I grew up in front of the television. If I didn’t have sports practice or some club meeting after school, I was clocking TV hours from 3:30pm until bedtime. I still got my homework done, but the TV was always on. A friendly voice in the background. I’m thankful I grew up at a time when having the TV on 24/7 just meant catching more episodes of The Cosby Show, A Different World, Fresh Prince, Martin, Living Single and the like. Lord help me if I had those habits in today’s age of television. My mother was and is a big TV watcher, too. And my grandmother still has her kitchen TV, along with one for the living room and each bedroom in the house.

So when I came across an article “Black is Beautiful” on Multichannel News yesterday detailing “Why Female African-American Viewers Are So Hot,” and dropping facts like African Americans watch 40% more television than any other ethnic group, and African American women even more so with an average of 25 hours a month, out-watching all women demographics, I wasn’t surprised.

When it comes to African American women, the article quotes TV One CEO Wonya Lucas as saying that, “Television plays a very important role in their lives. TV is more than just a companion. It’s how they gain knowledge and a place where they can see themselves in different situations that enrich their lives and engages them. That equals a valuable audience.”

So what does it say about us that our current companions are Basketball Wives, Singles Ladies and Real Housewives of Atlanta? All shows that continue to rank high in the ratings and have warranted networks to take note and start dishing out more of “what we want.” I know, I know, we’ve talked about this before, they’re “just guilty pleasures.” But really though, why is watching chicks pull each other’s hair out over being jump-offs to each other’s dudes entertaining? I know, I know, “it’s not that deep, it’s TV.” But really, though, it is…

Know Our Worth—the Networks Do
The article goes on to detail how African American women are an emerging market of affluent decision-makers and quote a few VPs of networks who are eager to listen to what we’re talking about and put it on the small screen. The way these execs are talking, if we made watching paint dry the new trend, they’d be all over it. The thing is, it’s all a bottom line for them. For us, it’s a little more personal—it’s our image and public identity. Remember when we got called Welfare Queens in the 80s? That imagery infiltrated national discourse and dictated policy that affected real lives. Not TV ones.

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  • Joan

    Am I the only one who feels a little embarrassed that we (black women) reportedly watch 40% more tv than any other ethnic group? I can’t help but think that instead of being proud of that fact, maybe we need to look at the possibility of it contributing to other problems in our community? Many of us are overweight, suffer from depression…many of us overspend and don’t know our worth (thinking we can buy it in a store because of what we or someone else has seen on tv). Now, I’m not saying that our tv-watching has caused all of the problems in the black community. I’m saying that with all of the negative things we are told correlate with excessive television watching, is this something that should make us feel proud and powerful? I don’t mean to bring everyone down, but I feel sad when I think about that finding. It makes me wonder if we should put more energy into living healthy and more fulfilling lives and less into watching others’ lives (real and fake) on television. I’m including myself in this.