07 July 2009

A Word (or Several Hundred) on the BET Awards

It’s taken about a week for my feelings about the BET Awards to be articulated as something beyond, “I hate Debra Lee,” or “If Harriet Tubman got frequent flyer miles, she’s now really upset there weren’t more blackout dates,” or “Where’s Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey when you need them?”** or “How long before they just start calling it the Al Jolson Awards?” But I’m less irritable—and hopefully more constructive—now. Besides, Al Jolson doesn’t deserve that dis; he never did anything to me.

BET didn’t even bother to meet my already very, very, very, very low expectations. I watched the entire show, and waited for the Michael Jackson tribute that the network seemed to forget it publicized in a press release following the singer’s death. But lots of other things filled up my tv screen. By show’s end, there was plenty of confusion—how, in a room full of black folks, was there not at least dance tribute to Michael Jackson?—more charges of coonery and buffoonery, and expletive-flavored things to say. But there was also some clarity.

With some help and discussion, I think I’ve realized what happens in a BET programming meeting: They get together and try to “out-ignorant” each other. It’s sort of like playing the dozens, except instead of, “Your mama…,” the cracks sound something like, “[Insert BET show] will be so ignorant, it’ll make Birth of a Nation look like Do the Right Thing!”

Someone suggests, for instance, reuniting the cast of Baby Boy on stage, just to remind Taraji P. Henson, maybe, that she was Jody’s baby's mama before she was Benjamin’s surrogate mama. Then someone else chimes in, saying that Tyrese should come on stage, because he’s going to be at the show anyway. Another mentions that maybe Ving Rhames is available, and if so he could give that monologue about guns and butter because the audience would really guffaw at that shit. And then someone asks, “What if we made sure Ving Rhames was drunk, or at least seemed like it, before he got on stage?” And then somebody who’s been updating her Facebook page the whole time adds, “If he’s drunk, he should act like he’s about to whoop Jody. I mean, Tyrese. It could be like, you know, a subtle tribute to Joe Jackson maybe?” And so on and so on. I’m just guessing here. But how else can one explain Janet Jackson being followed by the Young Money crew? Sometimes you got to coon to keep from crying? Maybe.

In case you missed it, didn’t Tivo the original broadcast, or just caught the re-aired version, the awards show ended with the now infamous—and edited out—performance by Lil Wayne, Birdman, hip-hop it boy, Wheelchair Jimmy Drake, and some other rappers I don’t know. The seven minutes thirty seconds went something like this: Drake, having duped us into believing he’s going introspective with his performance by sitting on a stool (turns out it was a torn ACL), shouts out Michael Jackson, and then proceeds to rap about a girl or several. Then Weezy ‘n’em rush the stage, rapping about wanting to have sex with every woman in the world—objectify women much? (But BET countered the song’s “message” by showing women in the audience rapping along.) What’s more, at some point during the song, in a move seemingly inspired by the self-proclaimed pied pier of r&b, R. Kelly, several young girls—and yes, by young I mean under the age of 18—including Wayne’s daughter hop on stage and start dancing to the song. Nice touch.

I know, I know. I should’ve stopped sipping the snake oil after Janet left the stage, for I knew that there was no way BET could follow her appearance properly. (Note to self: see above assessment of the BET decision-making process.) My bad. But perhaps in my sorrow I forgot that I was watching the same channel that saw no problem in airing a video that featured a man swiping a credit card down a woman’s butt. (I know it was years ago. I’m still mad.) Perhaps in my sorrow I got sloppy in my thinking, concluding that a black woman heads this company and such things could never happen. (Oh! The pitfalls and limits of identity politics!) Perhaps in my sorrow I thought, of course no one would think it a good idea to allow a performance that not so subtly intimated sexual abuse when the theme of the entire show was a tribute to a man whose later life was plagued by allegations of such abuse. Perhaps I duped myself into believing that someone would have stopped the thought process and said that’s not a good idea. (Again. Note to self: see above assessment of BET.)

Then, shockingly (no irony), BET (and Drake) later issued an apology, saying that the performance was in bad taste. What’s this? BET has standards? Since when?
Apparently, they were grateful for the uproar, because it helps make them a better network. An annoying blip on the “coonery is entertaining” screen, I’m sure. Of course, BET has never let on that such performances were ok, have they? But I guess their apology is good. They slapped themselves on the wrist, and no one had to bother BHO. (Do you think they watched the show at the White House?)

