By Evette Dionne
“Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” has returned to Vh1 for another 13 weeks of pandemonium, quarrels and the incessant drama devoted viewers expect. The one-hour premiere reintroduced the original cast to more than 4 million viewers and the audience is expected to expand as the season continues.
Backlash is sure to ensue as drinks are tossed and vile words are exchanged between cast-members. Some of the overarching criticism is warranted, though some deploring “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” are using a lens of respectability to gauge the cultural significance of the series. “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” isn’t progressing the “brown faces on television” cause. It’s not programming I would introduce into a household with children and I would never spotlight the cast as role models.
However, as cultural critics and reality television vigilantes wield their criticisms against the “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” success train, it is important to direct harsh commentary toward the appropriate parties. It is much easier to disparage the cast and others featured on “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” than wage war with the power structure green-lighting these programs for our consumption.
I get it. Mimi Faust, Joseline Hernandez, K.Michelle, Rasheeda and the rest of the cast are accessible. We can express our discontent directly to them through Twitter hashtags and mentions. However, these women are merely pawns in a larger structure with a large wall, moat and security keeping rioters from penetrating the castle. Cue Mona Scott-Young, Monami Entertainment and Vh1 executives.
Scott-Young is a realist. The former president and co-founder of Violator Management noticed a void in television and filled it with entertaining, but problematic content, including the “Love & Hip-Hop” franchise and “The Gossip Game.” Petitions and warranted criticism should be lodged against Scott-Young and her brand, Monami Management, for shepherding vessels of stereotypes of women on color on primetime television rather than the women featured.
She’s often remained silent, opting to let ratings speak for her, but Scott-Young has addressed the critics at recent radio interviews and press events. The burgeoning mogul organized a press event in Atlanta and offered little remorse for the images she’s peddling as accurate, authentic accounts of life for women for color.
“Often times people tell me how horrible it is, or how these women should go crawl under a rock,” she said at the event.
“I’m not here to judge them. I think that these women are a part of our population as African Americans. They live real lives and their stories deserve to be told as much as the other stories. I encourage them to use this as a platform. I will never forget the first time I gave Joseline a check and she cried. Prior to that she has never seen her name printed on a check because she was only ever paid in dollar bills, so don’t tell me I’m not changing lives.”
Scott-Young could be commended for her attempt to “save” fellow women of color by offering them legitimate avenues to generate revenue. K.Michelle landed a recording contract with Warner Brothers because of the show’s exposure provided from the show and Olivia’s single “Where Do I Go From Here?” charted iTunes.
However, Scott-Young’s platform 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. No life-saving happens when Mimi Faust discovers her boyfriend Stevie J. has a mistress in front of millions of people.
Editing is the crux of the 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. This is not accidental or “just how television works.” It is designed to paint folks in a certain light to keep viewers returning.
Of course, none of the criticism is stopping Scott-Young’s millionaire train. She’s also released “The Gossip Game,” a show I refused to watch after the first episode pited the two most influential female New York radio personalities – Angela Yee and K.Foxx – against each other. She will also don her Superwoman cape for Bravo with “Taking Atlanta,” another reality show highlighting dimensional women.
But we don’t address these issues. We wage war on the pawns rather than the puppeteers and wonder why we’re no closer to destroying the castle. The power is in our remotes. Want to impact the structure? Turn the channel.
Photo Credit: Chris Mitchell