Tag Archives: BET

Game Over?

7 Jun

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When I heard that Melanie (Tia Mowry Hardrict) and Derwin (Pooch Hall) were not returning to The Game next season I must admit that I drank the Kool-Aid and tuned back in to see how their complicated love story would end.  I even saw most of the episodes I missed after taking a hiatus (during the four day, five season marathon on BET) this past weekend.  Watching episodes from five years ago reminded me of why I was a fan of the show in the first place, and in some ways, the final episode of Season 5 offered a slight, albeit temporary, glimpse of the good ole’ days.

At first The Game (on The CW) was refreshing because it was comedic, focused on friendships, and offered nuances to the characters (i.e., us learning how/why they are the way they are—from Melanie’s bourgeiose family to Maalik’s fatherless son with mama issues translated to woman issues narrative).  Unfortunately, when they returned, on BET, much of that was lost.  I continued to watch because I was a loyal “fan” and I was committed, at first, to watch The Game until the bittersweet end.

Clearly I am not alone in my nostalgia.  There is a facebook fan page, Save The Game, that is devoted to both remembering what made The Game work for the first three seasons (via “throwback Thursday images of The Game during its former glory,” and calling for corporate accountability for the new programming, via an open letter to writers and producers).

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I won’t repeat things I have already said about the frailties of the show since its transition to BET, but I will say that one of the disappointments was the way that the writers handled the characters we had all come to love.  It was as if they did not know what to do with the characters anymore, and instead of maturing them, they regressed into childish, selfish, shells of their former selves.  It was hard to like them, let alone love them.

I can say, though, that over the course of the season, it seemed, that some of the characters softened.  I must admit, while I was initially blackgirl offended at the introduction of Chardonnay as an over-the-top exaggeration of black ghetto fabulousness, she seemed, at the end of the season, to be less rough around the edges and more believable.  Tasha Mack’s character, while wildly stereotypical, showed her soft/er and vulnerable side in the last episode, in what I believe to be one of the most remarkable and memorable scenes she has had.  (What woman doesn’t want a lover who will “take care of her” when she is sick?)

Unfortunately, Tuesday night’s episode represented one high mark in two seasons worth of foolishness.  There have been so many episodes, over the last two seasons, that left me hanging, so many storylines that were not thought through or properly executed, so many things that did not make sense, that one episode where the imprudence was minimal does not make up for it.  I appreciate that we were given an ending that gave closure (in a TV series kind of way) for the characters, but it makes me wonder what is going to happen next?  In what ways is next season going to take away the temporary “good feelings” I had after Tuesday’s finale?

In many ways the final episode of season 5 could have been the series finale, an end to the stories that help us know that everybody is going to be okay (just like the first, though abrupt, series finale).  We get a glimpse of what tomorrow will bring for the characters that doesn’t feel jagged edged, that doesn’t feel impossible, or short-changed.  Tasha finally finds “everything she always prayed for” (in Pooky).  Jason finds his true blackgirl love.  Maalik has his second chance with his first love (football), and resigns to being himself (the arrogant, cocky playboy we learned to love); Melanie and Derwin get their “thing” back, the spark we were introduced to on the first episode of the game, only this time instead of Melanie being expected to sacrifice her dreams for her man, Derwin sacrifices his for hers.  She finally gets to come into her own, fulfill her own dreams and goals to be a doctor, without sacrificing her marriage or happiness to do it.  She gets it “all”—at least in the moment when her (gorgeous) husband comes to the airport to go with her to D.C.

I don’t know what will happen next season, and I can’t say that I am anxious to see it or that I will even watch it.  In many ways I feel like The Game has run its course.  On The CW it was entertaining to watch, but if BET is overtime, I am over it, and even when you are a fan of your team, at some point you are just ready for The Game to be over.  After several disappointing Tuesday nights, the final episode of season five is the one I want to remember it by—an episode that finally, it seems, brought everyone full circle, back to where we started.

Game over.

