A (Not So) Guilty Pleasure: Love & Hip Hop Atlanta

23 Jul

By now, many of you have experienced the delightful ratchet theater that is Love & Hip Hop Atlanta.

One word: Ratchetstilksin

Love and Hip Hop Atlanta is the brain-child of producer, Mona Scott-Young, who also unleashed upon the world created the first Love and Hip Hop series. LAHHA follows, as you might have guessed, the high and lows of several (not particularly well-known) artists, producers, baby mamas, and the like who are enmeshed in the music scene in Hotlanta. After randomly stumbling upon the show a few weeks ago, I must confess that I am hooked. I swear I watch episodes without blinking!

How could you look away?

I find a couple of things fascinating about the show. One of the main plots of the show is the love triangle revolving around producer Stevie J, his long-suffering “main chick” Mimi Faust, and his protégé/side piece, Joseline Hernandez.

The shade of it all!

Shoot, I might could call it a love rhombus since Stevie J can’t seem to recall how many women he’s “smashed.” (Also, could we forever retire that term as it relates to sex? Between banging, smashing, hitting, cutting, beating it out the frame, and blowing people’s backs out, sex seems more like war than an exercise in pleasure. For real.)

In any event, I have been chatting with various friends who watch the show about the allure of Stevie J. I just can’t figure it out!

Yes, this fine specimen.

We debated whether he was really putting it down like that, if it was just some swag (that I couldn’t see), or is it that he preys upon the weak and the desperate.  I think it may be a heady combination of all those things. What has been interesting, though, is despite the foolishness of LAHHA, in many of these conversations, my friends and I are not simply talking about the antics of these “characters” that we may make fun of from a distance, but remembering the fact that some of the people we know and love—perhaps even ourselves—have been embroiled with the insecure, the unavailable, the emotionally-manipulative, the wack, and the ratchet. Or that we ourselves might have (and still might be) those very things.

The other thing that’s interesting to me about LAHHA is the whole discourse around femininity, especially as it relates to Joseline. A former sex worker with aspirations of producing mediocre rap/reggaeton, Joseline’s so-called masculine appearance has been ridiculed on the show and pretty thoroughly in the blogosphere.

Tell ’em why you mad.

I’ve heard everything from the fact that she is “really a man” to the notion that her whole experience of getting an abortion was just a ploy to convince viewers that she is “really a woman.” Now, I expect very little from VH1, which has rebranded itself as a top channel on the backs of women-of-color acting a damn fool, but this unadulterated trans hatred has lowered my already piss poor expectations of the network.  And the discussions of Joseline on the ground emphasize what we already know: we desperately need the language to talk about sexuality and gender expression in ways that not only do not diminish others, but that also recognize complicated realities within ourselves.

The storyline with Lil’ Scrappy (bless him) and Erica is also fascinating to me. The whole notion that she’s unavailable emotionally and that he needs someone who’s more affectionate is type interesting. On the one hand, let me mess around and find out that the Prince of the South is a softee and just needs to be held at night. I appreciate seeing dudes with neck tattoos reveal vulnerability. Then again, the discussion about Scrappy’s emotional needs seem to come at the expense of Erica’s. So, she’s wrong for not staying by his bedside when he has an alcohol-infused asthma attack, yet Erica revealed that Scrappy was not there for her during a miscarriage. Now, relationships—even on reality TV—don’t survive on passive aggressive tit for tat type behaviors, but something just ain’t right there. And it seemed all too convenient that their breakup went down after Scrappy got into some extracurricular activity with his best friend, Buckey from Flavor of Love Shay. This is all too messy. I will say, the exchange made me think of some sistas I know who, on the one hand, are asked to always asked to be a STRONGBLACKWOMAN and who then get blasted for being too cold, frigid, and distant. It just seems like a setup.[i]


Some of you may be thinking, “Really, Crunkadelic? I come to the Crunk Feminist Collective to read about weighty issues and you talking all this noise about some silly show on Vh1. Really?!”

Yes, really.

