Married to Medicine, Divorced from Reality

by Danielle C. Belton


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-flippingdrink-throwingego-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?

  • seritatheresa

    “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 absolutely would. See “Dancing in September”. The non-Black influence on African American television programming is very influential in creating crap, but the way we consume it suggests to them that that’s what we want. Then, as one Clutchette so eloquently pointed out, anyone who expresses a negative opinion is called a hater (See every criticism of anything made by Tyler Perry).

  • seritatheresa

    American popular culture began with black spectacle. When working class white people couldn’t afford to see high art the minstrel shows became a means of safely experiencing authentic Blackness. With the creation of these show were the creation of different archetypes which can be seen manifested in some form or the other in almost every form of Black entertainment.

  • AnnT

    “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.”

    I laughed because it’s funny..I cried because I see too much truth it the statement.

  • Lissa

    I see a lot of reality shows with white Americans on bravo behaving the same way why are bringing down black ppl from your country….these shows are based on drama that is the ratings…it’s not greys anatomy which had a lot if drama too with multiple sex partners , breakups fights etc…you seem to have a complex against race.

  • Pseudonym

    Seriously. There are how many of these “Read Housewives” franchises? and of all those, there is only one that stars black women? So how are black women the face of trashy reality television when you have fighting, drink throwing, rampant alcoholism, etc. going on in Orange County, Beverly Hills, Miami, New York, and even Vancouver…is that even all of them? Trashy housewives acting up on television is NOT a black thing.

  • J. Nicole of UrbanExpressive

    I’ve never watched any of these “reality shows”, and find it easier to just tune it out. But I’m confused on this sites stance on it since for as many articles there have been calling these shows out for its foolishness, there have been others reporting on personal aspects of their lives; as was the case today.

    I’ll stand by my convictions continue to not support any of these shows.

  • omfg

    when i visit my mother’s house, i may watch one episode of rhoa, and then maybe only 15 mins. i don’t watch television at my house.

    i feel like watching those shows only lets more stress and drama into my life. i have enough of that and i’m not interested in being an observer of others’. why do i wanna watch people argue and fuss and fight all the time?

    i wish people would just let this stuff go.

  • AnGe – Stubbornly Indecisive

    Right even in the LHH franchise and BGC, there is a pretty even distribution of ratched. The casts include numerous white and hispanic leading ladies so I’m not getting the focus on just black behavior

  • Pseudonym

    I think it’s more b/c black women watch RHOA and not the other shows and black blogs and people who comment on black blogs like to make every problem a “black” problem. Reality shows, cheating men, crime, fried chicken…all things experienced by almost all cultures, but within the black blogosphere, they’re made to seem like a “black thing” to further explain why black people are supposedly so screwed up.

    How about black people, media, and blogs stop letting our most ratchet and ignorant counterparts be the representatives of blackness. If we want everyone else to stop doing this we must be the first to make that change. Starting with stop letting 4 reality shows define or threaten black womanhood.

  • Lillian Mae

    The writer is right; these shows continue to be made bc folks crave drama! I don’t do reality TV bull$hit bc it’s far from reality. I can’t take them seriously.

  • Vanessa F. Church

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. The writer is talented, insightful and totally on point! I agree wholeheartedly with this summation.

  • SimoneL

    There is a thin line nowadays between entertainment and making a mockery out of women. The most drama I can take nowadays is watching Scandal; I don’t watch any of the reality shows because sadly, many of us normal women are viewed to have the qualities of these modern day minstrels.

  • Cocochanel31

    My Dr. best friends said she can’t support this mess. She said REAL doctor’s are in too much debt to be trying to live some high life like these characters are living lol.

  • RJ

    @Pseudonym – the reality is this. The white women on these shows are not seen as being representative of white women. As a matter of fact they are seen as the exception and many in the white community laugh at them

    But we do not have a myriad of images of Black women and the negativity exhibited by these women is seen as the norm of black women.

    Unfortunately, for our community the image of Michelle Obama is overrun by these women who to me are extremely wounded souls walking around in these Frankenstein platform designer shoes with their phony hair and phony presentation of life.

    If there was ever a time that we as a community needed true reality it is now.

    In 2008 Dr. Cosby sounded the bell and things have just gotten worse from there.

    We really need to reboot our culture and our thinking. That does not mean that we all think the same thing but we should realize that this childish acting out on reality shows are not just influencing children and teens, but adults as well.

