The Housewives of Atlanta continues week after week to eliminate the competition on Thursday nights reigning over the coveted adults and women between the 18-49 demographic.
This domination over the ratings has made millions of dollars for Bravo which is a program service of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment, a division of NBC Universal.
Linithea “NeNe” Leakes, Lisa Wu- Hartwell, Kim Zolciak, Shereé Whitfield , and Kandi Burruss have become reigning reality stars. When reality shows become ultra successful, the cast encompasses a double edge sword of fame and shame. Their names become household commodities while their personal lives turn into open season for tabloids and bloggers. According to NeNe Leakes on a recent interview on the “The Insider,” the cast each receives $30,000 an episode. In spite of earning more per episode than many people make in a year; the revenue cannot be enough compensation for the ramifications. The embarrassment due to excessive rumors brings havoc to their families. The larger scope paints an ugly picture of the societal damage that the show creates by perpetuating negative stereotypes of black women.
The tabloids have not left any stones unturned in the personal lives of the Housewives. NeNe Leakes made headlines last year when she and her husband Greg were reportedly evicted from their home. Lisa Wu-Hartwell who is the ex-wife of R&B singer Keith Sweat made the news due to speculation of a drug problem being the main reason why her ex-husband has custody of their children.
Kim Zolciak has been “dragged through the mud” because of her illicit open affair with a married millionaire. Shereé Whitfield’s divorce from ex- football player Bob Whitifield served as a feeding frenzy for the media. The newest cast member Kandi Burruss painfully dealt with the barrage of rumors surrounding her relationship with former fiancee, A.J. Jewel. On October 3rd 2009, her ex-fiancee A.J. Jewel was murdered at a strip club in Atlanta. The details surrounding his murder continue to create online chatter.
The Housewives of Atlanta has the all the elements of an engrossing soap opera; high society living, extravagance, adultery, brawls and much more. The irony is that these women are not actors and how the network portrays their lives has become a way in which society at large views black women. The fact that these women supposedly are wealthy does not cancel out the fact that they are represented as angry, instigating, and borderline violent. The other Housewives series have depicted catty fights between cast members, but none of those women were ever shown as being physically threatening to anyone.
Sheree Whitfield’s phrase “who gonna check me boo” became popular after a heated argument with a party planner. After the altercation, Whitfield said on camera she wanted to call her cousins to beat up the individual that she had the argument with. Sheree was also involved in a belligerent squabble with Kim outside of a restaurant where Sheree put her hands on Kim more than once in an attempt to “shift” Kim’s wig.
These two incidents were among the highest rated episodes of the season. The message is clear that the television audience responds in high numbers to viewing images of black women in stereotypical confrontational and violent roles. In the long run these portrayals do not benefit the cast, black actresses or the black community at large in a positive way.
The only way to demystify these prevailing stereotypes is to cease creating shows for entertainment value that preserve these issues. On the surface, The Housewives of Atlanta might seem to be a harmless reality show. However, there are heavy consequences for the price of entertainment and it is the black community at large that suffers and ultimately will not have the last laugh.