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Why I’m (Probably) Not Watching “The Game”

26 Jan

Last year I posted on the return of The Game (yes, it has been a year since it (re)debuted on BET) and offered a critique of the ways in which the characters morphed to fit BET programming, which compromised the integrity of the characters that fans had fought and petitioned for.  After The Game came back on I was disappointed in the ways in which originally nuanced characters had been re-written as the typical black tropes: women who are angry, ghetto, untrustworthy, money-hungry, vindictive, and promiscuous.  And men who are selfish, ghetto fabulous, wreckless, and drug-addicted.

I tuned in a few weeks ago for the new season and I watched again last week (not because I was particularly interested, but it was pre-set to record on the DVR.  I watched it over the weekend because there was nothing else on TV while I was waiting for playoff football games to start).  Every week I am hopeful that the writers will fix what is not working—but these characters have no character.  (SN: I was not impressed seeing Nene Leakes on BET—Bravo is plenty!)  You can tell that things have completely turned upside down when the “deepest” character on the show is Jason Pitts (not sure how I feel about his newly discovered blackness—but at least he is being reflexive and somewhat responsible.  Last season he quit his job in order to focus on fathering his daughter, and this season he seems to be having an epiphany about his racial identity, and the issues surrounding it—his conversations with his “new black wife” sound like therapy sessions).  Meanwhile, Melanie and Tasha are at each other’s throats, Derwin has gone from charming choir boy to selfish superstar, and Kelly is M.I.A.  Maalik’s mommy issues tend to always lead him into detrimental relationships that are doomed from the start.  His tryst with the bosses wife has landed him on the bench and nearly bankrupt, and his infatuation with the model (did we even know her name?) had the Robin Givens-esque vibe of unreciprocated interest. And then there’s Tasha, I didn’t think the sexy Sapphire could get much louder or overly-dramatic.  I was wrong.

The newly emergent female characters are flat, at best, and those that are rounded out with a background and personality only serve the purpose of furthering problematic black woman representations.  One of the newest Sunbeams from last season, for example, is a former stripper groupie turned football wife who’s largest contribution to the group has been teaching the women how to shake their asses for their men (not to mention suggesting threesomes–because of course sex is what gets and keeps a man–side eye).  Then, we discover in this week’s episode, thanks to Tasha’s nonchalant and retaliatory comment to her, that she doesn’t have custody of her children (can you say Jezebel stereotype?).  Brandy, (or should I say Chardonnay) the newbie this season, seems to fit the sassy Sapphire stereotype (with the ghetto, named after alcohol name) who’s anger and attitude make her a younger version of Tasha Mack.  Her purpose seems to be to help Jason get over his fondness of white women and get in touch with his “black side.”  Smdh. 

I am clearly not the only one disillusioned and ambivalent about The Game.  In the article, “The Game Doubles Down on Melodrama, Eliminates What Fans Loved,” Tyler Lewis states: 

“If Mara Brock Akil and BET want to make a black nighttime telenovela where the cast never interacts with one another, where the relationships established in the first three seasons are thrown out in favor of separate, unconnected, over-the-top storylines for each of the five leads, then it should decide on what kind of show that is and settle on a consistent tone.  Because I do think the ship has sailed on any hope that The Game will be the show that folks wanted to be brought back. I think the audience has accepted it (and, likely, moved on). The producers should commit to it.”

Their ratings have dropped significantly, from 7.7 million viewers when they re-launched last January, to 5.3 million for the season 5 premiere on January 10, 2012.  This week’s show only garnered 2.88 million viewers.  I suspect that the downward trend will continue… how many episodes and chances will fans give before they find something else to watch on Tuesday nights? (I for one will be tuning in to White Collar, I have a hella crush on Neil Caffery). 

None of the characters have the same innocence and likeability they used to.  Perhaps if they weren’t already rich in previous seasons I could believe that money changed them… or perhaps the writers are trying to depict the extremes of newfound celebrity and the ways in which it can go to your head and dismantle your relationships (clearly possible and realistic, look at T.O. )—but would this be true of everyone?  I understood Jason’s arrogance–and Maalik’s personality was already eccentric and extreme, but it seems like no one gives a damn about anybody else anymore, and given the previous relationships they had with each other, that is not only unbelievable, it is unfortunate.  Watching The Game has become like watching Basketball Wives (Miami or L.A.), or some other petty reality show that glamorizes selfishness, opulence, and fame for fame’s sake.  

