When Newton Minnow stated that television was a wasteland in his speech to the National Association of Broadcasters on May 9, 1961, he probably didn’t expect it to be as it is today. Now that Minnow is in his 80s, I wonder if he reluctantly gloats in the fact that he was right when he originally spoke these words more than 40 years ago. Today, television has been taken over, practically suffocated, by reality television shows, where the worst in human nature are put on display for the world to see.
As a mass communications major, I’ve taken a number of classes about media history and diversity. In these classes, the media is often criticized for its exclusion of certain groups of people. However, it can be argued that various groups of the populous are represented in the media, particularly in reality television. The producer of many of these shows seem to be content finding individuals willing to demean themselves for entertainment, often displaying negative stereotypes in the process. No race or gender is immune to these representations. Women seem to be the worst recipients of these images.
In a world where there are differences even within a race, reality show producers seem to find African-American women who are loud and obnoxious. It’s not the image of the strong, black women who has pride in herself. It is women who are just showing off for entertainment’s sake. A prime example of this negative stereotype was on full display on VH1’s “Flavor of Love.” On this show, Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav gets to pick from bevy of ghetto fabulous women. Another show that showcases the worst in African-American womanhood is the show called “The Bad Girls Club.” As an African-American woman, I was embarrassed to see a clip of a full-figured black woman banging a pan in the house over something minor. It is as if people still enjoy minstrel shows.
African American women are not the only beneficiaries of negative stereotypes. If we are to believe what we see on reality television, Caucasian women also lack impulse control. They are often portrayed as women who drink too much, can’t keep their clothes on, or will have sex with anything that has a pulse and in some cases inanimate things. Every season, shows like “Big Brother” always seems to find the white women who fit this stereotype. Not to mention the dating shows like “The Bachelor” and VH1’s “Rock of Love” makes them seem desperate. The cast of “Rock of Love” is a mixture of botoxed nymphs and women who look like they were once groupies in the 1980’s when Brett Michael was still travelling with his heavy metal group Poison.
I try not to be critical of things I’ve never seen. Honestly, after five minutes of most of these shows, I have to turn the channel because I can’t take the stupidity and insipid women who choose to make themselves into caricatures for publicity. As time goes on, I watch less and less television because I refuse to watch the continual parade of negative stereotypes perpetuated on the small screen. I miss the days of well-written dramas and sitcoms.