Serial Bastardy As Entertainment
Black blogger Nick Chiles is properly put out over an upcoming Oxygen network reality series, “All My Babies’ Mamas,” in which the program follows the adventures of a 31-year-old black-rapper sleazebag in Chicago, the 10 women who have borne his children, and those 11 kids. Chiles:
As our culture continues to pull us down the slippery slope into global irrelevancy, so thoroughly numbing our intellects and ambitions that we hardly even notice as we slip into the comfortable cloak of a has-been, former superpower, anthropologists will one day point to Shawty Lo (aka Carlos Walker) and “All My Babies’ Mamas” as the cultural nadir of America, the moment when we ceased to have a functioning moral compass, when we began to accept any bit of disgusting behavior as okay, as reasonable, as long as it entertained us. This cultural moment happened to coincide with the moment when we became so infatuated with the power of man-made killing machines that we chose to covet them above the lives of precious little first graders—the moments came at the same time, but they were no coincidence. They were both of a piece, the instant when we lost touch with our appreciation for each other’s humanity, when we chose frivolous entertainment—whether in the guise of video games where we blow each other away for sport or reality shows where we revel in the ignorance and vacuity of uneducated ghetto morons—over the upliftment and repair of the American experiment.
To someone committed to the black family, who has spent a good part of his career fighting to improve the image and perception of black men, this all feels like a sticky gob of spit in my face.
It must be so easy, sitting in a cushy office somewhere in Los Angeles or Manhattan, to glibly nod yes on the decision to profit off the exploitation of the ignorance that poverty and oppression produced. Of course it’s even easier when it’s some unfortunate black wretches, whose lives are so far from the good-white-folks gentility of these producers, Liz Gateley and Tony DiSanto, and the executive Cori Abraham. So far away, so grotesque, so different, so damn entertaining—and if it happens to once again proffer to the world the handy image of black pathology as entertainment? Oh well.
I’m sure Oxygen wouldn’t take a camera and follow around a mentally challenged young white man so that we could laugh our asses off as he stumbles into goofy predicaments. But to black folks, it feels like that’s exactly what they are doing here. Laughing at ignorance. Making a buck off the unfortunate life circumstances of others.
Nick, Nick, Nick, where have you been? Have you not seen “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”? Are you not aware of “Buckwild”? Was “Jersey Shore” off your radar? Have you never seen an episode of “Jerry Springer” or “Maury”? Come on. Reality-show minstrelsy has been with us for some time now — and it’s an equal-opportunity exploiter.
For that matter, though I completely agree with you about the vile, exploitative nature of this kind of entertainment, is it only bad when white people do it to black people? Is it not incredibly degrading when popular black musicians celebrate black people as oversexed, violent, and materialistic? Why does making a buck off the moral weakness of certain black people (and, in the bargain, valorizing the kind of behavior that produces cretins like Shawty Lo, his consorts, and their offspring) not offend you when black people do it?
Again, I’m totally with you on what this represents for our overall culture. But if you’re going to take a shot at Oxygen (which absolutely deserves it), consistency demands that you aim wider, and reload often.