Shows like Being Mary Jane, Scandal and the Real Housewives of Atlanta are destroying the image of black women

3 years ago

Before I state my claim, let me just qualify some things for all the followers and naysayers who are diehard fans of these shows.

 First, I have seen each one of these shows. Followed all of them, season after season until recently. Know the internal fabric of every storyline. Understand completely that these are, ‘in fact’, television shows, and despite the titles, are not reality. And lastly, anyone who proclaims this is merely entertainment and shouldn’t be taken seriously are themselves part of the problem that drives this impassioned blogpost.

 My husband always says to me, “self recommendation gets no praise.” And though intrinsically I am inclined to agree with him, I am about to make a rogue statement: I am an intelligent woman. I don’t need anyone’s confirmation of this, nor do I seek the world’s approval. I know I am an intelligent woman because, well, I’m able to think outside, in and around the box and I like to see all situations from every side.  I say that to say my position on this topic is, my position, and I welcome any discourse to disprove my statement.

 Please understand that my declaration of intelligence has no bearing on my ability or inability to be right or wrong. For that I just say I am human and not perfect. But, I do declare that I am an intelligent woman, so I can speak quite passionately on the fact that the image of black women is being destroyed because of our own acceptance of shows like Being Mary Jane, Scandal and The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

 There was a time when I watched these shows and I justified it by saying things like, “It’s my guilty pleasure. I work hard and this foolishness balances out my life.” Or, “The writer of the show is a minority female and I can relate to her especially given that there are so few black women writing for hit television shows.” Or, my personal favorite, “It’s just television.” Every thing to which I now object, I myself use to believe in.

 Until one day, I just got tired.

 Nothing really happened. I just began to see how all of these shows were building an image of black women that started to spill over into real life – at least from my perspective.

 I remember when Michelle Obama was criticized for being an ‘angry black woman’ for
speaking her mind and doing so in a way that may have been off putting to others. Then there was the time at work when my own boss chastised me because a secretary had said that I was ‘unapproachable’, because I would not let her hire the son’s boss (that is another story for another post), and I was essentially doing my job and saving the company from a potential law suite (again, another post).

 When all of these situations began to come together, and I turned to the shows I had been dedicating my nights and weekends too for comfort, I realized, I was part of the problem. I gave life to these images that plague real life women like the First Lady, my peers, and myself. The women in these shows are not just actors. We give them life, and they only exist because we do.

 Famous philosopher Rene Descartes’ once said, “I think, therefore I am”. Some interpret this to translate, that we are whom we believe and think ourselves to be, the things that we give our time and attention to, define us. And these shows really opened my eyes to the fact that these images, being driven into our thought processes, were in fact, defining us as black women.

 I began to see Facebook posts praising being a mistress or a “side chick” (a term I loathe by the way – just because you give it a different name – doesn’t change what it is). And The Real Housewives of Atlanta conversations that just blew up the internet whenever the shows aired, especially whenever the women were involved in something tawdry, like strip clubs, naked men, and fighting at pajama parties. And need I go into the weekly feigning frenzies of Scandal parties both online and at different clubs rooting for the so-called heroine, Olivia Pope, the mistress to the faux President.

 It all just got really exhausting, because I could see how it was playing out in the minds of everyday people. These images were being praised and accepted as truth. And the most frustrating part, is that black women, were all for it. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been cussed out in a post where I made inflammatory comments about the show Real Housewives of Atlanta. These shows have avid fans who will fight for them to the death – it is unreal.

 As black women, and honestly, women in general, we have to do a better job with what we allow to penetrate our psyches. The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7: For as he think in his heart, so is he:…” We have to realize that this is not just entertainment.

 Though I have already gone on for much longer than I intended, I plan on coming back and adding more substance because I think this is a conversation that black women need to have with each other. Anyone obviously can chime in, but because I am a black woman, these issues are very personal to and for me. 

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