  • Courtney**

    “Not sure why Tyler Perry gets thrown under the bus so often. I think it’s because he is black and male.”

    … no. Just, no. If you don’t get it and you honestly think THAT’S the reason, then there’s no point even trying to explain it to you.

  • pinklipstick227

    I also love how people ignore the fact that this reality show does have balance. The actual doctors on the show, who are black, balance out the rachetness of the “doctors wives.” People love to gloss over the positive images of black women and focus solely on the negativity. If I spent every day thinking about white people think about black women as a whole, I would go crazy. Instead, I choose to focus on my personally development and self-determination.

  • everythingl

    Thing is, you can’t give people the option of “crap” or mildly better “crud,” then blame them for choosing “crud.” Black women tune into Scandal voraciously. If it’s good, we’ll watch it. But we don’t get great options. So when we settle for something that’s somewhat entertaining (because even WE like fluff entertainment) we’re told that this is all we want to see.

    I must say, though, that I can’t watch shows like RHOA and Basketball Wives because they give me a mild headache and sick feeling in my stomach when I see them.

  • everythingl

    My favorite book in the world is “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks” by Donald Bogle. Talks ALL about this. When the economy is bad and societal stability is threatened, black people as buffoons is all you see in media because it is comforting to WHITE people. Nothing is coincidence.

  • everythingl

    Those are my thoughts EXACTLY. Why in the world would you want to watch people yelling and screaming at each other? It’s polluting and unsettling. When you add the fact that black women suffer in our day to day lives having to fight these negative stereotypes, I just can’t understand the appeal at all.

  • AnnT

    That was my textbook in undergrad. I learned so much from that book.

  • Ads

    A point in favor of stupid tv – i used to work on human trafficking, i now work on human and labor rights in central america, where i deal with coups d’etats, sweatshops, and banana workers killed for speaking out on the job. I can’t handle 20/20, law and order, etc – give me some game of thrones/ true blood/ spartacus life in another time/ universe, or give me some phaedra, oc, beverly hills, mental equivalent of fritos. Yes, i realize, when typing comments like these, that im contributing to a media culture that supports all of this ridiculousness, capitalist excess, racist stereotypes, misogyny, etc….. But i guess in the few hrs i have not at work or runnibg the 2nd shift, i need a little brainless stupidity to flow over me.
    Any suggestions on where we could find frivolous entertainment that isnt racist/misogynist/consumerist, but nonetheless fun?

  • Kam

    I mean, you can’t do yoga or something? Read a book? Paint?

  • The Other Jess

    “The essence of power is the ability to define someone’s reality and make them live according to that definition”.

    Black women acting out for money and living ratchet-ly according to other racist people’s definition.

  • dorothymantooth

    I don’t think anyone would believe reality shows are “real,” for me it is a fun-break from my own reality. I liked the first episode and even though this is an Atlanta clone there are a lot of different personalities to keep me interested. I work late at DISH, and Married to Medicine will become one of those shows my co-workers and I will end up talking about. I was skiing with friends and missed the premiere episode. There is always a ton of traffic leaving the mountains, and while my friend drove I was able to instantly watch this show with DISH Anywhere on my iPad. With this app, I have access to all my favorite recorded shows on my Hooper. I like that I can watch them whenever I want, so everywhere I go it’s like being at home.

  • Sharon Lowd

    Oh Danielle Belton, where have you been for the past week? Finally, something to say that was refreshing and intelligent. THANKS!!!

  • Sharon Lowd

    Did you just get in a free plug for your employer?

  • http://msn Mary Foster

    I agree 100 percent! And I am a black woman…

  • dtafakari

    Precisely. I don’t have cable and I don’t care about these people. Ultimately, if you don’t agree with it, don’t watch. Put your money (Nielsen ratings) where your mouth is and help get the shows cancelled.

  • Complicated SisterjustMe

    “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.”

    No it’s not cool. If you hate these powerful images that debase us then supporting them by watching them ( which provides ad revenue for the shows) simply isn’t cool. You can’t complain about something and simultaneously support it. Well you can but it’s pretty hypocritical to do so.

  • cosmicsistren

    @Ads – Billy on the street is hilarious. It s a game show on the streets of NYC. He grabs people off the street and they play silly games. If you win you might get a stack of paper, or something equally stupid. It is mindless entertainment that has me cracking up every time I watch it. Its on the Fuse network.

