Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Follow-up and new chat--Mark Burnett...

So I promised the fur would fly, so of course it didn't. When I came in for those meetings yesterday, I was prepared to leave my job. That bode well for me in a number of ways. Most important, I did not compromise and leave the table feeling like I hadn't fairly represented myself or challenged issues that were relevant for me. I still think growing older is growing into oneself. For me that means embracing rather than suppressing myself and my sensibilities.

Today's topic: I read in the New York Times that one of the contestant's in upcoming boxing reality show The Contender has committed suicide. Producer Mark Burnett has promised that the death of Najai Turpin will not affect the content of the show and that he will not edit the show in anyway to reflect the occurrence. *I am paraphrasing, not intentionally plagiarizing the NYT. So if my memory is working today, cut me some slack.* Commentators are already speculating about the relevance of Turpin being African American to this brou-haha.

First, condolences to Turpin's family. According to the article he has a very young daughter and I'm sure that he was very driven by his willingness to participate in the contest which provided one million dollars for the winning boxer. But my focus is not on Turpin, but Mark Burnett...

This season's Apprentice had three African American participants. One has already become the first ever contestant to quit, and the two remaining get less screen time and development than their counterparts. My opinion is that since neither of the two appear to fit an obvious racial stereotype, it has been difficult for the editors to carve a storyline around them.

On the first season, America loved (and apparently continues when they remember) to hate Omarosa. Even black media outlets, decried Omarosa's treachery and called her a black bitch for letting her 'brother' Kwame down in the clutch. White america hated Omarosa long before she left Kwame hanging. She was haughty and detached...who wouldn't dislike her. While her white female counterparts fought and whined, Omarosa refused to compliment their mini-skirts, told them to take their hands off her and generally refused to be like the self-effacing, subordinate black women they usually interacted with...She didn't want to be friends with them and she wanted to win. How un-Oprah-like! Black women are friendly and helpful at work; they make less money, don't get promoted, and even when they boss people around no one gets mad because they never get promoted to positions of authority...That damn Omarosa. For the second season, the new girls got together and booted Stacie J out because they were 'afraid' she was crazy and might hurt herself or them....Black women ARE scary! Kwame was a great guy, he was quiet and friendly and finished second. But that was Omarosa's fault...of course he wasn't passed over for the job because Trump didn't recognize his qualifications.

And Survivor is no better...the first season featured a black man from New Jersey who was constantly edited in being nothing other than shiftless...laying in the hammock so much he such have developed a bedsore and seemingly contributing absolutely nothing to his team by way of strategy or effort. He was all potential energy, spring up every now and then to drag something from here to there. Another season featuring a sassy, finger-waving, neck-rolling body builder. And, of course, there's Vecepia who won a million by being meek. There's your reward.

So that's how black people fare on Mark Burnett shows. They unstable, disposable, ultimately aberrational creatures. We can't complain they aren't being represented, and ol' Mark says he's not sure if he's responsible for how they get represented...

I wonder what the Contender will be like and how Najai Turpin has been depicted...

1 comment:

AnnaC said...

The AP news wire is carrying a story about the funeral. It seems, however, to be little more than shameless promotion of the show. Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard knew this guy so well that they were pall-bearers? Or it would just look really good and get into the papers, and I am sure local tv if not national dish shows?!
If that were not enough to convince any of us that this was shameless commercial display, at the end of the story, there is a link to the show.

A propos to your argument about Mark Burnett's calculated portrayal of black men and women to play into stereotypes, it seems you weren't the only one thinking it... check out this story!