I mean, it’s cool if you don’t like reality shows or if you prefer to save your brain cells by watching more intellectual fare or by reading a book. We not going fall out about it. Indeed, I totally cosign with my girl Black Artemis who recently wrote a great post about letting go of her guilty pleasure, Basketball Wives. (A show that brings my pressure right on up. I just can’t do it). Sometimes, shows (books, jobs, people, etc.) are just too toxic and, if we can, we have to let them go. That being said, I’m pretty unapologetic about my complicated viewing choices. I have already written about my appreciation for trashy TV. These days, when I do have time for TV I can watch anything from Melissa Harris Perry’s show on MSNBC to The Barefoot Contessa cooking show, Parks & Rec, Sherlock (I’m obsessed! Also, I want a puppy named Benedict Cumberbatch), in addition to more ratchet fare such as Keeping up with Kardashians (I know I’m not the only one), Love & Hip Hop, Single Ladies, and so on. And I’m interested to what these scripted reality TV shows say about our own lives and how we make sense of life and love where cameras are not rolling.

So, fam, what are your thoughts on Love and Hip Hop Atlanta?

[i] Check out Joan Morgan’s When the Chickenheads Come Home to Roost for more on this phenomenon.

8 Responses to “A (Not So) Guilty Pleasure: Love & Hip Hop Atlanta”

  1. KJde July 23, 2012 at 7:22 AM #

    “Treat yo self”

  2. justanotheropinion July 23, 2012 at 9:25 PM #

    Although I respect your ability and decision to watch whatever you like whenever you want, I can’t, just can’t, condone, accept, appreciate, watch etc. these “reality” shows> (for the record, I don’t think anything less of folks that watch them – the shows just ain’t for me). I’m down for a good mental escape as much as the next person (lord knows we all need an escape), but these shows make me CRINGE. I can’t get thru 7min before turning the channel (and that was on a good day). I will spare you all the descriptive words I’ve come up with to describe these hot mess shows….I learn nothing, I gain nothing, and the only place these shows take me to is hell. The only thing worse than me watching them is knowing that these folks are earning money off of being on these shows, which will only make them continue their bafoonery in order to keep the checks rolling in. Just plain retched…

    Rant over…back to the real world. Thanks for indulging me.

  3. JoyTranks July 23, 2012 at 11:09 PM #

    I wholeheartedly agree with this entire post! First, I’m tired of having to “defend” my enjoyment of programs like these. As ratchet (that word tickles me, lol) as some of them are, some of the issues that they bring up cause me to reflect on my own life and it’s shenanigans…. and people can deny it all they want: that is REALITY (for a lot of us). Yes, some of the scenarios may be set up and scripted (i.e. the ladies ALWAYS showing up at the same spots, even if they don’t get along… Stevie J ALWAYS coming in wherever Mimi and Joseline is, but a lot of people really go thru drama like this on the daily. And yes, VH1 is definitely cashin’ out on the hoodbooga antics of these ladies and gents, and YES, I wish there were more positive inages of us in the spotlight, but this is a train wreck I have not been able to turn away from yet…

  4. sheridf July 24, 2012 at 1:11 AM #

    For you Crunkadelic I’m gonna give one look-see. I can’t promise a second, but my guilty pleasure is Tiny and T.I. since we are sharing.

  5. Tameka July 24, 2012 at 7:20 AM #

    Since I work from home I barely get out the house. I must say this show is my entertainment. I am addicted to this show and can’t get enough of it.

  6. Lauren H July 24, 2012 at 12:48 PM #

    I just gotta say I appreciate the acknowledgement of larger-scale problematic behavior for lack of better word. Stevie J and Scrappy (I think) treat these women like shit (Lawd and I feel so bad for Joseline and folks just mock her) and the viewing audience skews the women as the problem and idk it bugs me to see struggling/so-called “ratchet” WOC as always an easy target for the what’s wrong with the black community pearl-clutching. So thanks for being one of the only blogs to direct some critical thinking to this pile of bullshit…

  7. Lala July 26, 2012 at 11:09 AM #

    I enjoy a little trashy sometimes, can’t be all serious and fighting the good fight ALL the time. I can’t do BB Wives because they are just too Jr High. I do like Mary Mary because they are two sisters who love each other and yet drive each other nuts.

  8. RC August 2, 2012 at 10:40 AM #

    LHA and many of the other shows like it are fascinating to me because they somehow show some of the most corrosive effects of American culture. Others are too offended or feign for more intelligent media but this show is America without the business suits, Constitution and religious aura to camoflage the decay. People need to watch because in one way or another, no matter how small, we perform some of the same trash in our lives and the sooner we accept that fact the sooner we can change and maybe one day be the country, society and individuals we say we are we everyone is looking.

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