Is it BET?  Do the writers need a re-up?  Does Kelly Pitts need to make a return (I’m not really feeling Brandy)?  Am I naive for thinking we could go back to the way things were?  I’m not sure what the remedy is, but there is definitely a problem.  I guess time will tell if the season and show is salvagable.

I am not going to say that I will never watch The Game again (there is a reason reruns and marathons show at insomniac hours), or that I am not hoping it somehow survives (the actors aren’t writing the scripts, and they have to eat), but I damn sure erased it from my DVR recording schedule.

The Game Rewind (and Revise)

3 Mar

Last night, CF Asha and I chatted about BETs The Game. We discussed our overall opinion of the series as a whole and the Tuesday (3/1/11) episode specifically. As Crunk Feminist we pay particular attention to the linkages of race, gender, and popular culture and ask for the writers and producers to do better. We posted the edited transcript of our conversation below.  (Note: It’s a bit long, but its a chat so should be a quick read).

Ashaf: Where should we start?
Chanel: well i think the Meagan Good (Parker) thing is a good place
Ashaf: But the season begins with Parker slapping the hell out of Malik. Sometimes I’m not sure whether I should take umbrage at the violence or accept it as part of kink culture. Are there lines? Am I being provincial?
Chanel: I don’t remember the context of the first slap. Was it sexual?
Ashaf: They were having sex on a toilet I think.
Chanel: lol. But they’re doing a lot of slapping this season. Didn’t Mel slap the shit out of Derwin last night?
Ashaf: Yes. Melanie got her slap on a few times last night
Chanel: That’s some lazy ass kink writing. The way they participated really wasn’t in a way that disrupted any kinds of sex norms, which is what I think is interesting about kink. This kink was on some Usher shit.
Ashaf: On some Usher shit!!! Bwahaha!!!
Chanel: what’s that song where he wants her to be the man for the night? Trading Places. Anyway in that song he does this whole thing about how he wants her to take control and give it to him like he usually gives it to her, but then in the end he takes control back. And some kind of way this kind of kink is similar because it seems to be controlled by male sexual desire.
Ashaf: Male desire definitely controlled Melanie’s attempts to liven things up last night. Did you see her face after the other woman kissed her?
Chanel: That whole thing was a shitty ass mess and did nothing for the overall goal of the season
Ashaf: What is the overall goal of the season? PLEASE clue me in
Chanel: i feel like this season really wasn’t thought of when Mara conceptualized the show.
Ashaf: I think they’re just trying to stay on television by cramming in as many stereotypes, booty shots, and pseudo-dramatic scenes as they can.
Chanel: I think that what we saw at the end of The Game’s run on the CW was supposed to be its ultimate ending that would have taken several seasons to get to. Now that it came back they have to try to create drama. But it would be much more useful if they were highlighting some Other Side of the Game (shoutout to Badu) that we didn’t know about. They are really pulling straight from the ESPN headlines and not even doing anything interesting with what they portray
Ashaf: Yes. The same formula won’t work here– especially when the show picks up two years later…
Chanel: They are using the headlines as a measure of authenticity as opposed to actually being authentically relevant to the lives of the viewers
Ashaf: I read an article that suggested that the Game was ahead of its time because the things that they were portraying eventually actually happened on reality television… Now they are behind those headlines, and it looks a little cheap, not cheeky.
Chanel: That’s so true. But it’s sad because these are the only places we have any form of representation. We are not on regular TV at all
Ashaf: But that’s why I’m so thirsty!
Chanel: i mean i feel like through the realm of cable television we have the power to really take some kind of power in our own hands and control the African American cultural representations. Cable television has a little more freedom than regular television because each channel tries to cater to a particular audience as opposed to a broad audience—so BET to black audiences
Ashaf: Yes!!!! And I thought The Game would be really powerful because it was OUR show– brought back by popular demand, not a major Network’s decision.
Chanel: but then that makes me wonder, what the game is saying to a largely black viewing audience, especially about male/female relationships and about black women. So for me, it’s largely becoming a disciplining project for black women. It’s providing a sort of measuring stick for us to adhere to.
