The not so realistic way reality TV portrays Black communities

“Most series unapologetically exacerbate the worst stereotypes that plague the black community: toxic relationships, absent fathers, financial irresponsibility

Yomi Adegoke, The Guardian.

TV shows about the Black community are partitioning people. In fact, they are popular for their flighting and drama, but at the same time, they create a false image of Afro-Americans. 

Why is it a problem nowadays to portray the Black community like this? 

Tv shows such as Love and HipHop, Fresh Prince of Bel-air or Everybody Hates Chris, are popular as they create a portrait of black people with the same traits. Funny being perhaps the most obvious and reused trait. The characters must make people laugh. Looking to the 90s in particular, Black TV shows were often created as comedies. One of the reasons could be that shows like Foottit and Chocolat, a White clown and African American comedy duo, portrayed Black characters as goofy and lazy. Starkly contrasting this portrayal is the often used stereotype of Black aggression, with Black men often being represented as thugs or drug dealers and Black women and young girls starting fights and talking “with attitude”. 

Extravagance is another element reality TV and fictional shows chose to emphasise. This can be understood as the way Black characters are dressed and told to behave as a way of making people aware of their presence, rather than recognising their intellect. Black protagonists and secondary characters are often assigned these features, with the caveat that if you are a secondary Black character, your main goal is to stand to the side and advise the Caucasian friend through a difficult time. 

Even if it makes people laugh and helps provides the production companies with a profit, these shows do not begin to represent the reality they claim to showcase. These shows draw attention because they are full of fighting, gossip and so much more and while it shows Black people having and prioritising fun, can we be sure the producers are thinking of the impact their shows will have? Certainly not, they are creating false identities that could seriously impact people in the real world. 

Video from bravo

Reality TV does not represent all the good aspects of Black culture, which is the reason our current generation wants to change it by creating new and diverse content. The creation of TV shows such as The Chi, Pose, Black-ish, and Family Matters are creating new representations of the Black community and culture. Often discussing different topics to frame Black culture, producers are now depicting wealthy, scholarly characters as a way to put aside the old stereotypes and pay tribute to Black culture.

Image Credit: Portland Observer