Yes, There Are Positive Images of Black Women on Reality TV
As critics bemoan the image of the angry black woman -- perpetuated by NeNe Leakes -- on reality TV, shows that portray black women in a positive light go unpublicized.
I knew what was coming the minute after reading that NeNe Leakes and Star Jones would be joining the fourth season of Celebrity Apprentice.
It was pretty clear that with Leakes' hot head and Jones' slick mouth, the two were destined for on-screen conflict. So it is not shocking to see the Real Housewives of Atlanta star currently bad-mouthing Jones -- on TV, on the radio and so on -- to anyone who will listen, while the ex-View co-host does the same exact thing, just more eloquently.
As the two black women engage in a nasty, public back-and-forth fight to the amusement of millions, the Web has been flooded with a sea of essays about the implications of their behavior -- essays such as writer Allison Samuels' Newsweek piece "Reality TV Trashes Black Women." Samuels opines that, to the dismay of many, the "angry black woman" stereotype, perpetuated in full by Leakes, fuels the reality-TV genre.
She spoke with pioneering actress Diahann Carroll, who told her, "What I see now on television for the most part is a disgrace, as far as how we're depicted." Another pioneer, Phylicia Rashad, recalled a conversation with an NBC executive after The Cosby Show went off the air. Rashad quipped, "He said it was going to get much worse before it got better in terms of diversity. He was right."
Actress Holly Robinson Peete, who has dabbled in reality TV herself with a stint on Celebrity Apprentice, offered a more diplomatic response, noting that there are plenty of "white women acting a fool on television every night." Still, she cautioned, "But there's a balance for them. They have shows on the major networks -- not just cable and not just reality shows -- about them running companies, being great mothers and having loving relationships. We don't have enough of that."
In terms of reality television, if you're focusing only on shows like The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Celebrity Apprentice, then perhaps Robinson Peete and others are right in their claims. However, there have been more varied images of black women featured in reality TV than she or Samuels let on. Samuels did note the success of La La Vasquez's VH1 series, La La's Full Court Wedding, about the television personality's wedding to NBA player Carmelo Anthony, but that is not the only show out there that could be considered "positive."