Ashaf: Yes. Another way to tell black women how to get, keep and treat a man. Still, I wonder if the changes were the network’s decision or if they really just had less money and fired the good writers. The show looks like the writers meet in a living room and don’t belong to a union.
Chanel: yes! We totally need to know about the production
Ashaf: what about the rape scene last night?
Chanel: omfg. The rape scene
Chanel: that shit pissed me off on so many levels
Ashaf: Level one: Did she really “cry rape”- as in take a saying literally? Is that what people do? I wish that somebody came knocking on the door every time a woman cried rape…
Chanel: As if that what’s rape looks like though- screaming and throwing things. Sometimes sure. But that stereotyping of the reaction to rape is deeply troubling and leads a lot of women to blame themselves or wonder if it even happened because that wasn’t their reaction
Ashaf: Even if we give that horrible performance by Parker a pass and believe that she coerced Malik into sex with that move, what does it mean that the coercion was glossed over? He cried a few tears on a naked model before the show ended. But that was all. Coercion and rape were both jokes last night.
Chanel: Because certain bodies are unrapeable. Men and black women- these bodies can never be raped. So Malik wasn’t raped because men can’t be
Ashaf: Yes yes yes
Chanel: and for Parker, that just perpetuates the idea that black women cannot be raped because they either asked for it or are lying.
Ashaf: Especially those who claim to be raped by those with a great deal of power. We all know that powerful men have hearts– just like Malik. And golddiggers will try anything to make them fall.
Chanel: and speaking of the connection to the headlines, was that not that whole Kobe thing?
Ashaf: Yes, it was the Kobe thing. Recycling some questions from the public about Kobe’s rape trial: Why would Malik have to rape her when women throw themselves at him all the time?
Chanel: [difference being on the body of a black woman. and that connects to the history of the jezebel. the black female slave couldn’t be raped because she was hypersexual and was always already desiring and wanting some dick. Parker wanted sex so bad that she threatened rape to get it. I wonder if they’ll ever show that on the show. A football player actually raping
Ashaf: They lightweight showed one form of sexual exploitation last season when Malik revealed that he had a room full of videos of women, and that some of them didn’t know he was taping.
Chanel: oooooh yeah. I remember that shit. Surveillance at its finest
Chanel: i just worry about the implications of such representations. We’ve been blogging about this in the way that first black women’s experiences of sexual violence are never talked about and second when they are talked about they are deeply problematic. So in this case, she uses rape as a tool of manipulation and unlike a golddigger that wants his money she is hypersexual and only wants sex. But it’s still contributing to these archetypes of black womanhood that keep getting reinscribed and fed back to us (shout to Patricia Hill Collins)
Ashaf: It is strange that violence against women has never been addressed in this show that is all about athletes and their wives and fans… So why is it Malik’s character that gets used for all the “deep” stuff– absent fathers, tolerance of homosexuality, now coercion, rehab…? Is he supposed to be the most hypermasculine?
Chanel: He is supposed to be the representation of stereotypical black male athletes. The problem is they don’t really problematize this representation. Like it could be done really differently and good by pointing more closely to the structures that create such a representation. But instead they just drop that shit in and it sounds so familiar (single mom, drugs…) that it doesn’t call us to be critical. I’m thinking of a show like The Wire that did that particular well (though still left women and girls invisible and marginalized at best)
Ashaf: Right! I was going there. Earlier, they were doing some interesting things with his character… The Michael Eric Dyson guest appearance, the big girls episode… even the (hastily written) homosexuality episode. Now there’s no snark left.
Chanel: yes. That episode was good. It was one of the only times we saw black gay men on TV that weren’t there for comedic fodder
Ashaf: But even the gay episode was kinda comedic, right? Like is that really how gay men get down? They just read some signs then rub up on somebody from behind? That was kinda about heterosexist phobia that all gay men really want is to sleep with straight men…
Chanel: o yeah. I didn’t really remember the details of the episode. But you’re right. It was very flat representation. Even the model saving him provides a binary opposition for Parker and we get another good girl/bad girl thing happening where we are told to view one as evil and one as good. They ain’t slick with their constructions.
