This week’s installment of Pop & Circumstance is heavy on the reality TV, since the summertime seems to carry an inordinate number of these programs. It makes sense. Reality shows are cheap to produce, and not as many people are watching during the summer months anyway, so the networks can get away with a little more mediocrity. Ah, but the mediocrity is often so addictive.
So maybe it’s a moral failing in me, but one episode and I’m already hooked on the new season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Pray for me, y’all. It’s an incredibly demeaning show — I know. The catfights between African American women, the incessant bling, the reinforcement of the stereotype that the only way black folks can become successful is through sports or music careers … I know all this. But it’s so delicious.
Thursday night season two premiered and out of the gate there was drama. But this time it wasn’t the bickering of the housewives that caused a stir. It was newly divorced cast member Sheree Whitfield’s fight with her “Independence Party” planner Anthony that lit up the screen. After failing to follow through on a few grand plans that would place Sheree at the center of attention for her event — because after all, it’s all about Sheree –the housewife “went Cleveland” on Anthony in a screaming match that forced colleagues of the party planner to hold him back while cameras rolled on the disintegration of his business. When all was said and done, Sheree asked, “What happened to customer service?” Classic.
The rest of the housewives, including new cast member singer/songwriter Kandi Burruss, seem to have matured a bit, finding some reconciliation from the drama that aired last November. But if Bravo’s teaser for future episodes is any indication, the peace is short-lived. I will say that the missing moral anchor of DeShawn Snow is palpable. She was the wife of retired NBA player Eric Snow who reportedly pursued a Master of Divinity and was not asked back for the new season because she was “too human for a circus show.” I miss those beats the camera used to take on Snow’s blank face each time Kim or NeNe would say something outrageous. It’s probably for the best though. She was too classy for this show. But apparently, I’m not. I’ll keep watching.
What do you think of the new season of Real Housewives of Atlanta? Will you watch?
Black Women Want Roses, Too
I haven’t watched an episode of ABC’s The Bachelor since season one when Trista Rehn was rejected by Alex Michel, and then went on to star in her own reality romance spin-off The Bachelorette. Back then the rose ceremonies were intense. I used to huddle around a small television set with my college girlfriends holding our breath as if peace in the Middle East was on the line while the roses were doled out . So when the most recent season of The Bachelorette ended on Monday, with 29-year-old interior designer Jillian Harris choosing Ed Swiderski, I missed it. But I did read Rachel Skirritt’s review of the show over at TheRoot.com and that got me thinking. Why do I no longer care about The Bachelor/Bachelorette phenomenon?
Skirritt, who has also fallen out of love with reality romance, noted that in 18 combined seasons of the shows, there has never been a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color. She writes, “Why is it that if an African American wants to humiliate him or herself on national TV in search of a mate, the only options are I Love New York or For the Love of Ray J? Are we not suitable for major networks?” Arguing that since Black women are the most unlikely to marry in our culture (the latest studies say that nearly 45 percent of black women have never been married versus 23 percent of their white counterparts), she posits that a season dedicated to this often woefully single demographic would score big numbers in Nielsen ratings. It might also lead to greater success in the relationships since due to the statistical challenges of finding the one, black women presumably have more urgency to get hitched.
While I agree that all races should have an equal opportunity to sign up for a chance to compete for love, and likely lose anyway (since less than 1 percent of past couples have actually married), I’m not sure a Black Bachelorette is the solution. There’s enough competition for romance among African American women without turning it into prime-time entertainment. And if the discussions I have with my single girlfriends are at all telling, there are some deep wounds unique to black women concerning the scarcity of men that might only be aggravated by a television show.
What do you think? Do black women need to get a rose too?
A Bigger and Better Bachelor?
Big girls want love too, or at least that’s the message Fox is trying to get across with its new reality show More to Love. The show,which features full-figured contestants vying for love, premiered last week to mixed reviews. Hosted by plus-size model Emme, the show aims to prove that love comes in all shapes and sizes. Much like ABC’s The Bachelor, the premise centers on the drama between approximately 20 voluptuous women as they compete for the affection of one successful bachelor. According to the Kansas City Star, this season’s bachelor is Luke Conley, a real estate investor who claims to be a Christian. While getting cozy on a sofa after private spa treatments, Conley tells one woman, “I am who I am because of my relationship with the Lord. I pray every day, and I read the Bible … to me, God is a third person in the room.” He then proceeds to make out with said woman. Maybe God stepped out for a bathroom break.
We’re not sure how “Christian” it is, but executive producer Mike Fleiss hopes the show will be inspirational to viewers by showcasing people who have truly struggled on the dating scene. “ABC’s The Bachelor is about beautiful people living a beautiful life and hopefully finding a beautiful love,” he says. “This show is like a sporting event. You’re rooting for someone to find love.”
Decide for yourself if it’s worth watching. You can catch the next episode on Fox this Tuesday night at 9PM ET/PT.
