April 25, 2013 by Team Truth in Reality
It happens with any social change, movement or meme: first comes support, then comes the backlash. Recent months have shown growing support for grassroots initiatives such as Truth in Reality's Responsible Reality TV Movement that call out the tired, racist, and dangerous stereotypes that pervade negative reality shows. As if on cue, in comes a critique via A RECENT ARTICLE THAT CALLS OUT “LOVE AND HIP HOP ATLANTA HATERS” AS CONDESCENDING AT WORST AND SIMPLEMINDED AT BEST.
As some of the most watched shows in the Black community, it would be ridiculously ignorant to label the entirety of reality TV audiences as foolish. We don’t question the intelligence of reality audiences. Rather, we question the accountability of the choice to watch, which opens for discussion a conversation about the social impact of “ratchet” reality television shows.
And what of that social impact?
Reality TV crusaders accuse detractors of attempting to tailor Black television to fit White sensibilities. Critics of the Responsible Reality TV Movement get it wrong in at least one crucial way. “Ratchet” stereotypes may reinforce the racist views that the bigoted have of us. But what effect does it have on how we view ourselves?
When an association between Black culture and dysfunction is made every Monday night, it lowers our own expectations of our community’s behavior. Pop culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it’s a constant feedback loop that both shapes and reflects many things, including societal prejudices. In the case of negative reality TV, these prejudices show Black women in particular as comical, materialistic, loud, and—perhaps worst of all—singularly violent. Isn’t that why they’re so entertaining?
Reality crusaders have a right to defend their guilty pleasures, and even feel righteous for doing so. But while they’re laughing, tweeting, and shaking their heads at the steady stream of dysfunction, we’re shaking ours at the studies and statistics that demonstrate how increased viewership of violent reality TV correlates with aggression, low self-esteem, and violence against women.
Shows like Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta aren’t a singular cause of the Black community’s afflictions. They’re a symptom of a huge societal inequity. Even if stereotypically racist media depictions didn’t cause racism (RESEARCH SHOWS IT DOES), they provide a vehicle for its dissemination. If we can provide a roadblock, we will do our part to derail its flow into our living rooms.
Some say that efforts to create change in the existing model of negative reality “entertainment” are futile because positive media portrayals haven’t cured every negative symptom in the Black community. In other words, we’re buried under too many problems to dig our way out. That’s their reality. We choose to work for a better one.