The African-American, or black, women’s representation within popular culture, more so through the medium of television, can be analyzed in many different ways and from many different point of views. On one hand there are your television shows that showcases your beautiful, strong, and authoritative black woman, that is usually in a position of power made to been seen as a force to be reckoned with. Then on the other hand there are reality shows that exhibit young and beautiful black women as loud mouthed and angry who when involved in a conflict with someone, (which seems to be more often than not) first instinct is to throw a glass at their counteragent or co-star. From a black woman’s point of view the depiction of the latter can be labeled as cringe worthy. Cringe worthy and unpleasant due to the stereotypes theoretically shoved down the American television viewer’s throats.
Shonda Rhimes, a black female television producer who created and executive produced highly viewed and critically acclaimed television shows such as ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder has brought positive and inspiring black women to primetime television. Scandal’s Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating, portrayed by Kerry Washington and Viola Davis respectively, are seen to some as strong and successful role models who happen to find themselves the center of drama-filled attention. And to others Rhimes television shows are described as “yet another network series.. to showcase a powerful, intimidating black woman” (Stanley, 2014). Stanley, a white woman, goes on to write in her article for the New York Times reviewing “How To Get Away With Murder” that if Rhimes decides to publish an autobiography she should title it “How To Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman”. This article has succumbed to a large amount of backlash and garnered an apology from the author and editor. But some would say after reading the “apology” that the damage has already been done. Rhymes responded having taken offense to the article stating ”How come I am not ‘an angry black woman’ the many times Meredith (or Addison!) rants?”, referring to two white characters also created by Rhimes on shows Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice (Cheung, 2015.)
For decades black women have been stereotyped as bossy, sassy, and angry. Dating all the way back to the 1940’s with the radio program turned television sitcom The Amos ’n’ Andy Show. Creators of The Amos ’n’ Andy Show featured the black “finger-waving, neck snapping, constantly complaining wife” of another character is what author Blair Kelley would categorize as the beginning of the stereotype of the angry black woman created by white men and televised into popular culture (Kelly, 2014).
Extremely volatile conversations that often lead to violent confrontations are the two main portrayals of young black women on reality T.V. shows. On these shows such as VH1’s Basketball Wives that profiles a group of young beautiful women that either have been or are dating/married to NBA players, cameras follow the women who live in Los Angeles, California and exploit both their personal and professional lives. Many instances of drama ensue throughout each episode of the show, that often lead to some sort of violent behavior both physical and verbal. Having watched a number of reality shows in the past and conducting minor research on the genre I found that, as many people may know, much of reality T.V. shows’ content are comprised of of producer-based conflicts in an effort to make the show more entertaining. Because surely, a group of black women who attend a charity event and behave normally without any glass throwing, fighting, or screaming across the room versus ones that don’t make for higher ratings. Higher ratings mean higher priced advertisements, which means more money for the producers and network executives, all at the expense the woman’s reputation of dignity and respectability. Basketball Wives is not the only reality show that portrays black women in the angry black woman form. Other television network’s produce cringe worthy T.V. depicting black woman. Oxygen’s Bad Girls Club, Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta, and VH1’s Love and Hip-Hop all display black women as catty, violent, or angry in one way or another.
After reading articles and reviewing television shows—both “reality” T.V. and scripted T.V. series, black women are overall portrayed and perceived as angry in one form or another. Living in the skin of a young, smart, beautiful, motivated black woman combined with my research leads me to believe the stereotype of the angry black woman has been embedded into both African-American non-African-American’s subconscious, that it ultimately doesn’t matter how much black female character creators try to get away from it, the majority of viewers are going to see them that way. That stereotype from the television spills into real life and the behavioral expectations both African-American and non-African-American place on African-American/black women whenever a black woman expresses her negative feelings on a subject.
Note from Author:
In the last paragraph I mention African-American as also stereotyping black women as the “angry black woman” whenever we feel the need to express ourselves, due to the monumental amount of self-hatred that has been instilled into the African-American culture. Although I have witnessed and continue to witness the somewhat “awakening” from the self-hate mind set many African-American people have, elaboration on this topic is indeed a conversation for another time.
Important learning moments:
I have learned a lot of things over the last 10 weeks. Reading my classmates blog posts have opened my eyes more to stereotypes that exist outside of my own. If I had to chose one important learning moment for me that stuck out the most from this course, I would say it was learning more about writing a better thesis and getting the point I want to make more cleat to the reader, with the use of the writing clinic. Being a Communications major the courses I take require a lot of reading and writing. The writing clinic helped me so much so that I saved the “Guided steps to writing a paper” and other links into my internet browser favorites.
Cheung, A. (2015, February 11). Black women’s progress collides with media stereotypes. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/02/11/black-history-black-women/23266115/
Kelley, B. (2014, September 25). Here’s Some History Behind That ‘Angry Black Woman’ Riff the NY Times Tossed Around. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/09 the_angry_black_woman_stereotype_s_long_history.html
Samuels, A. (2011). Reality TV Trashes Black Women. Newsweek, 157(19), 62.
Stanley, A. (2014, September 18). Wrought in Rhimes’s Image Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’s Latest Tough Heroine. The New York Times, p. AR1. Retrieved October 29, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/arts/television/viola-davis-plays-shonda-rhimess-latest-tough-heroine.html?_r=0