Back in the day, images of Black people on TV were a bit controlled. Sitcoms were scripted, so every character from Esther Rolle’s Florida Evans to Diahann Carroll’s Julia Baker was deliberate. Writers and actors worked hard to offer up entertaining and somewhat accurate depictions of Black culture that often challenged society’s widely held stereotypes about African Americans.
Fast forward to the new millennium where scripted shows are nearly as extinct as black-and-white TVs and reality TV is offering up images of Black women—and women of other ethnicities—that would make Florida Evans scream, “Damn. Damn. Damn.”
As a matter of fact, even the women on the shows (think Royce Reed of VH1’s “Basketball Wives” and the show’s producer Shaunie O’Neal) have started speaking out against their show and others that portray us as belligerent, materialistic, promiscuous or shallow.
While many of the shows’ stars blame the editing which arguably shapes the characters in a way that focuses more on the negative than the positive or uplifting in the lives of the mothers, entrepreneurs and career women being taped, Tanya Williams, who will be featured in the VH1’s new “Basketball Wives: LA,” doesn’t place all the responsibility on the producers.
“I don’t know how they’re going to shape me. I don’t know what they’re going to show, but if I don’t call you out your name, they can’t tape me doing that,” said Williams who is an author and inspirational speaker.
However, that’s not to suggest that Williams is letting the TV execs and producers completely off the hook.