Have you ever dated someone who you expected more from but KNEW they were incapable of providing more to you based on the fact that you were only dating them for one thing? That’s how I feel about “ratchet” reality television shows of late. After watching the new season of Love and Hip Hop – Atlanta (the creative brain child and pimping genius of Mona Scott Young), I realised that there was no point in me complaining about the content. Why? I know when I clicked on the illegal download link that I was ready to watch drama that would have me sipping my 2009 Pinot Noir and whatsapping my girlfriends about the foolery I was witness to.
So why do I, a black woman who is intelligent and educated find shows like this entertaining in the same vein as I find a good documentary enlightening? I know if any of this type of drama was to occur in my friendship or social circle I would distance myself before anyone managed to contact Mona or Shaunie’s opportunistic selves to cast me.
You can accuse me of aiding and abetting hood rat tendencies but I know not to expect light, positivity or Oprah life lessons from an episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love and Hip Hop Atlanta or Basketball Wives. I know if I want to watch shows that represent black women in a beaming light or have a genuine inside look at someone’s life, I need to search for Tia &Tamera or Awkward Black Girl. I do not expect that whilst Nene Leakes is squaring up against Kim Zolciak in yet another showdown between the two, that I am not about to be privy to a lesson in how far we’ve come in terms of race relations.
We want to be entertained. This is where I had my “aha moment”. I am simply entertained by this. Call me a voyeur but there is something that has me glued to the movements of the women in these shows.
Maybe it is because we view these shows and feel better about our own lives and enjoy the feeling that only self-righteousness can bring. You might tell yourself that you are single but at least you are not on television showing the world how clueless you are to your long term lovers’ indiscretions. Or maybe you are smug in the knowledge that although your job is a draining life force, at least your salary pays your rent and you are not dependent on a cheque that comes from promoting yourself as a basketball wife when in reality you are just the ex-girlfriend of a unknown basketball player.
Therefore the question is not why reality shows of this nature exist on our screens but why do we watch? The continued popularity of these shows and their ability to keep people talking about their antics whilst being able to secure merchandising and advertising deals should tell us that these shows have power in numbers. The number of people who tune in every episode, the number of people who talk about it via social media, the number of followers the participants of said shows gain and the number in their bank accounts that increases because of it. There is a market for this stuff, so who am I to knock the hustle of those who want to create the shows, be a cast mate in these shows and lastly those who want to watch them?
You watch to be entertained. When you are no longer entertained you either switch off or voice your frustrations. People often claim that reality tv and society’s enjoyment and endorsement of them is a sign that we are losing our way. Perhaps that is true but it has also shown that that we as a society won’t knock anyone’s hustle as long as it doesn’t harm someone, however once it does we will be vocal about it.