Thursday, July 26, 2007

A hot ghetto mess, indeed

Sigh. Forty-seven minutes of my life wasted away watching two of BET's newest television shows "Socially Offensive Behavior" and "We Got To Do Better." Forty-seven minutes that could've been spent sleeping, vacuuming, working on my thesis, finding a cure for cancer, counting the pennies in my jar, or whatever...completely gone. And I can't get them back.

BET has hit a new low. These programs were not only completely unfunny, but they did exactly what I thought they would. I suppose however, that one of the redeeming qualities of wasting my time watching this junk was that I got to witness BET put on a pretty bad show for millions of people to see. But the problem is: BET put on a pretty bad show for millions of people to see. I'll get into that in a second.

First, there's "S.O.B. : Socially Offensive Behavior." S.O.B. is a candid camera type of reality show where people are put in racially charged situations. I guess the show's producers are somehow trying to analyze racism, classism, sexism, community, etc. by "leaving the political correctness" at the door. Whatever.

Truthfully, I don't have much to say about it. All I can say is that I didn't find one shred of social commentary implanted in this show. What I did find were a series a cheesy, fake, and unfunny segments.

Next, we turn our attention to the real hot button: "Hot Ghetto Mess"; or, as it's been renamed "We Got To Do Better". Despite a pretty successful assault by What About Our Daughters, (you should check out their blog. It's hot.), BET still managed to air the controversial program and, to some extent, even feed off the controversy.

Watching the show for myself basically confirmed everything I thought about it at the outset. It was a half hour's worth of black people doing stupid sh*t. Most of the show featured videos from people doing ridiculous things; while some segments of the show included "Street Walking" where people were approached and asked a series of "black" questions (how a person's general knowledge of people, places, and dates is equated to being "ghetto" remains a mystery to me).

Some would argue that one of the show's saving graces was that it also aired ridiculous antics from white people; namely stereotypical "rednecks" and "wiggers". But what BET hasn't figured out yet (and I doubt they will any time soon) is that White America has never been dictated to by the stereotypical caricatures that make up their subculture. Shows like Jerry Springer, Howard Stern that showcase "white trash" will NEVER be labeled as the "face" of White America. Yet, the crapola that makes it on Black Entertainment Television has and will continue to dictate Black America. Worse yet, this coon nonsense is being heralded and defended as a socially relvant outlet by BET executives. Said Bob Johnson, BET founder:

"As far as the 'Hot Ghetto Mess' issue, [BET President/CEO Debra Lee] has got the same problem that I had in that BET, for all practical purposes, is the only preeminent voice for African Americans in media and because of that it is given a greater responsibility and obligation by certain people that BET has to be a little bit 'holier than thou,'" Johnson said. "We'll let Jerry Springer get away with that or we'll let Morton Downey get away with that or we'll let the people at VH1's 'Flavor of Love' get away with that. But when it's black folks making the decision to do that, all of a sudden people start saying you can't do that because you have a greater obligation...."

"All of a sudden, creative people who want to tell stories or produce shows like 'Hot Ghetto Mess' are saying, 'I don't want to work on BET because they can't doing anything that's innovative or pushes the envelope," he said. "I think that would be detrimental to creativity. I think it would be detrimental to the black community in allowing us to mature and let a lot of voices be heard."


Yep, that's what he said. That's what the guy who brought us BET Uncut said.

I suppose that more than anything, three major problems have surfaced from this show and shows like it:

(1) The idea that airing out our dirty laundry for the purpose of raising awareness and self-improvement is, and will continue to be a joke. If anything, all it actually does is further propogate long-standing stereotypes by putting a human face to them.

(2) The fact that over the close to thirty years BET has been around, they've always rested on their laurels and lacked any real creativity. When provided the opportunity to do something groundbreaking and for the whole world to see, they produced...well...this nonsense.

(3) The idea that one of the best ways to address social concerns, self-assessment, and community improvement has to reach us through comedy and entertainment. I mean, damn. Everything in this world is not supposed to be funny. Just because Dave Chappelle's show (minus Chappelle's frequent reference to the dehumanizing 'n-word') was able to accomplish the feat using comedy doesn't mean everybody can. Least of all with Charlie Murphy at the helm.

