Fans of trashy reality television, despair! Following a major outcry from civil rights organization ColorOfChange.org, Oxygen has canceled its amazing sounding reality show All My Babies’ Mamas, which was going to follow the life of rapper/crazy person Shawty Lo as he tried to keep his 11 kids and 10 former flames happy under one roof.
The organization condemned the show on the grounds that it would promote negative stereotypes about African Americans with regard to family planning:
We already know that only a narrow range of Black characters or personalities ever makes it onto America’s television screens. When combined with the overwhelmingly negative representations of Black Americans we see on the daily news, shows like All MyBabies’ Mamas reinforce ugly stereotypes about Black men and women — that we’re hypersexual, combative and unfit to parent our children.7,8 In addition to reducing self-esteem, a number of studies confirm that these distorted portrayals can lead non-Black audiences to hold onto problematic perceptions of Black folks that have dangerous real-world consequences: Black people experience “less attention from doctors, harsher sentencing by judges, lower likelihood of being hired or admitted to school, lower odds of getting loans, and a higher likelihood of being shot by police.”
In trying to find the widest audience possible, it’s true that reality shows often pander to the lowest common denominator. (Just look at the ultimate blueprint, The Jersey Shore, which only just barely gets away with it because Italians are considered white.) But this was going to be a reality show, and Shawty Lo and his family are real people. Isn’t it also problematic to say that only the “right” kind of black people should get to be on TV? The kind who defy racial stereotypes in just the right way, but without ignoring race altogether like the perfect interracial marriages of network television? (Or are those okay?)
It’s also possible that the show would have allowed the Lo household to defy viewer expectations. I know that with Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a lot of folks came for the promise of ridiculous redneck hijinks but stayed for what great, unique people Mama June‘s family proved to be. They might be the least dysfunctional family ever to grace reality television! What if viewers found out Shawty Lo’s household was, in at least some ways, not so different from their own? Wouldn’t that do more to combat the “othering” of both black people and non-traditional families than deeming this family unfit for mass consumption?
Shawty Lo himself had this to say to MTV News:
“Yeah, I really understand. They have the right to think that, but at least give the show a chance, to see what’s goin’ on…The show wasn’t about, we gonna be fightin’. My show is not about no negative, it’s a positive…It’s a lot of fathers don’t take care of one; I gotta deal with 11. I gotta deal with nine girls and two boys. Comin’ up, we didn’t have Thanksgiving, we didn’t have Christmas, but if I had my father there, if I even had my mother there, I probably wouldn’t have been that person I was in the streets.”
In the end, ColorOfChange.org was probably not too off base in assuming that a show with the deliberately provocative title All My Babies’ Mamas might not have the best interests of the African American community in mind. But as a refined aficionado of other people’s personal shit, I still can’t help wondering about all the strange, surprising, and yes, entertaining reality TV we’re going to miss out on because this show got killed.
(Via MTV News)