  • Tiff

    I agree!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I personally know one of the housewives in ATL – Nene Leakes & their lifestyle is far from being the truth…but it is what it is. Some of these women want money so bad that they will do anything to get it. I hope they are saving their money instead of spending it on everything they want, because they will soon be broke!

  • Melba Searcy

    My thing is they are just doctors. They aren’t Nobel Prize Recipients. These women are acting like their husbands are something more than what they are.

  • Maria

    Its for GROWN ADULTS, I dont see anyone complaining about MOB WIVES

  • 4Change

    Hello Danielle, I am just reading the article you penned and I think you have nailed it. Your article echoes the sentiments of many professional African American women. Great observation on your part.

  • 4Change

    The women in MOB wives do not necessarily face the same societal challenges that Black women face. Many Black women have struggled hard to secure their positions, raise their children, and to establish a positive legacy, only to be categorized [unfairly] as the stereotypical angry black woman because of the trash reality shows of Basketball Wives, Love & Hip Hop, The Gossip Game, RHOA, and now Married to Medicine. With the economic power Black women possess, why can’t there be more Shonda Rhimes clones….or even more powerful & influential decision makers transforming the landscape of television with powerful dramas geared towards successful Black women….or just Black women in general. With the likes of Ursula Burns as the CEO of Xerox, and Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, and Dr. Ruth J. Simmons (former President of Brown University), and the legacy of Mae Jemison, Daisey Bates, Shirley Chisholm, Dr. Dorothy Height, and sooooooo many others, who in the world wants to see our rich legacy tainted with this modern day minstrel crap? That’s why the Mob wives is not a factor in this debate. – - These are just my thoughts and you may disagree.

  • Katie Irene

    Wonderful! Intelligently and extremely well thought out and clearly stated. You have expressed my sentiments. Thanks, thanks.

  • Katie Irene

    Danielle, this is the most refreshing article I have read regarding these foolish reality programs where African American women permit themselves to be so deminished. What has happened to us? Is Atlanta now the home of empty mindless Black women?
    That city held so much promise for us at one time. What happened?
    Thanks so much for your accurate observation.

  • Ladydivadynasty

    I agree with you summary of Married to Medicine and Bravo’s Housewives series in general, but, I am curious how did the one Black cast member of the DC housewives fit into the Omerosa stereotype?

  • MahimaN

    I think that last question is a great one and I wonder what the answer is as a woman of color and a professional. I lean towards the belief that the doctors on the show are role models whether they want to be or not and should set good examples. I did just watch part 1 of the reunion and I can’t describe the crappy feeling it gave me.

  • Evonne

    I just watched part 1 of the reunion and Mariah is a hateful, messy, immature, and ignorant individual. She’s mad at Toya for making a true statement behind closed doors about her daughter being adopted! There was nothing malicious about that. Mariah was the one that leaked that information to the world when she allowed her sister to talk about it on national television. Mariah could have edited that conversation and cut it from being showcased. So she and her sister are responsible for putting her personal information in the streets. I’m disgusted with Mariah and her puppet Quad. They can both learn a lot from Kari, Toya, Jackie and Simone if they shut their mouths and turn their brains on. If there is a next season I’d like to see both Mariah and Quad eliminated. I’m proud of Toya and how she stands up to both Mariah and Quad. The other ladies are smart and classy. Mariah and Quad are proof that “you can take a person out of the ghetto but you can’t always take the ghetto out of the person!”

  • Cassie

    Ms. Belton, what a good post you wrote….I think you certainly laid out the moral argument, but I am still stuck on why any of these women would want to do this show. Honestly, it escapes me-the doctors certainly don’t need the money or exposure, I am sure. The other women really aren’t doing anything positive for themselves or their husbands. I doubt the money is really an issue because Bravo has a reputation of not paying well. I understand why Mariah Huq is involved: ego, ego, ego. But Kari and Toya really don’t seem as driven for the attention as much as either Mariah and Quad. Even Quad can’t have wanted the grotesque image she has created for herself I agree with MahimaN that the reunion certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth, but it also highlights beautifully why these types of shows are so destructive. Nothing was accomplished except for an implosion among the cast. The aftertaste of the bile slinging makes it much easier not to watch any more of this drivel.

  • Serita

    So sad. Same drama, fights, and embarrassment. Modern-day coonery in my opinion.

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