Published on April 17th, 2011 | by thevyne


Women of Color on Reality TV: Drama or Biz as Usual?

By Keesha B.

Last month was women’s history month. In honor of it, I hosted a “The View” style panel where I facilitated a thought provoking dialog with a group of fabulous women. I channeled my alter ego, “Whoopie Walters-Winfrey” and dove head first into a line of “hot topics”. One hot topic we discussed was that of women on reality television shows, specifically, what impact are the women of reality television having on the overall image of women today.

It’s safe to say that the women in reality television fall on either end of a very unbalanced spectrum. Either they are sharing useful information about their lives for others to learn from (a la “Ruby”) or they are tearing their (or someone else’s) hair out over some highly dramatized “he said, she said-that’s my man-I can’t stand her” randomness. What’s more interesting is that upon close observation (e.g. many hours of TV watching…not afraid to admit it) women of color in the reality television space tend, more often than not, to be on the latter end of that spectrum…all up and through the dialed-up drama. It’s as if there is an expectation for women of color to bring the ruckus to a cast, a la “the Omarosa” effect.

When “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” premiered and became Bravo’s most watched housewives cast, it set off a rash of reality shows starring women of color all seemingly competing to “out crazy” (and I use the term “crazy” loosely) who ever the latest reigning drama queens were. Shows like, “Basketball Wives”, “Love and Hip Hop”, the current season of “Celebrity Apprentice”, “Real Housewives of Atlanta”,  “Fantasia for Real”, “Let’s Talk About Pep”, “Tiny and Toya” and “Football Wives” are all highly entertaining by producer (and TV watcher) standards.

The question is, are we okay with these images of women of color in reality television?  Should we be demanding that for every “Frankie & Nefe” there’s a “Kimora Life in the Fab Lane” (circa seasons 2 and 3) or a “Keeping up the With Jones’?” Or should we just lighten up and let reality television be what it is…lightly scripted, barely real, ratings boosters for pure sheer entertainment?

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