The Portrayal of Black Women on Reality Television - Part 2

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Wendy Johnson PhD

Wendy Johnson PhD

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What does the representation of Black women on reality TV suggest about Black women as a whole?

Here’s where the problem lies. It is only inevitable with multiple reality shows portraying Black women as jezebels, mammies, sapphires and tragic mulattos, audiences will walk away believing this to be a true representation of Black women. And those images transfer into how Black women are viewed and treated in their everyday lives. There is also an unfortunate void of Black women in television (and films), which eliminates what would be an otherwise balance. If shows similar to “Living Single” existed for every three reality shows, Black women wouldn’t at least be portrayed as one-dimensional. Ideally, marginalized groups would have an array of options on television to depict our diverse stories. Perhaps if Black shows with nuance were prevalent we would be able defy the constant negative representations we see throughout reality TV, but diverse characterizations of Black women are solely lacking.

With 3 million viewers, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” has the highest ratings of the Real Housewives franchise. Anderson Cooper, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are a few of the White celebrities who have publicly professed their love for the RHOA. Every time one of my White counterparts uses colloquialisms such as “Ya know what I mean?” or “Oh no he didn’t” and other ridiculous phrases they assume Black women use. Is this the result of reality television. What about the impressions these shows are giving young girls who are watching? Yes, they are watching. Do we want them and society to internalize what these images say about Black women?

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