I can't restrain myself from this any longer.
Yes, it's the REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA THREAD!
They're my favorite 'franchise' of Real Housewives so far.
Although I love my mindless trash-TV, Tami went and made it all political by alerting me to the fact that some people think the Atlanta housewives are especially low-rent. Hey, now! That IS going to piss me off! I take that as dissing the south, too--not just racist claptrap. (And let us be clear: singling out RHOA as somehow "worse"--IS racist claptrap.)
True Confessions--I've watched every single one of the "Real Housewives" series on the BRAVO network: Orange County, New York City (which earned its own DEAD AIR thread as well!), New Jersey and Atlanta. And I am here to say they are all equally narcissistic, dopey, solipsistic, shallow, silly, loud, screeching, self-centered, etc etc etc. If they weren't (as I said at Tami's), it wouldn't be "Real Housewives"--we tune in to our favorite TV shows for a reliable formula, as reliable as Monday Night Football or Wheel of Fortune. We want our narcissistic, screeching housewives! RHOA is 80% African-American, because Atlanta is.
To be sure, the women on RHOA are no role models. They are alternately bullying, narcissistic, back-stabbing, money-grubbing, cliquey, disloyal, arrogant, self-involved, willfully ignorant, poorly spoken, wasteful and tackily nouveau riche. The show features street fights, wig tugging, name dropping, pole dancing, sugar daddy-funded goodies, “baller” fetishizing, vanity business projects, cattiness, loud arguments in nice restaurants (and nice offices..and nice homes), and whole lot of “flossing” and faux importance. Whether editing or reality is to blame, the women read like gross caricatures of the bourgie set, garnished with a little Jerry Springer.I don't usually read TV-blogs and forums and therefore didn't know this racialized analysis of RHOA was going on. It just makes we wanna holler. (sigh)
But here’s the thing: These traits are not solely the hallmark of the black housewives of Atlanta. Reality shows are cast and scripted for drama, and the “Real Housewives” franchise serves up plenty of it with each and every season. So I find it curious that these five, black women are singled out as egregiously off-the-hook. Oh, I’m not saying that the white Real Housewives don’t catch hell. Half the thrill of watching all the RH series is snarking on the excess and ignorance afterwards. My problem is HOW the Atlanta wives are criticized.
A foray into online coverage, blogs and TV forums like the ones on Television Without Pity will uncover frequent use of the word “ghetto” and “hood,” references to this or that housewife looking “like a man,” hints that the housewives are high-classed “hos”–promiscuous, scheming she-devils hot on the trail of big money, snark about big booties, talk of how the women are embarrassing black folks. Hmmm…sounds kind of like the type of criticism often thrown at black women, even those who act demurely and properly. (Have you seen the stuff folks say about Michelle Obama and her daughters?) Frankly, I have more problem with this sort of racialized analysis than I do with anything that happens on “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
There is no appreciable "difference" between any of the Real Housewives shows, except style and location. Personally, I like the clothes, shoes, houses, stores, restaurants and gewgaws from the Atlanta group best, too. (I figure this is a southern thing, and I am happy to see some variation in style.) I love how Atlanta looks, always have. And like Anderson Cooper, I am also passionate about NeNe Leakes, who has great natural comic timing and presence. She could be a real TV-star on her own. (She IS the Joneses!) When she gets mad and gets in people's faces with her stream-of-consciousness rants, she reminds me of my own mother, who would get seriously ramped up on amphetamines and do the same thing. (Later, drug-free, my mother continued this behavior whenever angry; it was as if this trait had embedded itself in her personality because it served her so well in dealing with her four husbands.) And similarly, when NeNe gets mad, watch out, people!
Because NeNe reminds me so much of my mother, I did not see her as especially "black"... and was unaware of the criticisms she has received for being the most "ghetto"--which I first realized when one of the women on the show said it. I can find these rather vicious criticisms all over the net; here is an example from one such blog:
NeNe Leakes “Ghetto” is the definition of the word. Loud, Country and Tacky! You can tell she hooked up with her guy “Who’s clearly old enough to be her father!” by givin’ up the ghetto head a.s.a.p and getting a baby in there quick! Loud and Obnoxious are the two words that best describe her.And all us Loud, Country and Tacky people really LOVE NeNe, who reminds us our of Loud, Country and Tacky mamas.
I asked in my post about RHOA whether white people were spending time agonizing over the shameful antics of the Bravo brand's white housewives and their families. I doubt it. I don't think white people feel the burden of the Orange County wives' rude, dull and ambitionless adult children. I don't think they read the shallowness of New York City wives as reflective of white culture. I don't think all white people flinched when one New Jersey protagonist expressed the desire to open a chain of car wash/strip clubs. Nor will white people be judged by other white people based on the behavior of a bunch of reality show stars. Black people, of course, are judged by the actions of other random black folks--from Flavor Flav to Marion Barry to Serena Williams to Barack Obama. Our fortunes can rise and fall depending what black person is in the public eye and what they are doing. This is, of course, wrong and unfair. Why then, do black people join in enforcing this unequal standard?I don't think the Real Housewives of Orange County represent me in any way as a white woman, and it would never occur to me to think so. Likewise, can we allow the Real Housewives of Atlanta to be who they are without the accompanying idea that they "represent" anyone but themselves?
Look, I am not naive. I am, unfortunately, evaluated by mainstream America not just on my own merits, but by perceptions of other black people whom I cannot control. The same is true for all people of color. But I feel strongly that the way to combat this problem is to aggressively challenge the biases of the mainstream, not to fold to injustice by playing behavior cop with my brothers and sisters.
(PS: And what do you think of the show?)