The other day my dad picked up my sister and me from the airport. On the way to the hotel, we listened to some random station playing 90’s black music. Arrested Development’s “Tennessee” was followed by Black Box’ “Everybody, Everybody.” I was 12 again, but this time, I didn’t take for granted that examples of two somewhat distinct genres of black music could follow each other. I sat and wondered what happened. My local radio station used to sound like that. BET used to look and sound like that.

I’m not even interested in respectability. I’m interested in respect. I’m interested in diversity. I’d be less frustrated by the idea of Weezy et. al. wanting to sleep with every girl in the world, if it wasn’t always “countered” by “Supermanning h**s.” Can you imagine Speech [of Arrested Development] on today's version of BET?

Can you imagine Michael Jackson—if he were being honest and not gracious—even wanting to be on BET?

No. So I guess I shouldn't have imagined a semi-decent tribute. My bad.

**To be clear, the Tubman/Vesey lines aren’t jokes dissing enslaved blacks, or making assessments about their mentality. (In fact, I probably have a different, prouder view of slavery than many. The joke/point is about risking one’s life for folks only to see, a couple hundred years later, some of the descendants of some of those folks acting a fool on cable.


Anonymous said...

Hi-thanks for your comments on the BET show-particularly Drake/the other idiot-I saw Drake's apology-maybe he could also apologise for his part in the continued degradation of black women-I guess that would take a 180 degree switch in his thinking-and would be just too much to ask for. Absolutely-I can't imagine what the freedom fighters of an unfortunately not too distant past would have thought of the idiots that continuously spew out this crap-and call it music.


from a black Brit chick, in Kent, England

summer of sam said...

black brit chick in kent, england,

thanks for reading. i really appreciate it.

