This is when you know you’re the “in thing” in urban America: K. Michelle of “Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta” simply pours her curvaceous athletic frame into an enticing two-piece bikini and the images were relentlessly beamed out across the globe for a ravenous audience that can’t seem to get enough of anything related to the show.
The VH1 program is the latest and most popular in a string of black reality TV shows that relies heavily on highlighting interfamilial dysfunction, social blunders, violent altercations, ghetto-fab behavior and where the principle characters multilate the English language as much as each other’s feelings. It’s popularity, however, is offset by a growing cachophony of detractors who believe the show (and others like it) misrespresents African Americans and perpetuates debilitating stereotypes that portray us as uncouth, uncivilized hellions who trample on one another in order to come up in the game.
LaCrista Dawson-Waterman of Akron, Ohio, took one sip of the potent social cocktail that is “Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta” and spat out what she considers to be nothing more than cheap, rot-gut entertainment. She says the show scrapes at her sensibilities and she had no problem taking a blowtorch to the controversial but highly-popular show.
“I don’t think the term hip hop should be used with this generation. They took something groundbreaking, cultural and fun and turned it into scandal, disrespect, and just plain trash!” Dawson-Waterman said. “It should be labeled ‘Love and Scandal.’ It does not give proper justice to the beginning (of the) hip hop era. There is no creativity or decent collaboration. We can do much better!!!”
Lori Hunt-Caliman of Columbus, Ohio, concurs: “The show literally makes me sad! I can’t watch it!”
But the detractors are more than matched by a huge fanbase, and they hungrily digest the hijinks and histrionics of Stevie “Steebie” J, Joseline Hernandez, Lil Scrappy, Erica, K Michelle, Rasheeda, Benzino, Karly Red, Momma Dee and others every Monday evening. For them, it is absolutely must-see TV.
“I NEVER watch shows like this, but they really pulled me in. I loved how they shouted out ATL spots I actually go to, unlike RHOA,” said Toni V. Martin of Atlanta. “Even though each person has issues, they all owned up to their craziness and are sturggling to make it through. I appreciate that they showed black people getting therapy.
“Love & Hip Hop”
TRae Wright of Decatur, Ga., shares in Martin’s sentiments. She said that “after a few minutes of watching I was hooked. It is a train and a bus wreck. It’s like being on MegaBus and Amtrak gone wrong lol!”
Craig Sims of Atlanta adds: “Truth is (the) show is reflective of whats going on (in the) same generation.”
Royce Lewis of New Castle, Del., a suburb of Wilmington, however, recoils at the rambunctious and rampant “rathchedness.” “I have already jumped off…..it all wears on me to see ignorance. I like seeing shows based in Atlanta because I love the ATL but everyone is “grown and ignorant”. Everyone’s maturity is 20 years younger than their actual age.”
The question becomes: do the principle players in these reality shows that frequently features embarassing behavior, have a responsibility to the rest of the black community? Or are we so hypersensitive as a people that any dubious or questionable behavior that a small group perpetrates is enough to offend us and define us all as a people?
Robert Byrd of suburban Indianapolis says ‘yes.’ He took a figurative scalpel and performed invasive surgery on the show and the cast members. “The problem with L&H is that the show and actors/actresses have no responsibility of self or community. It’s the same with other reality shows, but it’s magnified as it is a black show,” he began.
“For starters,” Byrd continues, “the show portrays two women (Mimi and Jocelyn) who are willing to settle for a man because they say he has money and a big penis. They compromise their self-respect and routinely succumb to his will,” Byrd adds. “You have another fool in Benzino who was allegedly hated in Hiphop, but puts jewelry and ring on a woman (Karly-Red) whom he barely knows. She prostitutes her beauty and sleeps/moves in while trying to use him to advance her career.”
Byrd is revving it up into another gear now: “You have K-Michelle who has had a ton of cosmetic surgery, but allegedly is crazy as all get out. She is attractive and talented but suspect.
“You have Rasheeda who is more concerned with her career than her husband and children. She is simply beautiful and talented but i think that if she ever makes it big, she will leave her husband.
“Lastly you have Scrappy and Erica who are both a train wreck. Scrappy is a rapper who wants to sleep with other women but doesn’t want his baby-mama to do the same. Erica is too stuck on Scrappy and shows a serious insecurity that black women are accused of. It’s sad because Erica is beautiful and smart.”
If Byrd represents one line of thinking, that the characters of these reality shows represent the bottom feeders of black America, others believe strongly that the detractors are taking this show and other similar reality shows way too seriously.
Nechelle Monique of Akron, Ohio is unashamed and undeterred by the critics of black reality TV. “I am a reality T.V. Junkie. Love it. Love and Hip Hop(Atlanta) has to be one of my favs- thus far. Joseline is very entertaining. I am sure she will get her own spin off like “New York” (Flava of Love) did.”
Gaddiel Adams of Atlanta share’s Monique’s sentiments: “Very entertaining & FUNNY! Modern day soap opera. I don’t take it serious, just see it as entertainment & that it IS.”
Besides, it’s the sport of seeing who is going to succeed and who will fail. Who will clean up their act? Who will get another revenue-generating gig out of this, alas Nene Leakes and Kandi Burress of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” and who will fade back into obscurity, squandering this grand opportunity to expand their brand?
TRae Wright of Decatur, Ga., has other questions that picking at the base of her brain: “Jose I mean Joseline is my favorite,” she said, an obvious reference to the much-debated subject of Joseline Hernandez’s sexuality.
Shavonne Seabrook of suburban Youngstown, Ohio, joined TRae: “Haha Trae! My first time watching it was two weeks ago and I was confused too! I’m still not convinced that Stebie’s side boo is a female. Lol.”
Like it or hate it, watch it or not, apparently “Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta” has too many powerful ingredients mixed in to simply ignore it.