VH1 and Mona Scott-Young cranked out their latest reality television venture last night. “The Gossip Game” chronicles the supposed lives of hip-hop’s revered radio personalities, magazine editors, freelance writers and bloggers. I’ve been on a reality television-free diet, choosing to digest healthful images of communities of color instead of driving ratings for networks. However, I tuned into “The Gossip Game” with high expectations. It seemed like an appropriate cheat for this diet since I’m writer with a vested interest in seeing other women of color prosper in media. I left the 60-minute cat-fight extremely disappointed.
Si’Lai Abrams, creator of “Truth in Reality,” posed a cogent question as I vented on social media.
The roster of cast members led me to believe this show would be different. I was expecting a depiction of these women as bosses, balancing their personal lives and the grind of hip-hop journalism. Angela Yee and K.Foxx are helming influential radio shows on historic stations. Kim Osorio is one of the masters of the magazine game and she has survived all of the pitfalls. Jasfly’s pen game is incredible.
They’ve grinded to the top of the hip-hop journalism field and earned respect from up-and-comers as well as established veterans. None of what makes these women role models was depicted. Instead, these marvelous ladies, including bloggers Vivian and Ms. Drama, were showcased as conflict-centered instead of business-driven. Their multifaceted lives were overshadowed by manufactured drama. The audience didn’t see the hustle of journalism outside of Jasfly blindsiding Yee and K.Foxx for interviews (something most reporters never do). We watched “Love & Hip Hop” for hip-hop journalists.
Vivian balances a 9-to-5 gig with a booming gossip blog. VH1 could’ve showcased that. Osorio runs one of the most prominent hip-hop magazines while raising three children and sustaining a successful marriage. The dynamics of balance would’ve been nice to see in her storyline instead of her husband’s berating of women’s intelligence. K.Foxx is a premiere radio personality with ambition and agency. Her reality TV character seems easily manipulated and incapable of forming independent thoughts.
“The Gossip Game” was supposed to be different. It should’ve had elements of inspiration because the women featured are successful, hardworking and instrumental in progressing hip-hop journalism forward. That’s not what was shown and I don’t fault the cast for the image aired. They are simply pawns in a larger corporate structure.
VH1 and Scott-Young’s formula depicts women of color as fighting, cussing, head-bashing monoliths instead of the complex creatures we are. We don’t exist on a binary of “ratchet” or “respectable,” but reality television boxes women into either/or categories by editing content to suit false storylines.
Editing is the crux of my beef with Scott-Young and the other shot-callers. Often, reality television starlets, including Chrissy Lampkin of “Mr. and Mrs. Jones,” argue that what is broadcast is not the full scope of the story. But the executive producers and editors craft scenes to transform real-life interactions into plot-lines. Every season of every reality television show has a villain, a protagonist, an underdog and floozies. I’ve already pinpointed these stereotypes on “The Gossip Game.”
This is not accidental or “just how television works.” It is intentional, harmful and the reason why I’m saving my hour next Tuesday.