Right now, even as I am writing this post about the new reality television special, “All My Babies Mamas,” I am conflicted as to whether I should be giving this foolishness any more attention than it deserves, which is none whatsoever. Oxygen Media is billing the show as a daring one-hour special centering around one man, his many women, and the many children he shares with them. Although Oxygen has yet to confirm, rumor has it that the show will star Carlos “Shawty Lo” Walker, best known for his hit “Dey Know” and nothing else in particular, and the 10 women with whom he has fathered 11 children. The claim was further solidified by this trailer, which was so painful to watch, that it forced me to shed a single tear and overdose on brownies. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. (See full trailer below)
The trailer is troubling. Watching the baby’s mamas battle it out and each be categorized with names like “the fighter,” “the bougie one,” “baby mama from hell”–is troubling. Watching this wannabe pimp raise his brood as he struggles to remember the kids’ names and misses his daughters’ graduations from high school to hang out with his new 19-year-old girlfriend a.k.a. future baby mama 11 is troubling. But what was more troubling for me than anything depicted in the show was this statement by Oxygen Media:
“All My Babies’ Mamas’ will be filled with outrageous and authentic over-the-top moments that our young, diverse female audience can tweet and gossip about.”
Translation: “This new black show will be so full of real-life ratchetness, tomfoolery and coonery that black women everywhere won’t be able to help but to latch onto it and spread it around like wildfire. (and if you do, we’ll be bringing you some more)”
We cringed a little when we first saw wig-pulling on The Real Housewives of Atlanta. This paled in comparison to the fist-to-cuffs conflict on Basketball Wives. By the time Love and Hip Hop rolled around, we forgot about even trying to pretend like the on-screen ladies were any more than groupies, and when Love and Hip Hop Atlanta aired, we didn’t think things could get any worse.
We were wrong. The truth is that it has, and will continue to get worse for as long as we’re willing to tune in. Right now someone is watching the trailer for All My Babies’ Mamas and wondering what they can do to capture a larger audience by outdoing it.
Bad reality shows aren’t just a black problem. The one night that I caught a little bit of an episode of Mob Wives, I couldn’t believe that what I was seeing was legal. The difference is that for every Mob Wives and Honey Boo Boo, there are 10 other television shows featuring white people that reinforce for us that those are only segments of white culture, and don’t represent the whole. Not so in black reality TV. While images of black families are underrepresented everywhere else, the networks give us more than enough air time for negative images of black folks on reality TV, and we can’t seem to get enough.
We would understand how detrimental this is if All My Babies’ Mamas were an actual sitcom. If Oxygen said “we’re going to create a fictional gold-tooth wearing, pimped out black man with 11 kids by 10 different women and put it in our line up,” I can’t begin to imagine what the angry reaction would be, but shows like All My Babies’ Mamas fly under our radar. It’s as if we’ve said that it is not okay for producers and writers to create depictions of blacks acting a fool, but it’s perfectly fine to show us acting a fool over and over again in real life.
I wish that I could blame VH1 or Bravo or Oxygen, but the only ones truly to blame are ourselves as black people for continuing to tune in. The only color the networks care about is green. They won’t put out, and the advertisers aren’t paying for what they don’t have an audience for. So instead of coordinating a large scale boycott, why not just take the much simpler solution; stop watching it. Stop tweeting about Evelyn, stop posting about Stevie J., and watch how quickly those characters disappear. If not, let’s just pull out our popcorn and don’t act shocked when the All My Babies’ Mamas spin-off All My Babies’ Daddies airs next fall, because we’ll only have ourselves to blame.
Will you be tuning in to All My Babies’ Mamas? Who’s to blame for all of the negative images in black reality tv?