Tag Archives: single ladies

Sex, Scripts, & Single Ladies

23 Jun

I’ll admit it.  When VH1’s scripted dramedy Single Ladies premiered a few weeks ago I had very low expectations–so low, in fact, that I forgot it was even coming on that night. It wasn’t  until I logged on to my Facebook and saw a bunch of statements like, “OMG!” “He said what?” “Stacey Dash is how old?” “Why does LisaRaye always play herself?” that I realized the show was on. So, I flipped the channel to VH1 to see what all the buzz was about. To tell the truth, it took me a minute to even find VH1 because a channel whose claim to fame is messy-ass shows like Basketball Wives and Love and Hip Hop is generally not on my radar.

Anyway, my first impression of Single Ladies was that it was an over-the-top soap opera in the vein of Dynasty and Melrose Place, replete with rich, beautiful people and sudsy, paper-thin plot lines. And while I thought it had the potential to be some escapist fun, the raggedy acting, flat characters, and reliance on tired stereotypes had me giving the show the side eye. I will say I had great fun Facebook-critiquing it and decided to keep watching the show for the moment, if only for sociological interest…okay, and the eye candy, too, let me not front.

April, Val, and Keisha out on the town. Is it wrong for me to wonder if April shops at the same wig shop as Kim Zolciak?

My Facebook friends ran the gamut of reactions to the pilot episode. Some vowed that Single Ladies took two hours of their lives that they can never get back. Others decided that they would stick it out, at least for a few more episodes.

In thinking of my own mixed reaction to show, I decided to check out what critics had to say. Let’s just say that reviews have been less than kind, to say the least.

Hank Stuever at The Washington Post wrote:

This is a series for people who found “Sex and the City” too quick-witted and “The Wendy Williams Show” too intellectually stimulating.  It’s the TV equivalent of a beach read with no words.

I’ll admit it. I died and was later resurrected when I read that. Ooop!

Brian Lowry at Variety wrote:

Although VH1 bills “Single Ladies” as a romantic comedy, this hourlong show is really a soap–basically a scripted version of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” seeking to fill a niche among African-American women largely abandoned by broadcasters since “Girlfriends” went off the air. Still, it’s not a particularly inspired serial, replete with tired situations, stiff dialogue and male characters possessing less dimension than those populating “Sex and the City,” if that’s possible. It’s not easy for a series featuring beautiful women to harbor zero appeal among men, but these “Ladies” thread that needle.

Hmm. I can get with the first part of the comment, but I must admit that one-dimensional male characters were the least of our concerns in Sex and the City. You mean to tell me that those women went all around NYC and they couldn’t find more than like three people of color to put in the whole series (Sonia Braga, Blair Underwood…who was the third, y’all? Help me out…). So, no, the fact that we did not learn Big’s first name until the last episode of the series has not kept me awake at night.

By the same token, of all the critiques to make about Single Ladies, and there are plenty to make, the lack of fully realized male characters is not at the top of my list.  Because the show is a soap, the scenarios are definitely over the top.  Still, having lived in Atlanta for five years, I know that the dating scene there is often off the chain, with folks doing the most and achieving the least, much to  many sisters’ chagrin. Case in point: I dated a beautiful, smart, and gainfully-employed brother who thought the same stupid shit as Val’s sexy chef did in episode two: giving head is just not “manly” but receiving head is “natural.”  It’s true, folks, there are still people out there in the twenty-first century who think black men shouldn’t do cranial maneuvers! It is not a myth like unicorns and leprechauns; they actually exist. (Yes, I know there are brothers who do it and do it well, but y’all might want to take your fallen brethren under your wings, ’cause they are tripping).  So, seriously, I’m not hating on the show because some men (read: some straight men) ages 18-45 don’t like it. #kanyeshrug

How about the fact that the show only has one token gay male character, when we know good and hell well that Atlanta has a vibrant and diverse queer community? How about the fact that almost all the women on the show can pass the paper bag test? Riddle me that. Now, I’m not suggesting that a soap opera on VH1 has to be all things to all people. But with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit productions at the helm, I think it’s fair to ask for a bit more. C’mon, Khadijah, we need ya!

At the end of the day, I do find the show interesting on a few levels. Real talk, sometimes after teaching and writing all day all I want to watch is something that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower. I also do enjoy seeing a city I love represented, especially as I toil in the confederate wilderness of Alabama. Looking at Stacey Dash and LisaRaye McCoy makes me vow to drink more water and get more sleep because they make 45 look really, really good.  Some of the situations that the women have encountered around men and dominance have been surprisingly interesting. In fact, I had a great conversation the other day with my girl Crunktastic about the whole dinner scene with the pompous professors, which tickled me especially as a sister with working class roots who went to Emory for graduate school.  Despite the fact that all the profs were caricatures, I did think the class dynamics of the scene was fascinating and I definitely laughed out loud when the words “hypersexualization” and “objectification” made it onto the show.  Let me mess around and find out that some folks at VH1 have taken women’s studies…

Bottom line for me: the show is not great, but it does prompt some interesting questions about race, class, gender, and sisterhood, in addition to having a slew of foine—yes, foine—guest stars and an easy, breezy plot. I’ll be watching, with a crunk feminist critical lens of course, for now.