Designer Labels

$40 million slaves (3) 2010 (1) 4-letter words (1) 80s (1) 8th grade (1) 90s (4) a different world (1) africa (1) aladdin (1) american values (4) amy winehouse (1) anderson cooper (1) anniversary (3) antoine dodson (1) apple (1) arizona (1) athletes (1) awkward black girl (1) barack obama (13) barbara walters (1) basketball (6) beer (1) bet (1) BET Awards (2) beyonce (4) bill clinton (1) bill duke (1) bill withers (1) birthdays (1) black beauty (1) black girls (4) black kids (4) black like me (1) black love is dead (2) black masculinity (1) black people (13) black respectability (1) black thought (1) black women (7) blacks (1) blame it on the alcohol (1) blaphemy (1) blind side (1) blizzard (1) blogging (1) bob marley (1) Bobby Brown (1) books (4) brandy (1) bryan safi (1) bryant gumbel (1) burger kind (1) cam'ron (1) capitalism (2) census 2010 (1) cereal (1) chappelle's show (1) charles barkley (1) chaz bono (1) chicago (3) chick-fil-a (2) chris broussard (1) chris brown (1) christmas (3) cinema (2) class (1) college (1) college basketball (1) coming out (1) commencement (2) commercials (2) common (3) current tv (1) d'angelo (2) dad (1) daddy (1) dark girls (1) dave chappelle (1) david stern (1) dead prez (1) death penalty (2) dee rees (1) democracy (1) dibs (1) diddy (1) dilla (1) dirty laundry (1) disaster (1) disney (1) dissertation (4) diva (1) don't ask don't tell (1) donell jones (1) drew brees (1) dwele (2) ebony (1) eddie long (1) education (1) election (1) enwhitlement (1) erica jong (1) erykah badu (3) esperanza spaulding (1) espn (2) et. al. (1) etc. (1) facebook (1) faggot (1) family (1) family stand (1) fantasy football (1) federal holidays (1) feminism (1) film (2) football (7) for colored girls (1) forgiveness (2) fox news (1) free agency 2010 (1) freedom (2) gabby sidibe (3) game (1) gang starr (1) gay hip hop (1) gender (1) geraldo rivera (1) ghetto heaven (1) gifts (1) god (1) going green (2) golf (1) grace jones (1) graduate school (1) graduation (2) grandma (1) grant hill (2) grocery shopping (1) guns (1) guru (1) haiti (4) hall of fame (1) halloween (1) harlem (1) harper lee (1) harry reid (1) hateration (1) henry louis gates (1) high school (1) hip hop (3) holding history (1) hood pass (1) hoodies (1) huck finn (2) hurricane katrina (1) immigration (3) instant vintage (2) internet (1) introductions (1) ipad (1) ipod (1) isiah thomas (1) jail (2) jalen rose (2) janelle monae (1) janet jackson (1) jazmine sullivan (1) jennifer hudson (1) john howard griffin (1) john mayer (1) jokes (2) just jokes (1) kanye west (2) kelly dodson (1) kfc (1) kia (1) kim wayans (1) kinky reggae (1) kitty kelley (1) kobe (1) kobe bryant (1) kreayshawn (1) krs-one (1) kwanzaa (1) lamya (1) language (1) late night with jimmy fallon (1) latin america (1) laurence fishburne (1) lauryn hill (6) lebron james (6) lena horne (1) lenny kravitz (1) lesbians of color (1) levar burton (1) lgbt (1) life after death (2) lists (1) little dragon (1) live blogging (1) logan square (1) long live the message (1) lupe fiasco (1) macon d. (1) magic johnson (1) maia campbell (1) making the band (1) man men (1) march madness (1) mariah carey (1) mark twain (1) marriage (1) martin lawrence (1) martin luther the king (3) mary j. blige (1) masculinity (1) mayor (1) me (1) mexicans (1) michael jackson (9) michael jordan (1) michael vick (1) michelle obama (1) Mike Tyson (1) military (1) MLK Day (1) mo'nique (1) mom (1) monday (1) money (3) montana fishburne (1) morality (1) movies (7) muhsinah (1) multiracial (1) muppets (1) music (19) my block (1) my former life (4) my personal issues (14) mystic brew (1) n (1) nannie (5) national coming out day (1) nba (2) negroes (7) new orleans (1) nfl (1) nigger (1) nihilism (2) nike (1) nina simone (1) nobel peace prize (1) not voting (1) occupy wall street (2) octavia spencer (1) oprah winfrey (4) osama bin laden (2) oscar (2) oscar grant (1) painting (1) pariah (1) pat robertson (2) paul beatty (1) paul laurence dunbar (1) paula patton (1) peyton manning (1) phaedra parks (2) phd (1) pictures (1) playboy (1) plays (1) poetry (2) police (2) politics (10) polkadotted stripes (5) pop life (56) porn (1) post cereal (1) post-race (18) post-soul (1) postmodernism (1) precious (5) prop 8 (1) push (1) qpoc (1) queen latifah (4) queer as folk (6) quoteable (1) racialicious (1) racism (14) randomness (1) reading is fundamental (2) repeal (1) resolutions (1) retirement (1) rhoa (1) richard daley (1) Rick James (1) rick perry (1) rihanna (1) robots (1) robyn crawford (1) rolling in the whip (1) rumors (6) run on (1) running (1) sade (1) sammy sosa (1) samples (1) sandra bullock (3) sapphire (1) school (1) sesame street (1) sexuality (9) Shingai Shoniwa (1) shows (1) slang (1) slavery (2) slum village (1) slurs (1) snoop dogg (1) sotomayor (1) soulja boy (1) sports (8) starbucks (1) stuff white people do (1) super bowl (2) survival (1) Teena Marie (1) tell him (1) terence trent d'arby (1) the 70s (1) the 80s (2) the banal. (1) the blind side (1) the civil rights movement (1) the clipse (1) the color purple (1) the cosby show (1) the dougie (1) the everyday (1) the fab five (3) the foreign exchange (1) the golden girls (1) the gregory brothers (1) the help (2) the hunger games (2) the lion king (1) the lovers and friends show (1) the new year (1) the NOISEttes (1) the nutcracker (1) the princess and the frog (1) the puppets (1) the roots (1) the smurfs (1) the view (1) the white boy shuffle (1) this is it (1) tiger woods (4) to kill a mockingbird (1) toure (1) toussaint l'ouverture (1) trader joe's (2) trayvon martin (2) trouble the water (1) troy davis (1) tv (1) twelve (1) twitter (1) tyler perry (5) usc (1) valentine's day (1) viola davis (1) voodoo (1) voting (1) Wayne Brady (1) web series (1) white house correspondents dinner (1) white house press corps (1) white men (1) white people (1) white saviors (1) white women (1) white women rappers (1) whitney houston (4) whoopi goldberg (1) will.i.am (1) william rhoden (1) william wordsworth (1) willow smith (2) wishing well (1) women (1) world cup (1) writing (1) wyclef (1) zo (1)