Back in the day, images of Black people on TV were a bit controlled. Sitcoms were scripted, so every character from Esther Rolleâ€™s Florida Evans to Diahann Carrollâ€™s Julia Baker was deliberate. Writers and actors worked hard to offer up entertaining and somewhat accurate depictions of Black culture that often challenged societyâ€™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 womenâ€”and women of other ethnicitiesâ€”that would make Florida Evans scream, â€œDamn. Damn. Damn.â€
As a matter of fact, even the women on the shows (think Royce Reed of VH1â€™s â€œBasketball Wivesâ€ and the showâ€™s producer Shaunie Oâ€™Neal) have started speaking out against their show and others that portray us as belligerent, materialistic, promiscuous or shallow.
While many of the showsâ€™ 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 VH1â€™s new â€œBasketball Wives: LA,â€ doesnâ€™t place all the responsibility on the producers.
â€œI donâ€™t know how theyâ€™re going to shape me. I donâ€™t know what theyâ€™re going to show, but if I donâ€™t call you out your name, they canâ€™t tape me doing that,â€ said Williams who is an author and inspirational speaker.
However, thatâ€™s not to suggest that Williams is letting the TV execs and producers completely off the hook.