ColorLines‘ Akiba Solomon offers the perspective of “a professional observer of race and pop culture” on what the two very different series actually have in common.
“Basketball Wives“ and “Girls“ deploy casual racism:
On “Fantasy Island,“ last night’s episode of “Basketball Wives,“ resident party girl Suzie Ketchum repeatedly asks if the indigenous people of Tahiti are “still cannibals.“ While her cast-mates dismiss her question, the producers are sure to reinforce her racist air-headedness by showing a group of Tahitian dancers and singers trailing “the girls“ all the way to their suites.
Meanwhile in Episode 2 of “Girls,“ “Vagina Panic,“ Hannah’s sadistic lover Adam tells her he wants to “make the f[–]ing continent of Africa on your arm“ before pulling out and ejaculating.
In modern American entertaiment, this tired brand of racism is designed to show how empty headed, vile or irreverent some white characters are. Of course, this character exposition comes at the expense of the people of color they invoke. I’m thinking of Suzie’s “cannibals“ and Adam’s Africa-shaped ejaculate as an exponent of the Magical Negro. But instead of existing to enhance the spiritual lives and happiness of the white folks, Suzie’s and Adam’s chosen people are there to establish them as antiheroes. It’s a cheap trick.
“Basketball Wives“ and “Girls“ reinforce the idea that women are shallow.
On “Basketball Wives,“ middle aged black and brown mothers schedule brunches, lunches and island getaways for the express purpose of abusing one another physically and mentally. They dog each other out in their confessionals, build alliances based on slick talk, and lay the groundwork for confrontations in public places. It baffles me how four seasons into this top-rated display of luxury minstrelsy, the characters still pretend that the irrational anger and self-regard of professional reality star Tami Roman and the meanness and self-righteousness of Evelyn Lozada aren’t active ingredients.
Read Akiba Solomon’s entire piece at ColorLines.