Dear Shaunie & Co.,
It’s over. I can’t. Bye-bye boo boo.
After succumbing to the dreaded spring cold, I found myself catching up with my DVR and sitting through three episodes of the new Miami season of “Basketball Wives.” In last night’s episode, we find Evelyn resorting to teenage-level behavior (at what was supposed to be a “nice” dinner) which led to a shouting match and having to literally be thrown out of posh eatery Philippe Chow. But not before she screamed out to her foe, Jennifer, that ‘You ain’t about that life!’
I don’t know about Jennifer—but I’m definitely not about that life, Evelyn.
I’m no longer about watching eight adult women carry-on like teenagers in the name of “keeping it real” and “being grown” and representing this image of Black women to millions of people globally. While the three main stereotypes are there for us to see: The Sapphire (Tami), The Post-Civil Rights Bourgie Chick (Jennifer), The Jezebel (Evelyn), the rest of the cast add to a revolving display of desperation, embarrassment and a transparent thirst for recognition, attention and screen time. When asked about the amount of drama on the show, creator, executive producer and cast member Shaunie O’Neal had this to say:
“Well, I definitely prefer no drama for me. But I think it’s only normal to have a bunch of women together that much and the drama just happens, it’s nothing that’s planned or set up, it just happens.”
As we’ve said before, therein lies the problem. This type of behavior is not normal or natural for adult women. In grade-school we deal with competition, cattiness, jealousy and more—but by the time we’ve become career women, mothers, all of the things these women parade themselves to be, “that life” is over. We’ve grown, we’ve learned and at this stage we teach young women just by living our daily lives. For “Basketball Wives” (and the other “Wife” franchises) to continue to normalize this type of behavior creates a situation of misrecognition for Black women globally and leads to ‘normal’ women being socially punished for the foolery of others.
Women like myself who work in environments where we not only have to do well, but also constantly re-represent ourselves to others to fight these stereotypes are affected. Women who travel around the globe and have to prove that they aren’t prostitutes/loose/down for whatever are affected. This speaks to a much larger issue, but shows like these continue to propel the same pattern. On a smaller scale, what local business owner wouldn’t think twice about hosting a table of Black women in their restaurant if all they saw was the flipping of tables and middle fingers on television. And it seems that plenty of Basketball Wives agree.
It’s valid to say that shows like “Basketball Wives” are merely entertainment—but if they are place them in that context. Be upfront that these women are not friends, that they are casted and forced into social situations with each other. Admit that alcohol is purposely flowing freely in nearly every shot and that producers are always close by to setup a drama-filled situation. At the end of the day (I had to say it!) the cast can’t blame editors, the women must blame themselves and their intentions.
All of the women on these shows are beautiful, smart and have the potential to be wildly successful without television, but by capitalizing and promoting the darker side of human behavior every week and labeling it “that life” makes “this life,” and specifically my life, more complicated than it has to be. The transparency of these man-made situations isn’t fun anymore—it’s just sad to watch.
Keep the Louboutins and lip-gloss because you’ve officially lost a fan. I’ll keep the earrings though.