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'Basketball Wives' Resonates With Viewers Despite Backlash

Basketball Wives Miami latest season has taken the brunt of backlash for all things wrong with reality shows including how black women are portrayed. Though talk show host Wendy Williams’ swore not to watch the show (potentially influencing her audience) and lawyer Star Jones’ petition—the reality show and its sister shows are winning.

Truth told, prior to these feisty women, VH1’s “Flavor Of Love” could have used its fair share of grievances with their choice of selected women who chose to spit and fight over the old school hip hop head.

Not to compare repercussions from either of the nonsensical reality shows, but to note, from VH1’s cast to find scripted love to now scripted casts of black women from the “Basketball Wives” (who aren’t wives) franchise to the “Love & Hip Hop” franchise, viewers, particularly black, are being sucked in to watch black women respond on the lowest level.

“A good deal of reality programming depends upon sensationalistic representations,” Imani Perry, a professor in the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University said. “I think what makes it troublesome is the proliferation of black stereotypes, particularly for black women. But that’s also where the appeal lies, even for black viewers.”

Blacks have the highest rate of total TV usage, according to a 2011 Nielsen report — translating to an average of seven hours, 12 minutes each day, two hours above the U.S. average.

“Basketball Wives” is just one of several increasingly controversial reality shows that has transformed the once-demure sister channel of MTV — known for “Pop Up Video” and “Behind the Music” — into an unlikely venue for provocative programs slanted toward a demographic it previously ignored: African Americans,” according to

While more sensible reality shows were added to the Viacom-owned cable channel, “La La’s Full Court” and “Styled By June” did not see the explosive viewership numbers as with the egregious franchises who meet up for lunch, dinner, and drinks to either orchestrate a fight or boast about a previous one.

“They tapped into an audience that is very faithful,” said Robin Boylorn, a professor at the University of Alabama who focuses on race studies. “It’s smart in terms of marketing and money because in this moment they have the ear of a particular public. I think that they took advantage of that — we see it with all the spinoff shows for ‘Basketball Wives’ and ‘Love & Hip Hop.’”

VH1’s President Tom Calderone insists the network gives their audience who they can relate to and who they want to see and the by-product is staying relevant, being the must-see network.

“All of a sudden the network is starting to look like how the world looks. Series such as “Love & Hip Hop” are a reflection of what networks need to do to remain relevant, we’re creating new celebrities. ‘Mob Wives’ are new celebrities. ‘Basketball Wives’ are new celebrities. I think our role is to put a mirror on pop culture and influence pop culture — that’s important.”

Meanwhile Shaunie O’Neal, ex-wife of Shaquille O’Neal, who stars in and executive produces “Basketball Wives” admits the series has deviated from her original vision, yet she has not removed her image or name from the franchises and is bringing the franchise back for another season.


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