(Real) Shawty Lo
While Oxygen's "All My Babies' Mamas," may take ratchet to levels unseen, it's following the rules of a market that no one wants to admit is there.
By Denise Clay
For those of you who aren't as well versed in pop culture as your kids or grandkids might be, there is one word that I want you to remember as you read this piece on the Oxygen Network's newest contribution to the world.
That word: ratchet. When something is ratchet, it is in bad taste. It shows too much of the personal. It's "too much information" personified.
But now that you have that definition, you can continue reading this piece on this new show and not have to wonder what I mean when I say "ratchet".
It's not every day that you see a grown man getting his ears cleaned out with a bobby pin by his teenaged girlfriend.
But that's among the sights and sounds that I was treated to when I happened upon the latest bit of ratchetness from our friends at the Oxygen Network (and their friends at DiGa Entertainment), All My Babies' Mamas.
PHOTO: Cori Abraham.
A trailer for the show, which features Atlanta-based rapper Shawty Lo, his 11 kids and their 10 mothers purports to tell the story of this really expanded family and how the 19-year-old ear cleaner (and later, we find out, toenail clipper) who is Shawty's new girlfriend fits into it.
(Seeing as there are few things as fertile as Shawty Lo apparently, my guess is that she'll soon fit in as Baby Mama 11.)
The folks at Oxygen, who has also given us such television greatness as The Bad Girls Club, Love Games, and other reality television goodness, think they have a hit on their hands. Just as Cori Abraham, senior vice president of Development at Oxygen Media says about the new show, "All My Babies' Mamas will be filled with outrageous and authentic over-the-top moments that our young, diverse female audience can tweet and gossip about."
I know that just makes this show appointment television for me.
When I clicked the link to the trailer, something that I was the only person I knew one brave enough to watch in its entirety apparently, on my Facebook page the reactions ranged from "Can't we kill this in its crib before it grows up?" to stuff that I can't really print in a family newspaper...
PHOTO: Sabrina Lamb.
In fact, the show has spawned a petition on Change.Org asking that it never be shown. Sabrina Lamb, the organizer of the petition drive, has partnered with other African American organizations including My Brown Baby and Rap Rehab to put the fear of God into advertisers sponsoring the show.
"We have to start to draw a line in the sand," Lamb said. "We have to decide who we really are, and while we're deciding that, can we at least understand that our first duty is to protect and nurture our children? We don't lobby. We'll call a talk show, but we won't go after advertisers. This has to stop."
Shawty Lo, in a move that should surprise no one, did an interview defending not only his show, but also his life. He had a fractured family, dealt drugs, and with the money came the women.
"I take care of all my kids," he told MTV News. "Outta all the 10 baby mamas, I just have problems outta one. That's it," he said. "She has two kids by me, and she feel like I'm supposed to do more for her kids, and she don't wanna work. She just want me to straight take care of them, but it's all love. I handle it."
(For those of you playing at home, my guess is that he's referring to the woman known as "The Baby Mama From Hell.")
While Comcast, which is based here in Philly and acquired the Oxygen Network (and it's ratchetness) when it bought NBC, didn't return calls for comment, I got a call from the folks at Oxygen Media which contained the following comment:
"Oxygen's one-hour special in development is not meant to be a stereotypical representation of everyday life for any one demographic or cross section of society. It is a look at one unique family and their complicated, intertwined life. Oxygen Media's diverse team of creative executives will continue developing the show with this point of view."
My guess is that this won't make Sabrina Lamb and company feel any better.
But while I have to give it to Sabrina Lamb and company, and also while I think that it's time that we stop honoring people for the lousy reproductive choices that they make with televisions shows, I also know that try as she might, she's not gonna keep the exploits of Shawty and company off of the air.
Why do I say this?
I say this because whether we want to admit it or not, we're gonna watch.
You see, were it not for African American viewers, much of the ratchetness you see in the form of "Love and Hip-Hop", "Real Housewives of Atlanta" and "Basketball Wives", or as I like to call them "The League of Extraordinary Jump-Offs" and even "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" wouldn't exist.
In other words, in the words of the cartoon strip "Pogo," "We have met the enemy, and he is us..."
Now I know that you're looking at the list of shows that I included in my previous paragraph and are thinking "Hey! Those shows aren't that bad."
The only thing that separates them from Shawty-Lo and his baby mama drama is that NeNe Leakes and Shaunie O'Neal are doing their ratchetness in Christian Loubouton pumps.
It's well-dressed ratchet, but it's ratchet nonetheless.
And as long as the kids I teach media arts and literacy to are willing to blow off classes to go see the "Jerry Springer Show" and as long as there are large groups of people who schedule their lives around "Real Housewives", this is never going to change.
Stopping programming like All My Babies Mamas, is a bit like getting rid of drugs: You have to stop the demand before you can work on the supply.
In other words, it's time to get that Real Housewives monkey off your back....
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