By now, if you’re up on your entertainment, you’re probably familiar with Atlanta rapper, Shawty Lo. If not for his work with D4L or his hit single, “Dey Know,” then you know the twitterverse and social networks have been chatting about what was supposed to be his new reality show. The show, in question was titled All My Babies’ Mamas and was scheduled to premiere on the Oxygen network, the same network known for popular reality shows such as Bad Girls Club and Snapped. The popular network decided to cut ties with the show after many complaints and petitions, ending it before they even began filming.
If you go to change.com and search for “All My Babies’ Mamas,” you will find multiple petitions that helped to keep this show off of the air. However, one petition garnered more attention than others, and that is the one posted by Sabrina Lamb. While the multiple petitions on change.com each have their fair share of supporters, over 7,000 people have already signed Sabrina Lamb’s petition, and the numbers are still growing. In her petition, Lamb claims that what will make this show worse than other reality shows is the fact that the show will involve rapper Shawty Lo’s children as well. In the petition, Lamb said that, “It is these children…our children who will hold all of us accountable by allowing them to be exploited, internationally, in this manner.”
Sabrina Lamb and the rest of the petitioners did have a point. “All My Babies’ Mamas” would have featured a Black rapper, with his 11 children and 10 “baby mamas” fighting and arguing for child support for the sake of television ratings. Oxygen issued a press release saying the show would be filled with “over the top moments that young diverse, female audience can tweet and gossip about.” It is simply exploitative, damaging to the image of Black men and women, and down right offensive to a point.
However, what other reality shows that were exploitative and damaging to the character of African-Americans managed to stay on air? There was Flava of Love, in which a house full of women (mostly black women) fighting and doing many other things that would be considered demeaning to the image of Black women, all for the love of Flava Flav. On every season of Bad Girls Club, it features a group of self described “bad girls” living under one roof. While all of the girls in the house usually have their fare share of drama, it’s usually the Black women on that show that cause the most drama that ends with a cat fight. The list can go on and on. The point is that this is nothing new when regarding African-Americans and reality television.
The point isn’t to shame the people who watch these types of shows, defend this particular show, or state whether or not the petitioners are right for feeling so strongly about this show. I am writing this to simply ask whether this will be enough, or if it is too late for this type of action. Has the bar officially been set for reality television featuring Black people? MTV will always make a new reality show similar to Jersey Shore and Buckwild, because drama equals ratings. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is on the air because the stuff that goes on in that show gets attention and views. The same is true for reality shows featuring African-American personalities. Why do you think that Flava of Love had three seasons and multiple spin-offs, while shows like Mr. T’s I Pity The Fool (Mr. T helping random people) and The Family Foreman (George Foreman’s family) each only had one season. It is simply because sex, fights and drama get more attention than positive shows will ever get.
Of course, the people won in their fight to keep Shawty Lo and all of his “baby mamas” off of the air. But what if this victory is short lived. What is stopping executives in the media from simply finding another African-American family, either famous or not, in a similar situation and making a similar show? Sabrina Lamb said in her petition, that “Enough is enough!”. However, the real question is whether or not the petitions will actually be enough to stop more shows like this from being created?