Ashaf: Yes– definitely the good girl/ bad girl shit going on. And what does a good girl want? To help the suffering man– even if it means jeopardizing her own sobriety by messing with another addict. What does the bad girl want? To satiate her own desires by any means necessary– cheating on her husband, crying rape-literally-, and coercing Malik into sex and cunnilingus. What was that “cat got your tongue AGAIN?” shit?
Chanel: I also want to touch on the threesome thing. I think it really showed (while not problematizing) the way that we as women continue to see ourselves as projects to be worked on. So even when our partner isn’t expressing dissatisfaction we go off and work on ourselves. Derwin didn’t ask for any of that, but she felt that she had to be better to keep her man. I feel like she’s having to do a lot of changing to keep him in ways that she didn’t have to before.
Ashaf: Yes. Harveyism. The message is that the marriage’s upkeep is up to the woman. I mean she literally dropped everything to “take care of” her husband. What does it look like to take care of a millionaire?
Chanel: how the hell he gon make her go to church?
Ashaf: Right! And when did he become the “head” of the household? He was so corny for all those seasons, but they were more like equals… both focused on doing their own thing and trying to figure out how to love and coexist.
Chanel: yes! How to love and coexist. I hate that Mel lost a part of herself to become one with him. I don’t believe that marriage is about two halves becoming whole. It is about 1+1=2
Ashaf: That is good addition, but in popular culture, love begins with subtraction. Black women need to take away a lot of things before they find “the one”– their attitude, their independence, their high standards and aspirations…
Ashaf: Last night, the women in competition trope was so loud!
Chanel: yes. Too loud. Where is the sisterhood?
Ashaf: Melanie’s competing with unknown groupies, with Derwin’s former lover, with the random woman at the club… She didn’t go through with the threesome because she felt jealous.
Chanel: *snaps*
Chanel: seriously. Melanie’s character has changed drastically
Chanel: she was always messing things up but i feel like before she was searching for self
Chanel: I’m not sure what she’s doing now
Chanel: it’s all out of fear of losing him. So really you’ll do ANYTHING to keep your man?
Chanel: you can miss me with all that. Seriously
Ashaf: I wish the producers would figure it out. The Janae thing is old (more competition!), Mel should have got used to it by now, and should even love Derwin’s son. Med school was a space for tension in the previous seasons– now she’s done. Her hair was sassy before. Now she looks like Weavonce.
Chanel: I feel like she’s become Kelly Pitts’ former character. The way she conducts that Sunbeam stuff is so unlike her. I also didn’t like that Melanie’s measure of progressiveness was tied to having a threesome. She told the woman something like “i thought i was the progressive woman but I’m not.” sooooo [not having a threesome] discounts your progressive politics?
Ashaf: Progressive is following your own desires, sweetheart, not fashioning your desires after what you imagine men will like.
Chanel: i mean i don’t think she’s progressive (well the show hasn’t shown that) but what does that have to do with that scene? And i feel like in some way it ties sexual activity to feminism. I mean they didn’t say feminism but i know they were lumping us in to that
Ashaf: I think it has to do with boiling down discussions of sexualities to discussions of tolerance. I am all for the no-bullying campaigns, but discussions of sexuality have the potential to queer lines… when we only talk about tolerance we are really talking about being politically correct (I don’t see sexuality. We’re all the same)
Chanel: but i know I’ll keep watching and hoping for it to get better
Ashaf: So what do you say to the person who asks why we don’t just change the channel? Why is it worth writing about? I gotta have something to tell my parents:)
Chanel: because we believe in it its potential and we have previous seasons to back up our beliefs. If we really felt that it was too far gone, we wouldn’t write about it. There is so much power and necessity in talking about sports
Ashaf: I think it’s also because pop culture is a form of education. People don’t want to criticize what they enjoy, but they are learning all along. This show will educate the jurors on future rape trials and that’s scary to me.
Chanel: so true! Pop culture matters in so many ways. I just really want complex representations of blackness in all its forms
Ashaf: Yes… crying for complexity
Chanel: depending on how this is received we can think about briefly talking about The Game every Tuesday

