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It’s possible that Ryan Seacrest is trolling America.
Not probable—I just don't believe he’s that cynical—but possible. And perhaps I only think it’s possible because I am that cynical.
After all, if I were the brains behind an empire featuring the trials and tribulations of an alliteratively named family whose most famous member first became famous while being filmed playing solitaire while having sex with Snoop Lion’s second most talented first cousin, I’d be aware this empire was built on hate. Not hate in the Storm Trooper/Santorum sense. But hate in the “hate-consumption” sense—the phenomenon where people consume a product only because they hate that the product exists. I’d also be determined to find another product America could hate-consume with the same vigor. And, after ruling out serial killers (too Oedipal) and Laker fans (too time-consuming), I’d probably settle on white female rappers. As Ryan Seacrest has, apparently.
I don't want to believe Ryan Seacrest is that cynical. But it is possible. And maybe more probable than I think.
Before R. Kelly and Beyoncé decided to take turns blowing the entire Internet’s mind away in December, 2013 was poised to end as a year where the two most culturally relevant R&B albums were released by Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke. R&B is a genre traditionally dominated by Blacks. Timberlake and Thicke are, last I checked, White. No one seems to care very much about this. Which, depending on who you ask, is either progress or...the opposite of progress. Either way, it’s not exactly news. For decades now, white artists have been producing music in genres traditionally dominated by Blacks. Often, these artists are embraced. Loved. Even awarded.
And none are women.
For reasons too sociologically and politically dense to really delve into here, (generally speaking) we (black people) just seem to have an easier time embracing white men—and this goes for everyone from actors to athletes—than white women.
Yes, you have your Madonnas, your Pinks, your Janis Joplins, your Amy Winehouses. Well-known white female artists who make or made 'black-sounding,' or at least, black-influenced, music. All undeniably popular and successful. But none given the same sort of love and respect that an Eminem or even a Bill Medley has been granted. For reasons too sociologically and politically dense to really delve into here, (generally speaking) we (black people) just seem to have an easier time embracing white men—and this goes for everyone from actors to athletes—than white women. Just think of all the white men who, even in jest, have been referred to as “honorary Blacks.” The list spans from Thicke and Timberlake to Bill Clinton and Bob De Niro. A list of white women, on the other hand, might include Teena Marie. And that’s it.
That I say this at a time when white women have never been more visible in black media is neither ignorant nor ironic. While it’s true that…
1. White women are thought of as status symbols by a small but sizable number of black men.
2. Many contemporary rappers seem to be competing to see who—whether through outright praise or awkward illegal drug metaphor—can allude to white women the most in their music.
3. “PAWG” (Phat Ass White Girl) praise is so common that the acronym PAWG actually exists and is actually used in actual conversation by actual people.
...none of this can really be considered embrace. Despite their visibility and ubiquity, in most corners of black culture, white women are considered proxies and props more than actual people. If ever an entity could be everywhere and nowhere at the same time, it’s them.
None of this bodes very well for white women grasping for relevance in hip-hop. Which doesn't bode very well for the long term careers of any of the people who might be featured on the tentatively titled Girls of the Game.
But it may bode well for the success of the show itself.
It is not a reach to say that many people will feel a certain way about the existence of a reality show featuring and promoting rapping White women. Me, for example. It's a matter of context. While rap remains of the few cultural spaces where blacks are welcomed and embraced, there is a feeling among many black people that we are losing "our" music. For those unsure of what "white privilege" means, the success of people like Ke$ha, Kreayshawn, and Iggy Azalea, at a time when no black female rapper other than Nicki Minaj is relevant, presents a prime example.
I'd guess that at least 86 percent of the regular viewers will be bloggers/writers/ Twitter people watching just to report on how much they hate watching it. But 'hate-watching' is still watching.
Also...I just don't want to listen to white women rap. And I doubt I'm alone. There are just too many racial landmines there. Too much appropriation. Too much “No. That just doesn't seem like a good idea. Shouldn't you be doing….anything other than rapping?”
Yet, blend all of this context together, and you're left with a show that people may actually watch. Sure, it will be “hate-watching”—I'd guess that at least 86 percent of the regular viewers will be bloggers/writers/Twitter people watching just to talk about how much they hate watching it. But “hate-watching” is still watching. The Nielson ratings can't tell the difference.
Is it a coincidence that this show comes on the heels of the steadily declining ratings of all things Kardashian? I believe so. I doubt Ryan Seacrest is cynical enough to think he should replace a show featuring a group of White women we love to hate watch with another group of White women we'll hopefully love to hate watch as well.
I would be that cynical, though. Which puts me in good company, because you'd be too.
Pittsburgh-native Damon Young writes about things. And, @verysmartbros, he (occasionally) tweets about things too.
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