Keeping It ‘Real’ Part 1: When ‘BAD’ is really bad

Question: How much dysfunctional, cynical, delusional, pathological and sociopathic behavior can be crammed into a 30-minute TV block? Apparently many. And apparently many times over because this seem to be the blueprint for a “successful” reality TV show nowadays. I’m astounded at the number of shows that tout that they are a reality TV show when in actuality it is a circus …. set to music ….  interrupted by commercials. And I’m astounded at the number of TV stations that claim to cater to women who are actually giving these shows a platform.

To borrow a few words from my President, “…we don’t have time for this nonsense.”

Why was there ever a need for women’s TV? Take a second to think about how women were historically portrayed in film and TV, we could only portray housewives, hookers, maids, and nannies, (not always a good look). And now think about the number of shows from the big networks that catered specifically to men (not an accurate reflection of our realities).

When the first women’s network started 27 years ago, I thought that it would provide an opportunity for all women to re-define ourselves in mediated messages. Seeing the popularity and commercial appeal, a few years later other women networks surfaced.

What I have not seen is the presence of many (if any) women of color or women from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds or multiracial women or lesbians represented.  I think it is easy to produce the same monotonous monochromatic TV shows that play tireless mainstream caricatures doing extraordinary things and falling in love and saving the world. However, to all you women networks out there: you really need to check yourselves because Black, Hispanic, Lesbian, and poor women (or any combination thereof) can have happily ever after too.

And to the newer stations that rely solely on these temper tantrum maniac women for your bread and butter – come again. Bad Girls Club, Bad Girls the remix (or whatever it’s called), Snapped, Bridezilla, Crazy Woman Running in a Circle (okay, I made that one up) and the countless other mindless entertainment that you broadcast: Mindless? Yes. Entertainment? No.

I wonder, how is this empowering to women? How does this expand the reality of our lives and reflect our authenticity as women? How are young women who are trying to find their way to take this? Are we to revel in the delusion that this is our new reality? We are normalizing dysfunction here, people. Maybe it’s me? I don’t know. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong.

For now, my message stands: Get away from the big top circus acts and get back to empowering us. That’s keeping it real.

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  1. Posted May 3, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Even without looking at the reality-type shows, my understanding of the programming on these “women” channels (based off of when my mom watched them) is that they generally still mostly propagated the same roles and fears for women that you would find on other channels. The main difference was that more attention was paid to female characters, but they were still subject to the same sort of dangers and problems, and none of it looked to inspire women to be better or bolder than what social norms call dictate.

    And now that you mention it, they were/are generally white.

    I don’t think you can really count on TV for anything good. Its profitability is tied so much to have an audience that is marketable. “Smart” programming doesn’t get enough of the right kind of eyeballs to pay uncritical attention during commercial breaks.

    • Posted May 3, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      Matt – thanks for reading, I appreciate the “eyeballs.” And I think you’re right “smart” programming doesn’t get paid enough attention. B/R

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