-edged sword.  While the community is excited to have these series, I think it’s going to be a challenge to make sure they stay in touch with the needs of the community so that this generation of programming doesn’t become the new generalization.”

“For us, by us,” could have negative impacts if the images we feel reflect our community are only seen by us.  And even if those images do spark the interests of other audiences, are they what we want representing us?

Do you think networks aren’t outwardly owning the success of black reality TV because of its sensationalized content or is the success once again limited to our own community?

Read “Race and Reality” in its entirety at The Hollywood Reporter.


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  • Kiki

    I can watch these shows and laugh at them like everyone else does. Why? It’s entertaining. Not every black woman is belligerent and not every black man is a liar/cheater/woman-beater. The people that paint us all with the same brush haven’t travelled enough.

    • Rose

      And just plain retarded.

  • KeepingItReal

    That’s like a black child asking why white people don’t love them as much as their own black parents. Duh?????

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  • provokethought

    …..and what credit do these shows deserve??????

  • blogdiz

    I do not watch reality shows I only know who some of these people are because they are in such heavy rotation on sites like these and seeing them fleetingly when channel surfing

    What a lot of people fail to realize is that how BW act in these shows is no worse than the behavior of WW women in MOB WIVES, Jersey Shore , Real wives of Miami etc. the DIFFERENCE is there is a balance when it comes to how White women are portrayed in media so there is also the positives such as GOOD WIFE , HOW I met your mother, Rules of Engagement etc. .

    Hollywood however is too lazy/ indifferent to invest in balanced /positive images of BW so they just keep out churning out Reality Shows as its cheaper and easier and we keep lapping it up because we are so desperate to see ourselves on screen (regardless )

    In life people will give you what you accept if we don’t stop watching these shows glorifying these women (that means you MN) and sending a message to Hollywood I guarantee that’s
    all we will be getting for years to come

    • mmmdot

      Yasssss, girl! Completely agree. If they had more shows like ‘Girlfriends’ to balance out these tacky reality shows, I wouldn’t have SUCH a big problem with them. Oh they would DEFINITELY still be something of a problem, because good majority of these ratchet black “reality TV shows” = nothing but white-owned networks purposely finding black women to exhibit all of the negative traits they already believe of black women on national TV. Even worse they’re called “reality” TV shows, so I’ve seen moronic whites/non-black racial minorities LITERALLY say that the behavior they see on these shoes is indicative of black culture and the way black people behave. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve been told that they don’t keep anybody on a reality TV show that acts “boring” or that reality TV PARTICULARLY hires people with volatile personalities. People are told it’s “reality”, so they think some kernel of it is true and/or that it reflects the full breadth of black culture and black people. But the entire situation with the rapid increase of these ratchet black reality shows would be more *tolerable* if shows like ‘Love and Hip Hop Atlanta’ hadn’t OUTRIGHT REPLACED TV shows like ‘Living Single’.

  • mmmdot

    Because it involves black people. The end. And even worse, all they’ve done was taken the well written black sitcoms like Living Single and Martin and replace them with tacky “reality” shows like with Basketball Wives and Love and Hip Hop Atlanta.

  • mdoubs

    you are asking the answer…

  • Guest

    If you tune in to mob wives, jerry springer,jersey shore, etc you will see white people displaying some of the same ignorance that you see on love and hip hop and basketball wives. I just find it strange that I never hear whites say ‘all blacks will think we’re like that now’ or ‘ they make all whites look bad’ ‘ they make me feel ashamed to be white’… I wonder why?

    • kelly

      Because white people rule the world and they are seen in positive light and are generally thought of in a positive light. Jersey Shore, Mob Wives and Jerry Springer white folks are pretty much considered “white trash” to other whites. You still have to ask a question like that? wow!

      • Guest

        Kelly if you weren’t so quick to try and be snarky you would’ve understood my point. Sometimes we care too much about what ‘they’ have to say. Those women on bbwives and love and hip hop don’t represent all black people, just like the jersey shore cast and maury guests don’t represent all whites.They don’t give us any apologies or try to shame their whole race because of it,i’m just wondering why so many of us do.

        • FromUR2UB

          I think you’re saying that whites’ opinions of blacks should not be the measure by which we value ourselves. I agree with that. But, I think we need to raise our own bars, and not comparatively against stupid stuff whites do with a “if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us” attitude. The proliferation of shows like this, TV news anchors who use poor grammar, are among some of the trends that remind me of the movie ‘Idiocracy’. The movie is satirical, but American culture has already dumbed down so much, I don’t think we can easily dismiss the possibility that it can descend into that. I doubt it would take 500 years, either.

          • guest

            YESSSSSS!!!!!!!! ^^^^THIS^^^^ all day long . . . ^^^^THIS!!!!^^^^
            Speak, sistah!!!

