Bravo TV, home to every housewives franchise in existence, is revisiting Atlanta. But instead of Nene finding 15 different ways to mention “The New Normal” in an episode, we have “Married to Medicine.” Debuting to the biggest ratings a premiere on Bravo has gotten since “Bethenny Getting Married” in 2010, it’s a show that in a different time, age, group of people and editing could have been a game changer. But, let’s face it, no one’s trying to make a serious docudrama about black doctors in a real life “Grey’s Anatomy.” This is “Real Housewives of Atlanta” with medical degrees.
Same brain hemorrhage, different emergency room.
The only thing different about “Married to Medicine” is that the women seem painfully aware of how black women are portrayed on reality shows, yet they all fall prey to the same soap opera editing and high drama with low-end language as every other black woman centric reality show on television.
It’s like, gasp, you’d think these shows weren’t reality at all, but heavily scripted dramas featuring histrionic personalities who are only marginally good actors, but since they’re playing exaggerated versions of themselves, it’s passable acting.
But just barely.
But the real problem here – if you see it as a problem – is that these shows are popular because black people, especially women, are craving drama, dresses, wealth, weave and escapist entertainment. And can you blame them? Every time I open a newspaper, Google up a blog or see a book on the best-seller list it’s about how horrible things are for black women. Who doesn’t want a glass of wine and to be all “Drama, take me away” to their televisions? But instead of Hollywood dreaming up the scripted TV shows of our dreams, starring the actresses we know and love, employing black writers, directors and producers, we get this mess.
Would we watch a scripted, all-black even more soap opera version of “Grey’s Anatomy” starring a cast of Jill Marie Jones, Gabrielle Union, Jada Pinkett Smith and Mo’Nique, of course we would. But do we (and those under-employed actresses) get that? No.
We get a gaggle of people who all hope for the best in a format designed to show your worst.
Once at a party in Washington, D.C. I got into a somewhat heated conversation about the failed D.C. edition of Real Housewives by a cast member. He was highly upset over the general lack of support most black people, especially blogs, had for the show while the “white” press was more open-minded. While I liked the guy, I was taken aback at the overall lack of self-awareness in this debate.
You signed up for a franchise that makes its mettle in table-flipping, drink-throwing, ego-tripping and all kinds of booties named for barnyard animals. Of course black people were more critical than the white press. They had no dog in that fight other than morbid curiosity over White House gatecrashers the Salahis. Black critics, on the other hand, have been poo-pooing black people and reality shows since Omarosa turned on Kwame during the finale of NBC’s “The Apprentice” in its first season. Now it’s all Omarosa clones. Omarosas with degrees. Omarosas without degrees. Omarosas with kids by basketball players. Junior Omarosas trapped in a house, drunk, screaming about running Los Angeles. Omarosas throwing mimosas. Omarosas versus other Omarosas.
The Pandora Box is open and what came out was a girl from Atlanta-by-the-way-of-Detroit in Louboutins who’s never heard of Booker T. Washington or W.E.B DuBois or Ida B. Wells or Shirley Chisholm, but she knows about this money she’s about to make. Sure, she tells herself, I’ll be the positive one. I’ll be the example. I’ll turn the tide. But that’s not how the game is played. The amount of control “actors” in reality shows have is minimal at best. Either accept the “crazy” edit or the “villain” edit and embrace it fully to the tune of millions or get kicked off the show for another black woman who will.
I could say “Don’t watch.” But I used to watch “The Jerry Springer Show” in college to relax after working a 19 hour course load. I know why black women watch the shows. I completely get it, although I worry about younger, more impressionable black girls who watch it. But women 25-and-up are just trying to get their soap opera on since they canceled “Generations” ten billion years ago. You work a hard job, your kids are jerks, your husband (or lack of husband) is getting on your last nerve. You just want to drink this Pinot and watch “Love & Hip Hop.” It’s cool.
But I do wonder what do you do when the creator of the negative image is you? You can blame Bravo. Blame Vh1. Blame a so-called white media that embraces our debasement. But ultimately these women know what they’re signing up for, know the risks and they do it anyway.
Have we gotten far enough as a society someone else’s garbage doesn’t make the whole dirty? That a woman screaming about being a “doctor’s wife” while exhibiting the kind of ignorance you’d expect around Hell Week while pledging the world’s most obnoxious sorority, Me Phi Me, is only representing Her Phi Her. Not you or me or anyone else? Is the onus still on black people to be model minorities in a racist society that should know better when you have a black family in the White House?
If someone thinks “Married to Medicine” represents the reality of any black man or woman in the medical profession is the burden on the cast to clean it up or on the ignorant person who thinks reality shows are really real?