There is “Reality”, and then there is the “real” Reality.

‘Preachers’ Daughters’ Premiere: 17-Year-Old Taylor Wants To Be A Porn Star Or Stripper…’ …..


            I guess my concern is that the crazy and lowest denominator is presented as the “reality-norm”. And whose reality is it, really? I suppose that every type of known or imagined depraved behavior is someone’s reality but my 2 other concerns are the attempts to pass these shows off as normal reality comedy as opposed to aberration and distortions of “generalized” Black reality; driven by human distraction and destruction. We are more, much more.

             It is not the comedic aspect of these ‘Reality’ shows in itself that is the problem; even as I cringe at the attempt to play into stereotypical  gender; ( the never ending female ‘cat fights’ over the senseless and meaningless); and the racial (happy go lucky Negroes with much artificially created concerns and drama in the world; and without politically progressive idea in their heads. They live out their lives careening from designed “crises to crises” in a modern over the top passion play of ‘minstrelality’. There is something very odd here. When watching shows in the 50’s and 60’s like The Three Stooges (the name alone told you where the show was going); they acted in the most unreal sense of reality. The behavior was so, bizarre, so extreme, so “slap-stickish” that there was no way that the TV networks could call what they did “reality”. In a subtle way we were provided with a sort of “Intellectual sub titles”; a kind of disclaimer, that informed us: “What you are watching is for entertainment purposes only; it is not for reality consumption”.

               I remember one of my P.S. 9 (elementary school) classmates getting into serious trouble, when he performed a “Moe on Curley” (2 of the 3 Stooges) technique on another student in the school yard. (Two fingers eyes poke; blocked by Curley; followed up by an overhand “head-bop”, unable to be blocked by Curley). He never got to the “head-bop” part. The young victim, lacking a script, and acting technique did not block the “eye-poking” move. He suffered a not too serious eye injury, but had to be taken to the hospital. This resulted in us boys (the girls, apparently had more sense, even back then); to miss a day of recess so that we could listen to a lecture from the Assistant principal, Mr. Grant, concerning the absence of reality in shows like The Three Stooges and “Professional Wresting”. All activities related to these TV shows were hence forth banned from the territory of P.S. 9. Obviously (as history records); we all collectively made a mental note that his prohibition did not mention after-school on the way home, on the block and on weekends. Little did I know then; but many years later I would be presenting a modern and  version of Mr. Grant’s “reality speech” to a young man in my office for performing the (from “Professional TV Wresting”) infamous “sleeper-hold” on another student. His defense (and I am being charitable in calling it a defense); “I was not trying to hurt him; I was only trying to see if it works”. His attempt at directing and acting in his own reality show did not put the other student to sleep; but it did succeed in activating the victim’s asthma. “What amount of Knuckle in your head prevents you from understanding that professional wresting is not real?” I asked. His non-response signaled that he understood that my question was rhetorical; did not require an answer; and was intended to “shock” a sense of reality into his world view. After waiting the standard “principals pause” to allow for the gravity of the situation to sink in; I then pronounced the link of pedagogy to punishment (As I always told my Ed. Administration interns: “we are ultimately in the teaching, not the punishment business”). “Since you will now have a few days to reflect and contemplate the results of your actions; away from the social contact of your fellow students; I want to be helpful here” The look on the students face revealed that he knew that my offer “to help”; would somehow be problematic for him. “I will need you to write a 25 page paper on the history of Greco-Roman wrestling and U.S. “professional wresting”; and then compare and contrast them.” (All good knowledge is ultimately put to some good use; so somewhere in this world there is a young man; who knows a heck of a lot about Greco- Roman wrestling!)

                Our view of reality is very much shaped by our reality. And, perhaps there is an ongoing “back and forth” of shaping by the internal and external realities. Knowledge, is truly power, and powerful in helping us to distinguish which “reality” is in charge and when. As a youngster my friends  and I played “superheroes” (bathrobes became capes); and, (out of the knowing of  my mother); did leap from dresser top to bed; but it never occurred to us to do what seem to be an annual event of some youngsters at the time, to literally jump out of a window playing Superman. Somehow we were totally absorbed in playing the Superhero game; and yet we knew we were only playing superheroes. And although the Three Stooges were clearly White; we somehow did not think of them as being White.  It perhaps helped that TV, motion pictures, the news media; school (history lessons absent Black) gave us an overwhelming access to see many White people who were not stooges. The Black folks we saw on TV were either in some type of servitude position; or grunted some incomprehensible “African language” on shows like Tarzan.

                   Because we as a nation have failed to honestly discuss the unresolved issues of Race across racial barriers; these “reality” shows must be analyzed in a racial/political context; for example, when Black and White viewers are watching the same reality show scenes are they laughing at the same things? I wonder how much of our social reality drives our vision and understanding of these TV Reality shows; drives the  cause and context for our sense of humor? We don’t know because we fearfully avoid the discussion of race; even when the topic is race.  Unfortunately, what we presently have now in our nation is like the title of the August Wilson’s Play Two Trains Running; separate conversations moving along in parallel, but never touching. And until we have that “painful discussion”; I will remain suspicious of the motives and intent of the cultural, news, entertainment, sports, TV, and motion picture industries.

               I think that many of these Black focused “reality shows” trace their philosophical ancestry not to the Three Stooges (although their behavior can be very stooge like) but rather to the Amos and Andy school of “reality” where characters like “Kingfish” and “Lightning” were playing out the racist interpreted vision of Black Americans; the “few” (actually the majority) of Black Americans who did not act, or live like them; were either “exceptions” or “credits” to their Race.

             I would think that the daughters of preachers are as diverse in their thoughts about career choices as any other daughters. And so clearly it is the shock of, juxtaposition and the contradiction of this young lady’s career choice, and her father’s vocation, that is the objective here. All done in that endless search for a space and place to make money. Another woman objectified and commercialized in an unimaginative entertainment vehicle; (where do they find these people?).  And of course; on full display: The “joy” of seeing the hypocrisy and failures of Christian parenting skills. Another reason to say: “You see, that’s why I don’t go to church…; that’s why I don’t listen to ministers”. There is something strange and unsettling  about the public’s thirst to see  public figures fail and fall. Do we find a collective comfort to see that like us, they often live in a sad reality?  We know where this show is heading, the plot and the necessary conflicts story line. And if it is successful, were the producers responding to the reality of a desire on the part of the audience; or, are they creating that desired reality? And even if she is only “thinking” about this particular career move; I would think that being the child of a preacher, could offer us many important and interesting insights as to its unique challenges, beyond the extreme of pornography and striping.

          OK, so I am really going to stop saying about these “reality shows”: “It can’t possibly get any worse” (It’s only a matter of time: “The Real Hip-Hop-Probasketball/Football Players Baby-Mommas-Stripper Housewives of Atlanta”…  Clearly, I am just setting myself up for disappointment. This: ‘Preachers’ Daughters’ Premiere: 17-Year-Old Taylor Wants To Be A Porn Star or Stripper…’ ;  moves us tragically closer to worse, at least I hope!