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. "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...."
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:
"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."
"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...."
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.