I just don't know what to do with BET any more. Maybe it's time to do what the activists at What About Our Daughters did. Leave BET alone and go after the sponsors.

Your thoughts?


17 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

Malik said...

I'd redefine the problem a little bit. I'd say the problem isn't just that there is a global appetite for dehumanizing caricatures of Black folks (I've seen soap operas from Syria with posters of Puff Daddy in the background), part of the problem is that there is also active resistance to the production and distribution of counterbalancing images, despite all the evidence that there is a large audience for those images as well.

Andre said...

"...part of the problem is that there is also active resistance to the production and distribution of counterbalancing images, despite all the evidence that there is a large audience for those images as well."

Absolutely! I can't figure out at what point black entertainment started regressing from the likes of the Cosby Show, Amen, 227; hell -- even Family Matters. I can only think of a couple of shows today; Everybody hates Chris and Girlfriends that feature a predominately black cast that doesn't gently fit into the typical black stereotype.

With diverse programming being in the minority, BET is all that stands between us and the world. Scary thought. TV-One is a good start. But I'm not sure if it's generated enough mainstream validation to combat BET.

Joanne said...

It's an absolute shame that this junk made it to the light. BET execs should be ashamed of themselves for this one.

HeiressChild said...

as a reminder from your last BET post, i don't have cable so i don't get to see these programs, but from what i'm reading, these shows make me think of back in the days of amos 'n andy (as far as stereotyping;also waaaaay before your time), and that show caused plenty rukus.

i did get to see monique's charm school show when i was at my sister's house, and i wasn't impressed.

Kim said...

Your bad for watching. I gave up BET about 10 years ago and never looked back.

That's a small lie, I do watch their inspirational programming, gotta love that Bobby Jones.

Joslyn said...


Can't do Bobby Jones or most of the inspirational stuff on BET.

1. Bobby Jones is the sterotypical gay choir director

2. There are SOME good preachers who broadcast on BET, who genuinely have a good Word. HOWEVER, it bothers me that a lot of these televangelists who are all about "miracle cloths", "Holy spring water", and any other gimmick (yeah, I said it! It's a GIMMICK) to lure people into sending them money wind up on BET.

I think that I have a bigger problem with that type of programming being on BET than I do anything else!!!

P.S. Ever notice how you NEVER see Bill Cosby on BET...for nothing?

Gotta love the Cos!

Andre said...

@ Joanne: I completely agree with you. But as I mentioned before, this junk is a cash cow. I don't think that the market for the mess will ever be completely tapped out. That's the sad part.

@ Heiress: I don't think you'll find a person (other than perhaps Bob Johnson and Debra Lee) who wouldn't agree that Amos & Andy was the most ridiculously racist program of its time. But the difference between that and some of the crap on BET is that the buildup to that show was reflective of a much greater and more complex history of socially-imposed racism. The nonsense on BET today is just a product of self-imposed ignorance; which somehow gets validated as a legitimate art form.

Oh yeah: Mo'Nique and her "charm school" fall in the same category. She's the queen of new-aged minstrelsy.

@ Kim: I wanted to check it out for context. As I said before, I don't want to get in the habit of villifying something until I've had a chance to see it myself.

"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

- Ludwig Wittgenstein

By the way, I'm a little leary about BET's "inspirational" junk. But I at least give them credit for expanding out from the nonsensical urban emphasis they place on their programming all throughout the week.

@ Jos: "1. Bobby Jones is the sterotypical gay choir director"

BET is just promoting stereotypes all over the place.

"2. There are SOME good preachers who broadcast on BET, who genuinely have a good Word. HOWEVER, it bothers me that a lot of these televangelists who are all about "miracle cloths", "Holy spring water", and any other gimmick (yeah, I said it! It's a GIMMICK) to lure people into sending them money wind up on BET."

A reflection of many of inane "church" stuff and BET being insipid. A dangerous combination...

"I think that I have a bigger problem with that type of programming being on BET than I do anything else!!!"

More than Baldwin Hills and the BET awards?!

