By NICK CHILES
Surely there has to be a line out there somewhere—a level of degradation, of downright sewer-level grossness, that is so low even a television network will not sink below it to make a couple of bucks.
I would have thought that rapper Shawty Lo’s new show, “All My Babies’ Mamas,” was solidly below the sewer line, a revolting theater of ghetto indecency so embarrassing that even a desperate cable station would deem it beneath them to put it on their airwaves.
But apparently this skin-crawling mess is about to be available on your local dial, thanks to the fine folks at the Oxygen network.
The show will feature the real-life dramas of the rapper and his 10 baby mamas and their 11 children, all thrown together in a festering stew of ratchetness. Each baby mama is even given a descriptive name—such as E’Creia, 29, “First Lady Baby Mama,” who handles Shawty Lo’s finances and who was actually engaged to him at one point after he already had three children; Angela, 32, the “Fighter Baby Mama”; Amanda, 34, the “Jealous Baby Mama; Serena the “Shady Baby Mama; and Liana aka Pebbles “Baby mama from hell.”
This is the way the show was described in a press release last week by the Oxygen Media Senior Vice President of Development, Cori Abraham, who clearly had some role in green-lighting the show.
“Oxygen will give fans an intimate look at unconventional families with larger than life personalities and real emotional stakes,” says Abraham. “’All My Babies’ Mamas’ will be filled with outrageous and authentic over-the-top moments that our young, diverse female audience can tweet and gossip about.”
And the press release proudly announced that “All My Babies’ Mamas” was brought to Oxygen by Executive Producers Liz Gateley and Tony DiSanto, and will be produced by their company, DiGa Vision.
Ironically, painfully, Oxygen is the network that was started by, among others, Oprah Winfrey in 1998, with the brilliant idea—wait for it—of empowering women. But 1998 was a loooong time ago. Since then, it was purchased by NBC Universal in 2007 for $925 million and any kind of mission about female empowerment was long ago abandoned.
As our culture continues to pull us down the slippery slope into global irrelevancy, so thoroughly numbing our intellects and ambitions that we hardly even notice as we slip into the comfortable cloak of a has-been, former superpower, anthropologists will one day point to Shawty Lo (aka Carlos Walker) and “All My Babies’ Mamas” as the cultural nadir of America, the moment when we ceased to have a functioning moral compass, when we began to accept any bit of disgusting behavior as okay, as reasonable, as long as it entertained us. This cultural moment happened to coincide with the moment when we became so infatuated with the power of man-made killing machines that we chose to covet them above the lives of precious little first graders—the moments came at the same time, but they were no coincidence. They were both of a piece, the instant when we lost touch with our appreciation for each other’s humanity, when we chose frivolous entertainment—whether in the guise of video games where we blow each other away for sport or reality shows where we revel in the ignorance and vacuity of uneducated ghetto morons—over the upliftment and repair of the American experiment.
To someone committed to the black family, who has spent a good part of his career fighting to improve the image and perception of black men, this all feels like a sticky gob of spit in my face.
It must be so easy, sitting in a cushy office somewhere in Los Angeles or Manhattan, to glibly nod yes on the decision to profit off the exploitation of the ignorance that poverty and oppression produced. Of course it’s even easier when it’s some unfortunate black wretches, whose lives are so far from the good-white-folks gentility of these producers, Liz Gateley and Tony DiSanto, and the executive Cori Abraham. So far away, so grotesque, so different, so damn entertaining—and if it happens to once again proffer to the world the handy image of black pathology as entertainment? Oh well.
I’m sure Oxygen wouldn’t take a camera and follow around a mentally challenged young white man so that we could laugh our asses off as he stumbles into goofy predicaments. But to black folks, it feels like that’s exactly what they are doing here. Laughing at ignorance. Making a buck off the unfortunate life circumstances of others.
There will always be extremists. In a sense, the primary thrust of our modern political and social culture is a fight against extremism. Extremism is a way to get attention, a way to make a point. That’s how it’s used by terrorists in the Middle East, how it’s used by reality show participants to get attention and get paid, how it’s used by Lady Gaga to get noticed and move millions of units of tame, uninspired music. Oxygen is trying to use it to make a buck by exploiting the lack of discipline and common sense of a group of black women and the idiotic man they laid down with.
As a community, we let Shawty Lo happen.
Where were the older men to pull Mr. Lo aside and counsel him about the irresponsibility of his actions, maybe after baby number three? To make him understand the difficulties he was setting up for all those children—and himself—by his wanton sperm?
Where were the older women to counsel all those baby mamas? To start warning them after he had impregnated maybe three or four that there wasn’t much of a future with a modestly talented rapper whose career hadn’t ever really popped? That any children of theirs deserved more?
But clearly the community never stepped up. Nobody told Shawty about the existence of condoms. None of those words ever made their way to the right ears.
We all failed those children.
Hopefully there are some serious second thoughts being mulled in the executive offices of Oxygen Media. Maybe some sleepness nights for Mrs. Cori Abraham, in her Los Angeles house where she no doubt lives comfortably with her husband and two daughters. Maybe Cori might think about the fact that those 11 children deserve just as much respect and consideration as her own precious little girls. Those 11 children deserve some grown-ups to protect them—apparently to protect them from the Cori Abrahams of the world.
If we let this mess get on the air, we will have failed ourselves.
Editor’s note: Author Sabrina Lamb has started a petition on Change.org, calling on Oxygen and the producers of “All My Babies’ Mamas” to pull the show. Please support her efforts by signing the petition here.
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Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.