Nicki’s World

26 Aug

As BET gets set to air its documentary about women and hip hop Monday, I am finding my 30-plus, old school feminist-self working hard to gear up to get down with the over-the-top, lyrically layered, brand savvy rapper that is Nicki Minaj.

The self-described Barbie is inescapable. She works every rap and R&B hook, and changes her looks to fashion what could be categorized as camp, cultural appropriation or classic sexual objectification.  Until Minaj, I’ve managed to safely maneuver around mainstream new millennium starlets because they offered no more than a cookie-cutter replica of the unique hip hop dynamism I remembered.  (See the links to artists below.) Likened to Lady Gaga for her eye-catching performances, this former theater student is adept at staging media spectacles, such as autographing breasts, adopting different voices, and orchestrating a coming-out tweet to squash rumors about her bisexuality for those who might have misread the Remy Ma viral video confession from her masculine persona, Roman, as Nicki Minaj. You can call the latter a cop-out or a capitulation to a commercial model that demands that all women perform hyperfemininity period. As I enter Nicki’s world (slowly and with caution), I am not only considering the ways she uses her body, but I am thinking of three ways her performances of race, gender and sexuality instigate a feminist engagement with the popular.

1.  Beauty and Postfeminism

Postfeminism advertises the sexy, smart, economically successful self-absorbed it-girl from a post-patriarchal world where politics are defined by “style wars” rather than issues of gender inequity. Here, beauty and postfeminism seem to be disconnected from critiques of consumerism, gendered labor, or political citizenship.  On the one hand, the look-good-feel-fine empowerment that Minaj offers feels as lifeless as the dolls she suggests every girl wants to be—you know, the nonspeaking, decorative, plastic bodies to be handled and watched. Then again, I can imagine her Barbie thang as her way of injecting a sense of beauty and wonderment for homegirls, like herself, who’ve had to create other worlds to escape the ugly one they lived every day. In either case, Minaj has managed to capture the attention of young women—hook, line and stiletto.

2. The Lady and The Freak

In what could be described as a post-Tip Drill moment where folks are “manning” the line to distinguish the ladies from the freaks, Nicki Minaj is not the only one who is creating personas to perform otherness. As Roman Zolanski she can express desire for another woman, and as Harajuku Barbie she can perform a sexualized Asian girlhood without damaging the central “brand” or image. Beyoncé is another celebrity with a freak persona. In big hair and tall heels, Sasha Fierce does Beyoncé’s “dirty work.” Both entertainers talk about a sense of freedom—which is almost always connected to sexual freedom.  Celebrity aside, ordinary young women on and off screen are crafting “real” and alternate/virtual identities as a response to the increased policing of their bodies through this hip hop binary. Rather than marking public/private bodies, young women like Minaj are now describing their “real” good bodies and their fake freakish ones. In our sincere efforts to “free the girls,” it is possible we might have caged our “real” sexual selves.

3. Camp, Celebration or Cultural Appropriation

From her Anime-inspired Vibe magazine cover, her Harajuku Barbie persona, to her recent music video, Your Love, where she plays a geisha girl (among others), Minaj reprises dated stereotypes about Asian women that suggest desirability comes in part from submissiveness or obedience.  Costuming conceals and reveals her body, and both frame her as the exotic; the hand gestures she does in separate scenes either to seduce her lover or to fight her foe are grafted from other forms of popular culture depicting Asianness. I can remember the debut of the Harajuku Girls shadowing Gwen Stefani at a music awards show. Then, folks flipped about a white woman co-opting Asian culture and parading other women (as objects of her imagination).  Yet, as Minaj mines the visual landscape to reinvent herself, her Afroasian encounters – whether camp, celebration, or cultural appropriation – remain unchallenged.

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