"P.S. Ever notice how you NEVER see Bill Cosby on BET...for nothing?

Gotta love the Cos!

Dr. Cosby's intentions are good. But his only problem is that he focuses his attacks on all lower class blacks; not just the ones who need it. But I get your point.

KC said...

I don't know how much of the show you watched, but did you see the commercial/promo with the animation about a slave auction? It was a powerful piece shown, ironically, while BET was selling black folks out.

Andre said...

@ KC: I know what you're talkin' about. What you're referring to is Oscar Brown's poem "Bid 'Em In". Let me just say that this brotha's work was AMAZING (rest his soul). At one point, TS Monk (Thelonious Monk's son) did an incredible rendition of it. I found out about it when he performed at a jazz concert in Flint. Anyway, Mr. Brown's poem was converted into the animated short film they played yesterday. Last I heard, it was up for an Academy Award.

You're correct, though. It's ironic that TS Monk's video and the animated film were both shown on BET of all places.

Diane J. said...

I don't know that I have a lot to add to what's already been said, but what the heck, who ever said I know when to keep my yap shut?

The number one thing that drives TV is money. If there wasn't a demand and audience for BET's stereotypical mess, advertisers wouldn't pay for airtime on the network. You don't see a TV show lasting very long if they don't get the ratings and the market share to make it worth the advertiser's investment.

This is supply and demand at work in its simplest form. The problem is not what BET shows: It's the fact that there's a market for the junk.

Until black people en masse start start respecting themselves and demanding it of others, both black and all races, this kind of junk will continue to be aired, because frankly, it's what a large segment of the black population apparently wants to see and supports with their advertising dollar.

Okay, I think I'm done now. :-)

Love and hugs,


Cynthia said...

Terrific point Diane! As long as people are willing to look the other way just to be entertained, television execs will air whatever they feel necessary to get ratings. Sponors, as a result, go where the cash is.

We need to get over the fact that BET is still around. They will be as long as the greater segment of the urban community is around. So there's no real point in going after the network (though the temptation is most definitely there).

Malik said...

No no no no Diane. Hip-Hop, to take one relevant example, didn't become the phenomenon it is because of the support of Black folks alone. Even if every single Black person between the ages of 12 and 40 was a die-hard mainstream hip-hop fan, that market segment is far too small to generate the kind of revenue that BET gets. Some kinds of all kinds of people love this garbage. Again, the market is global. But, it's up to us to Black folks to fight back against it. And I'm going to think on the best way to do that...

Andre said...

@ Diane/Cyn: One of the common mistakes that people make regarding their impression of BET is that Black people are somehow the driving force behind the network's existence. After all, it's black faces you see on videos. But the reality is: black folks are not, by any stretch, the only people feeding coins into the machine. It's just that we're the ones who get associated with it.

@ Malik: Er, uh. Oops. I think you just said all that. My bad...

Joslyn said...

Good point, Malik.

For instance, there are SEVERAL shows that were #1 in Black households that were taken off the air! The show "Living Single" for example. it was hugely popular among Black audiences when it was taken off the air that the fans of the show DEMANDED one more season!

2. What about the "George Lopez" show?? Hispanics were outrages when this show was taken off the air. Here we have a family show featuring the largest minority in the US (not to mention, where else are you able to see Hispanics on TV in a postivie light?) and it was ripped off the air for another show......

The cavemen from the Geico commercials

Nuff said about that....

Aywho, I say all that to say that it takes a WHOLE lot more than "us" to keep a show on. Basically repeated what Malik and Andre said, but I use examples. :)

Black people need to fight back though...

Joslyn said...

Maybe it wasn't Geico, but you what insurance it is! "so easy, a caveman could do it."

P.S. Those commercials were HILARIOUS the first time that I saw them, but they "jumped the shark"

Andre said...

@ Jos: I think your point could've stood without tossing in the cavemen example.

And you say that I don't know when to stop...

JJM said...

I wouldn't make too big of a deal out of this. This show has almost universally been declared unfunny. It won't last more than another six episodes. At best, it will only last for one season before it gets its plug pulled.