First Look: ‘I Can Do Bad All By Myself’
Tyler Perry notoriously refuses to play by Hollywood rules. It’s often been reported how he personally fronts the money for his films, allowing him primary creative control, and how he generally refuses to screen his movies for critics as is custom for most major studios. So the early trailers of his new film, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, are all likely we have until the movie hits theaters on September 11th.
The film stars Taraji P. Henson as April, a heavy-drinking nightclub singer, who is forced to reevaluate her life when placed in charge of her delinquent 16-year-old niece and two nephews. Faced with the choice of continuing her troubled ways with a married boyfriend, or exploring new possibilities with Sandino, a handsome Mexican immigrant living in her basement apartment, April is challenged to open her heart and move on from the past. As is characteristic of all Perry films, I Can Do Bad All By Myself shows the struggle of letting go of past hurts while learning to accept and pursue a new life with family, faith, and true love. The film also stars Perry (as Madea), and features musical performances from Gladys Knight, Mary J. Blige, and Marvin Winans.
Check out this trailer and let us know what you think.
President Obama reads letters from the public, as he sits at his desk in the Treaty Room Office in the Private Residence. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza, 2009.)
Now that we’ve all had a chance to settle down and let this most recent and unfortunate situation fade into the mists of past news cycles, I just wanted to humbly offer a few words of advice. In the future, please refrain from telling the truth about racial situations when asked. Clearly some of us in America aren’t quite ready for it yet. In fact, many are still trying to come to grips with the fact that you got elected in the first place.
Now, between you and me, we both know that the existence of your presidency doesn’t erase the centuries-long tradition of racism in America. Many of us — or our parents and grandparents — can still remember the days when segregation was an institution and a daily fact of life … not just a word waved around in the month of February.
You ran on the promises of hope, change, and a unified America. When I saw you speak at the Democratic Convention in 2004, I thought to myself, there’s the man who should be leading the country … and the thought was so incredibly far-fetched at the time. Even after you announced your candidacy, it seemed impossible to even dream that it would actually result in having you as our President. When Joe Biden uttered those ill-chosen words, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy …” we knew what he was trying to say, but it underscored the delicacy of the racial situation these days.
But you have to admit that we’ve certainly come a long way in these past few years, though I know we’re not there yet. However, in these critical early months of your administration, it’s important that you recognize the need for the masses to hold on to their warm, fuzzy feelings about your victory last November — not to mention their need to keep their racial blinders firmly in place. Is the danger of being stopped for “driving while Black” still a reality in 2009? Of course not! And do young Black men and women still get watched more closely in the store than their White counterparts? No! That is all completely behind us! Let’s move on; after all, slavery was a long time ago. We’re equal now!
Sure, we’ll hear the reports of the occasional group of school kids turned away from a swimming pool in the Philly suburbs … but that wasn’t a racial issue, that pool was simply too crowded. And we know that the situation with Professor Gates had nothing to do with race (not in this day and age). If Professor Gates would’ve just taken a deep breath and showed the proper respect to Sergeant Crowley, understanding that police officers seldomly treat people differently based on the color of their skin, there would be no need for your beer summit today.
Let us continue to believe that racism is dead in America, and that racial profiling is no longer an issue in our cities. Be patient with us, Mr. President … perhaps in a few years we’ll be able to engage in open, honest dialogues about race and racism. But for now, let’s just keep it our little secret. Give my best to Michelle and the kids.
During the end stretch of last year’s heated presidential race, Barack Obama was tagged by some as a “socialist” for his controversial tax plan, which called for a system of redistribution of wealth. Now, with President Obama’s equally controversial vision for universal health care taking center stage in the political arena, the “socialist” label has surfaced again. But what some Christians view as a dangerous slide toward socialism, others see as a needed step toward a more biblically just health-care system.
Without taking sides in the political debate, we want to explore this issue of biblical justice vs. socialism. To help bring clarity to the subject, we went back to a 1993 book from the pioneering evangelical social activist John M. Perkins. In Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development, Perkins lays out a broad vision for incarnational ministry, which includes both spiritual and economic outreach. In this excerpt, he challenges believers on the importance of social justice and explains how it differs from manmade economic and political systems.
Remakes, remixes, and reruns seem very commonplace in today’s entertainment culture. Every other film today seems to be a remake of some classic movie or TV show from earlier days. Today’s music offerings are filled with remakes and “remixes” of older songs. Many television channels find it more profitable to rebroadcast syndicated reruns than to air brand-new shows that are unproven. As Solomon opined, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”
Recently, my wife and I went to see Denzel Washington and John Travolta in the remake of The Taking of Pelham 123. It was surprisingly good. Both of us felt Travolta’s character stole the show. I am more of a movie connoisseur than my wife, but normally even I don’t expect much from remakes. Sometimes you’re just unable to shake the original from your head. Whenever I hear Mariah Carey’s remake of the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There,” I can still hear Michael Jackson vividly in my mind, even though I think Mariah has an extraordinary voice.