What is your take on Single Ladies?

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All the Single Ladies… are 7

16 May

I don’t really watch mainstream news so it took a friend to bring the 7 year old single ladies to my attention. Have you heard? A pack of surprisingly skilled Orange County 7-9 year olds shaking what they don’t have to Beyonce’s unrelenting anthem Single Ladies at a dance competition went viral on the interwebs.

CNN, ABC, MTV, E!, have all been talking about how far is too far as they play the video of the girls in nearly nothing on a loop, in between reporting on Miley Cyrus’ lecherous lap dance, the latest drama on The Hills, Teen Cribs, and commercials for age defying skin cream. Not to mention, one too many bloggers said the routine made them feel dirty and uncomfortable. Needless to say, not one of these entities takes any responsibility for contributing to our youth and sex obsessed culture, nor the inevitable merger of these two larger than life forces in media. Can we really feign surprise at the hypersexualization of seven year olds when just a few years later they are used to sell any and everything in ads and on runways around the world?

Bey’s video is pretty tame compared to what some (white) choreographer taught these white girls to do. Her video is built on the 1960’s Bob Fosse choreographed, Gwen Verdon danced Mexican Breakfast; middle aged white women prancing around a studio does not exactly equal risque. The parents claim that Sasha is just too fierce for their girls and that they got the moves from Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel. You be the judge (I’m giving serious side eye to the parents). And how is it possible that Bey & Co’s outfits are less revealing than the 7 year olds? Which soccer mom stitched those costumes together? And if perhaps in their lust for a trophy, in their craze for victory, they hired a black choreographer or had a brown person sew those tiny nymphet outfits by hand, its still connected to the white privilege of parents who employ people of color to sex up their seven year olds.

I mean lets be honest, part of the reason white folks are upset is because its white girls killing those suggestive dance moves. I did some youtube research and found numerous videos of little black and brown girls doing their best to put a ring on it but none of them quite compare to the tour de force that is this routine. They didn’t invoke a public outrage or garner CNN coverage.  When a group of equally young brown boys and girls, spurred on by cheering adults,  do some dancing of their own it didn’t make the evening news. So why is the nation up and arms suddenly about children being sexualized? It begs the question, whose children?

This pattern is visible with more serious things like missing children, childhood sexual abuse and child murders. White children are eagerly searched for and black children may not even make the evening news. This disparity in dance however has been marked by other bloggers before without interest from mainstream media.

In addition to the way whiteness is operating in this story, the technical skill of the girls is part of the reason this story has captured the national imagination. Little kids trying to do grown up things is one thing but little girls successful execution of straight up stripper dance moves is something else.

Unlike their brown and black contemporaries on youtube, little Jamie and Allison aren’t doing it for love, they have to win. In an age where upper and middle class helicopter parents are paying Olympic coaches to train their children in team sports, a 7 year old’s reproduction of Annie at the school talent show just doesn’t cut it. If winning means more sex in the routine, fewer clothes, no mistakes, parents are willing to teach their kids to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Good to know you’ve got them learning the important life lessons so early; win at all costs.

I think what one of the father’s says is true. I think the girls don’t know what they are doing, aren’t particularly clear on how their dance moves are being interpreted by the masses. I think they are having fun, excited that they can mimic the movements of adult women. Unfortunately, in this world we live in, its really hard for their accomplishments to be celebrated because of how their movements and outfits are so sexualized.

But I’m not surprised. American culture sexualizes children just as it infantilizes women every day. Bieber Fever is professed by women of all ages, male bloggers created a countdown clock to when the Olsen Twins turned 18, and as soon as girls get body hair they are learning how to remove it. We say we don’t want children to be sexualized too early but we allow advertisers and media to use sex to sell EVERYTHING and then act shocked when children pick it up or parents use sex to give their kids a competitive edge in a dance competition.

This has everything to do with consumption. Who is consuming these 7 year old sexualized bodies and for what ends? We say we don’t want our kids sexualized but we love to tease pre-schoolers about having boyfriends and girlfriends when they can barely talk, we make bikinis for babies, sexify children’s cartoon characters and yet we still refuse to talk to our children about sex. All of this and we still feed children the myth that sexual predators are out there somewhere and not in our neighborhoods, intimate relationships, and families. All of this as we pretend that people who abuse children are “sick individuals” as opposed to people we know shaped by the world we created. All of this and we teach children that its their responsibility to defend themselves from “bad touches” from strangers as we dangle sexuality in their faces, or have them dance in ways that are overtly sexual. All of this and we have the audacity to pretend that none of it is connected.

What will it take for us as a society to say that we care more about people than profits? Children than competition? Where will we draw the line and begin the serious work of examining culture and the way it informs the way we behave?

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