It is not often I read a perspective that just stops me in my tracks. Charing Ball, writing for Madame Noire, manages to do that quite often, and this time is no exception.  The woman is fearless, and this topic, while taboo for many, is one that needed to be broached.

Are Gay Men the New “Mammies” of Reality Television?

Yes, they are, says Ms. Ball. And she explains why with stark clarity and without apology:

Heck, I’ll even go as far as to say that the gay black man has become the new housemaid “Mammy” to these women’s Scarlett O’Haras. Think about it for a second: Most of these gay characters harken back to a time in cinematic history where the white rich women in the antebellum South needed their “sexually non-threatening ” black female maids to nurture and basically make them feel good about themselves. If the black maids weren’t “fussin’” after the mistress of the house, making sure her dress fitted properly and her hair was tight, she was in the kitchen, dancing, smiling and singing Go Down Moses as she whipped up for her mistress a big ole’ mess of her famous fried chicken and sweet potato puddin’. The gay male characters of today act very much in the same vain. But instead of shucking and jiving for the approval, and favor of rich white women, these gay best friend characters trade on their non-sexual “companionship” for heterosexual legitimacy.

But she doesn’t stop there. Continuing to call these women out for the master/slave relationship many seem to foster with their gay sidekicks, she doesn’t shy away from what the relationship is being marketed as in the contemporary narrative:

[They are] quintessential gay manservants.  These men do everything: furnish apartments, do hair and makeup, personal shop for clothing, carry purses and luggage and act as a shoulder to cry on.  In most of these situations, we know nothing about the gay black man other than that he is sharp-tongued, stereotypically effeminate, and basically says “Gurl” and “Chile” a lot. Oh, and he is a loyal worker to his woman. Evelyn Lozada had one to help run her TV shoe “store.”  Tyra Banks had an army battalion of gay men to help her weed through her search for the next top model. And on the “Housewives” series (pick one, any one), there are, like, 2.5 gay sidekicks to every female character, doing makeup, training them at the gym, and tossing their wigs for them. It’s like the gay sidekick has become hot new accessory on reality TV – like the new pocket dog or a Louis Vuitton knockoff.

The barely sheathed hypocrisy and passive prejudice is all brought to light here. Particularly, when Ms. Ball notes that rarely, if ever, will you see these women with lesbian sidekicks — because it’s just not the “in” thing to do.

Weigh in, Clutchettes: Do you think gay black men are the new “mammies” of reality television?

  • Carl

    Much like the Mammy was a neutered, passive, extension of their white charges, the representation on Reality TV of black gay men is indeed parallel in their treatment by the media. In this respect I can agree with Ms. Ball’s assessment. However, Ms. Ball is not addressing the REAL issue here, the failure of media to represent the breadth of a class of human beings. Just as in earlier times, the images of African Americans are engineered to elicit a particular response to create ideals for African American identities: angry black women, devoid of civilty, predatory black men who are a sexual threat, hypermasculine black lesbians that emulate the predatory “nature” of their male counterparts, and prissy, bitchy, black “queens” that have absolutely no redeeming qualities. These images serve to corral the views perspectives and provide a narrow, one dimensional understanding on a whole race of people. The subtext of her writing, in my opinion, says she actually buys into the stereotypes of black gay men. Very Sad indeed. Mammies were a tool of opression… So is the modern black gay “queen”.

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