        • Just saying!!

          Whites have many more examples of themselves on tv, that’s the problem. If there’s an over saturation of shows like this, then this is what people will think. For every “white trash” show there are plenty more that depict whites in a positive light. And the fact that whites are the majority that run everything also means they don’t have to be the advocate for their race, that’s a part of their privilege–they can be individuals. We can’t just say “who cares what people think” because at the end of the day what people think about you can affect whether or not that white guy is going to hire you for that job or whether you will be treated well in that restaurant. It does matter.

          • guest

            Excellent comment. Y’all are ON it today!!

          • Rose

            “Privilege”? You seriously believe in that made up crap? They only invented that so they can further justify all the wrong they were doing. Where’s “Black privilege,” “Asian privilege,” “Mexican privilege”?

    • blogdiz

      partially because as said elsewhere there is a balance of how white people are portrayed in the media so their reality shows are the exception not the norm .Black reality shows are sadly basically being seen as the norn or major vehicle for representation of black female images

    • kiki j

      For me the difference between the two is balance. White America isn’t battling a stereotype of being angry violent people, we are. So for us we are already trying to rid ourselves of the stigma that’s been placed on us so encouraging it is counterproductive. When a white person turns on bad girls club and see them acting a mess, they say they are being young, or at worse they may isolate them and call them trash. BUT turn to LHHA and they associate them with our entire race. It’s not about caring about what they say it’s about having some pride in ourselves. For instance you don’t go out with your friends to the mall in pajamas and say I don’t care what people think. No you have pride in your appearance. We need to do that as a race.

    • Bluberry01

      Unfortunately, Black people are disproportionately portrayed by these negative stereotypes found in these reality shows in the media more than White people. For example, for every “Jersey Shore” there’s a “Friends”, “Mad Men”, and “Modern Family”-type show that can counterbalance those negative images.

      Further, I honestly cannot think of many shows that have a predominantly Black cast; most shows only have one or two Black actors/actresses that are surrounded by white castmastes (e.g. Scandal, Resurrection, Sirens, The Divide, etc.)

    • rainydaze80

      This is a prime example of things that black people cannot do like the white folks. Black people cannot be portrayed on tv “ghetto” and “ignorant” on tv like the white folks for two reasons. The first one is (and let’s be real) the fact that in American society, black folks are never given the benefit of a doubt. A classic example: if a black person is angry, it’s because black people are just naturally angry, not because he/she had a bad day. The second reason is that black people make up 13% of the US population, which means there are white people living in the US who do not interact with black on a daily basis, so whatever these people see represented on tv, they assume it to be true for all. Also, how many positive, non-stereotypical images of black people are on American tv right now? While there many images diverse images of white people, images of black people are still limited.

    • Mary Jackson

      In my opinion those other shows you mentioned are worse than Love & Hip Hop.

      • kiki j

        Nothing is worse than love and hip hop. ..have you heard the storylines?

        • Mary Jackson

          Jerry Springer takes the cake for me.

          • kiki j

            That’s different the storylines aren’t even remotely real. These reality shows are parading as real life. Everyone knows Jerry is fake.

            • Mary Jackson

              No not really different its all fake doll. They take a little truth and spin it. Smokin mirrors. That goes for all reality TV. Now that I think about it Jersey Shore is probably the worst.

    • Who’s that lady

      Because it’s white privillege, simple as that. Non-minorities are never required to “speak for their whole race”

  • kiki j

    Mona Scott Young has done nothing but make excuses. She knows nothing positive has come from her ratchet franchise except her bank account. These people on these shows are entertaining not relatable. There’s a difference. I’m glad white folks aren’t watching us exploit ourselves. This said it all, “I think you’re seeing the viewership increase because of more opportunities for African-Americans to see themselves and their experiences reflected back to them.” This buffoonery is what they think really represent black America. Pathetic.

  • Shayla

    Reality tv (RHOA,Love and HIphop,BBWLA)are entertaining to watch. But i agree, we do need more positive shows on television that doesn’t feature ratchet men and women cursing and throwing shoes and bottles at each other, acting a d*** fool. There’s more to black culture. Give us a show that I can let my child watch with me…like the Cosby’s. That show was entertaining and educational.

    • char

      Amen!!!!! These weaved up women fighting, cursing, and putting one another down is nothing to be happy about.

      • Kim Jones

        Credit for what, these shows intentionally show black women in a negative, stereotypical and insulting manner. That is not something to celebrate. It is even sadder that black women work as producers and directors on these shows. We need to take back our image and show black women as we are. Black women are entering college, graduating and starting businesses in record numbers-how come we rarely see that information anywhere.

      • SheDevilsRule

        Acting a fool is what makes money for the networks with reality shows & the white housewives act just as bad just not as rachet & ghetto.