Reality TV & The Angry, Black Woman

Angry Michelle Obama

Not too long ago, I watched a rerun of an episode of America’s Next Top Model; it was the season with Eva Marcille and YaYa Dacosta.  On this particular episode, Tyra had to pull Eva to the side and have a heart to heart with the young model because of some of her mean girl actions with the other models.  In the conversation, Tyra was direct, telling Eva, “I don’t want to cast another Black bitch this season.” 

Her words struck a chord with Eva and even resonated with me.  While the language that she used to convey her message may have been a little colorful, Tyra’s point was that she was tired of the media trying to make this another reality show about that all too familiar stereotype, the one of the Angry, Black Woman.  After watching this rerun, I thought about how many times I had seen this stereotype replayed on my television screen.  I asked myself, “Why are we, as Americans, so comfortable with the narrative of the Angry, Black Woman?”

Having watched my fair share of reality TV shows, I can say that the media execs have definitely created a prototype that fits this stereotype.  From NeNe Leakes on RHOA, to Tamar Braxton on Braxton Family Values and many other women in between, there seems to be an abundance of reality shows highlighting a loud, rude, and angry Black woman as one of the majors draws to the show. 

Trust me; I get some of it.  People watch these shows as an escape from their own lives.  The drama on these shows is almost always bigger than the drama in the lives of the viewers, so it gives people an opportunity to be judgmental while being entertained.  I get it.  I guess my question is why is it that we find so much entertainment in that particular stereotype?  We tend to gravitate towards the loud, rude, and angry Black woman, and make her the star of the show.

While I understand that drama is often more entertaining than class, I do often wonder what the implications are in casting Black women on multiple shows that fit this particular stereotype.  Does it make this stereotype seem real, or do people generally recognize it as fun for the camera?

Part of me wants to say that people are more evolved today and can surely recognize that this stereotype does not define all Black women or even a majority of Black women, but I have seen people frame their opinions of Black women (and Black people in general) based on what they have seen on TV.  In one such incident, I had a conversation with a Latina.  When we met, she was very shocked and kept saying that she expected something different.  After hearing her say this multiple times, I asked her what she meant, to which she ignorantly replied, “I just expected a hoochie.” 

While I honestly believe in my heart of hearts that she did not know how offensive and ignorant her comments sounded, I was more intrigued by the fact that she had created these expectations of Black women based on television, since she grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, where the population is almost exclusively Mexican.  In other words, she had never interacted with Black women, especially not the point to have developed such a negative conclusion.

Although I know that her preconceived notions nor her exposure to other cultures is not fully representative of all people, I do wonder how these shows form other people’s perceptions of Black women.  I try not to be too concerned with what others may think because I cannot fight the loads of ignorance that one must face simply from being a Black woman; I am, however, concerned about how our image is being shaped with the media and why it is so easy to frame us in such a negative light.

Some may read this and think that it’s not that serious.  These shows are fun, and the women that I am speaking of give these shows the bulk of their entertainment value, and such may be the case.  It is also true, however, that people learn by repetition.  When a negative image is associated with certain people in a repetitive fashion, then others who are watching tend to associate that image with those people.  In accordance with those images, stereotypes are formed. 

If you don’t believe me, then ask yourself why you don’t hear the term, “Angry White Woman,” to refer to White women who have gotten upset.  Is it because it is impossible to anger White women?  Hardly not; it does however speak to how the media, amongst other things, has socialized us to view White women, as opposed to Black women.  We know that the stereotype of the Angry, Black Woman is out there.  I just wonder how much the media and these reality shows play a role in that narrative.

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