Yes Exploitation in Love & Hip Hop Atlanta Lives By Votes.

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( The premieres of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta and Hollywood Exes has the Black blogosphere once again all a buzz about the degradation of Black women and the need for better programming to show more positive images of the Black community. The tipping point to this latest round of we need to do better discussion is a petition being circulated asking VH1 to stop with the coonery and broadcast something more respectable. The woman behind the petition defends her social activism saying we need to un-enroll ourselves from MMU (mass media university). The commentary response to the petition has been interesting and different. There’s the profound piece I first saw at Clutch and then again on Black Voices by Kirsten West Savali defending people’s right to watch trash while also deriding that trash and examining the larger problems belying the communities these shows are set to represent. Then there’s the take at Colorlines imparting sympathy for these women who have become victims of economic exploitation and a music industry that leaves them with no recourse but to sell their souls to the highest cable bidder.

All the articles offer solutions for the apparent problem of negative images of Black women on television. They include but are not limited to:

  • Rejecting the Image
  • Doing more than Imparting Individual Morality
  • Community Activism
  • Somehow getting Black Women to have More Power in Programming Decisions
  • Marrying Social Consciousness with Entertainment
  • Rejecting Degrees from MMU

While all the writers offer different variants of these solutions none of them advocates for these programs to be taken off the air. It is a position I advocate for against the first amendment right to free speech. Shows get taken off the air for different reasons all the time. Girlfriends wasn’t unsuccessful when it was cancelled. Neither was The Game. Both shows were removed from the CW lineup in favor of a more teen themed line-up. VH1 deciding to cancel the  wildly popular shows has a slim chance of happening, but if it did would be excused by some corporate line of changing directions as the network said  they were doing with the roll out of Fantasia For Real and What Chili Wants to placate the naysayers after one too many seasons of I Love ______ (insert somebody on the D List). ( Love & Hip Hop Atlanta )

But even if VH1, Bravo, and other networks don’t remove the negative shows voluntarily doesn’t mean they can’t be removed from our consciousness forever. What the writers of the aforementioned articles mention only in passing is the business of media. Savali breaks it down the best citing the stellar ratings of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta. But just as stellar ratings keep programs on the air, less than stellar ratings are wont to incite immediate changes. Don’t believe me? Just ask Ann Curry.

What everyone who loves these shows, hates these shows or is indifferent to these shows must remember is they are a voting member of the viewing public. If you watch you are voting with your remote to keep these shows on the air. If you don’t watch you are voting with your remote to keep these shows off the air. If you are a fair weather viewers networks are trying to entice you to watch these shows by mixing together a barrage of clips hoping you hang on to one and vote an affirmative yes and become a consistent viewer or an affirmative no and choose something else. ( Love & Hip Hop Atlanta )

Your vote in the media is almost as important as your vote in an election. Just like you pick and choose in which direction you want your country to go and under what leadership, you pick and choose what representations of life you’d like to see on TV and how often. ( Love & Hip Hop Atlanta )

As a voting republic people have to believe in a cause to vote for or against it. With the Today show viewers voted Ann Curry off the morning program. The definitive vote being when Good Morning America after 16 years of coming in second finally beat Today. If people want to see Basketball Wives, Love & Hip Hop, Real Housewives of Atlanta and other such shows gone they have to vote them off the air. ( Love & Hip Hop Atlanta )

Yes, these shows are exploitive, but that’s not enough to make a network not want to create the cheap thrills and high profits they provide. Yes, these shows take advantage of the vulnerable; enhancing underlying conditions already there and turning everyday problems into high life dramas to entertain swaths of the viewing voting republic with quick edits and potted audio during explosive verbal fights. Yes, these shows ignore the change agent voices of the few, the fringe in this regard, to please the many who say “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme More.”

I am tired of trying to rationalize why we all continue to watch the trash we choose to watch. Entertainment, blog research, cultural criticism, whatever the reason given to justify the viewing vote does not matter. We’re still voting. It doesn’t make sense to vote for something only to turn around and be dissatisfied by receiving what you asked for. After four or five seasons you already know what you will receive when you turn to a network and a reality tv show comes on. ( Love & Hip Hop Atlanta )

As much as I love the debate about the shows, the criticism about how such shows impact the representation of Black women in the world, the discussion of body image and self worth, materialism, co-dependency and the effects on our young girls, I’m tired of the pose.

It really is as simple as don’t watch. If enough people stop watching there won’t be anything left to watch and our communities for the most part will be no worse for the wear. ( Love & Hip Hop Atlanta )

These shows did not create the underlying issues they exploit. They highlighted them. People didn’t just start trying to keep up with the Joneses it’s been happening for years. Since even before The Jeffersons. Keeping up is not something that was created by Nene and crew. Likewise, the baby-mama, single mother, jumpoff, street hustler turned rapper, pimp role is not something that just sprang to life with Momma Dee or Nancy Jones, Lil’ Scrappy or the countless women who have babies by but no Mrs. added to their personal resume. ( Love & Hip Hop Atlanta )

These issues have existed long before these shows premiered and will continue to exist afterwards unless we take all the talk of community activism, individual and communal morality and put it to work in votes. Vote with the remote, vote with your ballot and initiate the change you’d like to see on your TV and in your community by being selective with what you elect to see and be seen and by who you elect to incite progress in the country by refusing to let the nation regress past a point of any possible recovery.

Exploitation has a limitation. It begins and ends with the way you vote.

What’s Your Vote on Reality TV?

Staff Writer; Nikesha Leeper

To connect with this sister feel free to visit; Change Comes Slow.