On Tuesday, VH1 decided to bring an abrupt end to the first season of Sorority Sisters, the reality-TV show that has been surrounded by drama since before it even aired. While the show hasn’t been officially canceled, VH1 will air the remaining three episodes of the show back-to-back Friday night. Coincidentally, the move came on Founders Day for Delta Sigma Theta, the most heavily represented sorority on the show.
“No network with any intention of bringing a show back would make a move like this,” speculated Rodney Ho in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s not a stretch to say it’s over for Sorority Sisters.”
Maybe it’s a wrap for the show, and maybe it isn’t. But surprisingly, the apparent downfall of the show wasn’t met with universal celebration, especially among populations that are not members of black Greek-letter organizations. There is a not-so-subtle feeling among some that BGLOs have been frivolous and/or selfish and/or hypocritical by throwing their weight around over Sorority Sisters.
“So black sororities have the power to pull a show from VH1?” wrote Instagram user i_ms_carter. “What an incredible waste of time and energy.”
Another Instagram user, shorty.courtney, added: “It really does seem as if this mattered to people because of the BGLO aspect. The same individuals will gladly watch Basketball Wives with no remorse when the result is the same: women of color acting like ghetto trash.”
And finally, from blackgurlinc, also on Instagram: “This is black classism at its best.”
I get it—sort of. In general, I didn’t find Sorority Sisters to be all that bad in comparison with other VH1 shows specifically or reality TV in general. I mean, no bottles were thrown, which I admit is a pretty low standard, but also a benchmark of achievement, given the medium. Still, I see why no one in a sorority would want her organization affiliated with the show. If your selling points are sisterhood and service, Sorority Sisters wasn’t that—by far.
But like many others, I do wonder, where was the fired-up rallying cry and drum beating of opposition for all the other reality shows that portrayed black women in an unfavorable light? Sorority Sisters wasn’t the first and won’t be the last. But because it featured a “certain population” of black women, all of a sudden there’s a massive uproar? Is the “Oh, hell no!” button pushed only for college-educated black women who rock letters, or is it activated for the negative images of black women on television at large?
It’s a worthy question and a worthy issue.
Perhaps VH1’s Sorority Sisters was doomed even before it really began. Filming for the Atlanta-based reality series about members of BGLOs was already under way when a teaser leaked in June. Many viewers “hated it,” to use the infamous words of Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather from In Living Color. The most common complaint was that the show’s participants were something akin to fame-seeking women denigrating black history in general and BGLOs specifically. A petition calling for the show not to air began and quickly racked up more than 40,000 signatures.
In December, Sorority Sisters debuted. Twitter followers were merciless in their “critiques” (actually more like a dragging). Members of BGLOs were livid. Advertisers witnessed the online melee and bailed left and right. Still, the VH1 show rolled on, even bringing the cast mates to New York in a town hall of sorts to address the backlash.
Now the show may be over. So will all the Sorority Sister haters now go after the other reality shows that continue to portray black women negatively?
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. Follow her on Twitter.