You know, sometimes things never get old. I can watch a good movie over and over again. I can listen to an amazing song repeatedly without tiring of it. Yet some things, when they are repeated, can become quite irritating.
We recently witnessed another irritating repeat of an old storyline when Cambridge Police officers took Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. away from his home in handcuffs. It was a surreal moment. I usually see Professor Gates, director of Harvard’s W.E. B Du Bois Institute, on PBS documentaries and the covers of magazines and books. I also had the privilege of visiting the Du Bois Institute on Harvard’s campus to witness the scholarly environment of some of our great Black minds, people like Dr. Gates, Dr. Cornel West, and Dr. William Julius Wilson. Seeing Gates escorted by the police from his home is something I never imagined could happen.
The surreal moment is the simple shock and disappointment that it has happened again. It doesn’t take much imagination for Black people in general to believe the incident really happened to another prominent Black figure. Just read Ellis Cose’s seminal Rage of a Privileged Class or countless other books and articles, it likes a bad script played over and over again.
I remember in the early 1990s when I saw the Rodney King incident on video of police beating him over and over again. The relief I felt then was that it was finally captured on film. Sadly, I think many of us in the Black community rejoiced. We were now vindicated by this incident, forever caught of film, confirming our claims of mistreatment. Certainly, we would have a public outcry for justice, and citizens from around the country would demand accountability from the police for their discriminatory actions. It didn’t happen as the police were found not guilty and the country not just L.A. was outraged to acts of violence in the spring of 1992 with riots spreading all over the country from Los Angeles to Ames, Iowa, to Atlanta.
Nowadays, when a prominent Black figure like Gates is arrested, Black people from around the nation say, “We have seen this movie before. It is a bad remake.” In less than 24 hours the police drop the charges, and the city of Cambridge describe the incident as “regrettable and unfortunate.” You betcha it’s regrettable and unfortunate.
Should we look at the calendar? It is 2009. We have a Black man as President of these United States of America. Yet, the image of a Black man as criminal is still the first image that so many have when they see us. Yep, I am one of them, too. I happen to be a Black man with three Black sons.
Months ago after Barack Obama was elected president and later sworn into the highest position in the land, the media ran with the notion that we are now living in a post-racial world. Race no longer has the firm grip it had for years in our country.
Who believed that? Oh, you can find some conservatives like Shelby Steele, or James Harris, the conservative radio host notorious for begging Senator McCain to aggressively go after Obama during the election. In general, most Black people don’t believe this. The statistics don’t support it. As bad as 10 percent unemployment is for our nation, the Black community would welcome 10 percent unemployment. Most of us, believe there is much work yet ahead of us before we arrive to a post racial era. A lot of the work lies within the Black community as much as externally.
Oh, I can hear the debate going back and forth about Prof. Gates’s interaction with the policeman allegedly escalating the incident to his own shame. Another critique will be that Gates wanted this outcome to draw attention to his books and documentaries on race in America. I wonder if anyone will ask why the police did not recognize who Prof. Gates is? Why do we have countless incidents of prominent Black men who have attained great success and position being perceived by the public as aberrant or exceptions to the rule, specifically by our police? This perception follows Black males from the fourth grade to the grave. I say fourth grade because that’s around the time when we are no longer cute and cuddly, we begin to display the resemblance of the adult version of ourselves. It doesn’t matter if they come from a two-parent home, teach at Harvard, or own a basketball team. This country, no matter what the ethnicity or race, continues to perceive Black men first as potential criminals. Unfortunately, many Black people hold this same perception.
I believe a more important critique about the incident is how Prof. Gates responded to the police. Evident at least to me is that his current status and notoriety has allowed him to begin to believe he is exceptional. The truth is, no Black man I know would risk engaging the police, in their home or anyplace else, to the level Prof. Gates did for fear of the possible outcome. I have taught my sons, and they have seen, how a Black man should relate to the police nonverbally and verbally, so as to avoid the results Prof. Gates got or an even worse consequence.
Isn’t it interesting that the incident of Oklahoma troopers going scuffling with a Black paramedic after stopping an ambulance en route to take a patient to the hospital did not get the national attention as Prof. Gates? This incident happened in late May. Wouldn’t it be interesting to document the number of times the police have stopped African American men who have attained middle-class status from those in graduate school to professionals? This data will be more enlightening than the current misdirected conversation about Prof. Gates and the Cambridge police versus the broader issue of how Black and Latino men are treated by the police.
If Henry Louis Gates does pursue a documentary on racial profiling, I hope he presents the historical data that displays this awful stereotype as an age-old dilemma that has evolved through the generations in our country, influencing the images Black people have themselves. It doesn’t seem to get old as fodder for our media. It’s just a new remix, with simple tweaks and nuances that make it current. But in the end, it’s an old song, old episode, and old movie. Many of us can write the script ourselves. But it continues to be produced. Sadly, we have to keep watching.