Monday, July 09, 2007

nothing compares 2 u

Despite my television addiction, I don't regularly watch BET. Call it a socially conscious activist gesture on my part, but I essentially prefer gayer channels--like Bravo. I do tune in every now and again, however, just to make sure that the folks at black entertainment are still producing coonery that continues to be both humorless and unentertaining even for lovers of Jim Crow-esque diversions like myself. They never disappoint; the BET Awards were no anomaly. Though Beyonce provided even more evidence that she will probably be known as the greatest performer of this era--she got bodied, and sang live--as expected, everything else was rather mediocre. 50 Cent, who is slowly turning himself into the next lip-licking LL Cool J with each wifebeater he dons, couldn't possibly grab his dick and rap a verse simultaneously; Chaka Khan decided to scream rather than actually learn the words to a Diana Ross song; and Mo'Nique was, well, Mo'Nique. And, please don't get me started on the way black awards shows expose the low level of literacy of many of these stars. Let's just say that some of these niggas need the Fantasia Barrino correspondence course.

Though I often just had to turn away to avoid jumping in the bathtub and attempting to scrub away my blackness a la a random biracial character in some filmic or literary narrative, I did happen to see commercials promoting BET's "July Jump-off," which highlights some of the new and upcoming original programming. One of these programs is Baldwin Hills, which follows affluent black teenagers living in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. Baldwin Hills (also known as "Pill Hill"--because many doctors lived in the area-- the Golden Ghetto, and the Black Beverly Hills) is one of the wealthiest black neighborhoods in the country. Despite that, you can still just drive over the hill and hit Crenshaw--or, the 'hood. You got it: it's a black market version of Laguna Beach.

I will suspend pursuing a conversation that considers why Baldwin Hills was chosen, and not, perhaps, some affluent all-black suburb in, maybe, the Atlanta-area. Rather, I simply want to mention that I think that choice may point to a broader, maybe more deliberate reminder that BET's "original programming" will continue to reflect its position as Viacom's black sheep. But just to note: (implicitly) as the teenagers of Laguna Beach are sequestered from all forms of poverty and violence, the nigs of Baldwin Hills are a short walk from a drive-by. You do the math.

The BET Awards, College Hill, and segments of Baldwin Hills all look like low-budget, knock-off versions of their MTV counterparts. If MTV is Jurassic Park, BET is Land of the Lost (the 1974 version). Not that I really care--like I said, I don't really watch BET. However, I just want to highlight what I think is a more important point: that the "black versions" of things implicitly mean lesser than, and that fact is continually reified in our popular culture. And so, even as Reginald Hudlin graces the pages of The New York Times, certain aspects of product he represents continue to look like a bootleg. Why, then, must the complexity of black life this original programming seems to yearn to show be a rather mediocre copy of something else? Further, at what point did black entertainment, and "artistic" output (necessarily) become a simulacrum of a simulacrum (or something like that)? Has our cultural capital gone from being worth a dime to the dollar to simply bankrupt?

That said, I suppose if you want your Viacom-sponsored coonery in Hi-Def, you gotta watch Vh1. Right, Flav?

That is all.


language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison


Blogger Harold Gibson said...

The BET Awards not withstanding it seems that everything done in the name of Blackness is a pale imitation of the "white" thing.

I wish coonery as you call it was confined to BET or television in general but it is all around us, look at the school boards run by black people for black children. They meet, they fight and the children are still failing to learn how to write.

Will it ever end will it Summmer, Can you make it go away?

9/7/07 20:01  
Blogger summer m. said...

@gibby: i wish i could make it go away. unfortunately, i don't have expertise in those arenas.

how you been?

10/7/07 10:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HELLO Summer!!! How's your world?? Nice to see you are still keeping it real.

PM Knight

11/7/07 22:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coonery = black people acting like white people say they do.

"Real"(as in "Keeping it ...")-ity = black people acting like black people say they should.

Authenticity = black people doing what the hell they want to do.

Personality (as in "Personality Chicks") = black people doing what the hell you wish you had the balls to do.

More personality in black entertainment!!!!

23/7/07 04:27  
Blogger summer m. said...

damn right, saf. we gotta get to work. i expect to see you back in the fields right after you drop that baby.

23/7/07 18:01  

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