BET Shrugged: Hudlin Is Gone, But Crap Remains

Producer/filmmaker Reginald Hudlin left his perch as BET’s president of entertainment this week and I felt nothing.

Hudlin, and his older brother Warrington, were born and raised in the Metro East in Centreville, Ill. near East St. Louis, so I’ve always tried to keep an eye on their careers. In Hudlin’s three years with BET I can’t really have a response because there is simply no response for a network that devoid of substance. Hudlin brought a few things to the table, but at the end of the day, this is America and BET is owned by Viacom.

Bring on the reality shows that are clones from other Viacom reality shows on MTV from five years ago!

“From the moment he joined the BET family, Reggie infused our program development with incredible creativity, energy and passion,” BET chairman/CEO Debra Lee said in announcing Hudlin’s departure.

Under Hudlin, BET launched 17 of the top 20 highest-rated shows in the network’s 28-year history, including “Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown,” “American Gangster,” “Baldwin Hills,” “Sunday Best,” BET’s first scripted series “Somebodies” and the network’s highest-rated series ever, “Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is.” (The Hollywood Reporter)

I realize that the crappiness of BET is not entirely Hudlin’s fault. The BET Sux Movement existed before they got rid of Donnie Simpson and “Video Soul.” And the BET Sux Movement will not stop just because Hudlin left. This is just another battle of class and commerce in the black community.

Bougie black people complain that BET is degrading and part of the problem. BET says it’s just putting on what people want to watch. BET is owned by Viacom which wants to make money, so BET throws on stuff to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to rack in the most viewers. Voila! Crap on television for bougie, churchy and all variety of black people who don’t like the term “video ho” to complain about.

Probably the most un-PC thing my mother says is something she heard often as a kid growing up — If you don’t want a black person to know something, put it in a book.

It’s harsh and not funny, but reflects the huge problem we have with anti-intellectualism in our community. It’s the same anti-intellectualism that runs through all of American culture, but feels like a pandemic in the black community. Throughout my life I’ve met people who are out-right hostile to the notion of “having an open mind” or “reading for pleasure.” And until Barack Obama started running for president, I didn’t know a lot of people who followed politics with any degree of seriousness.

Or voted with any degree of seriousness, for that matter.

Now, I don’t know how you make being smart sexy to people because even white people struggle with that. But they have an advantage in the fact that there’s simply more of them. All of the smart, quirky ones can just buy a Mini Cooper, move to a loft apartment in any American city and go hang out at the nearest, locally-owned coffeehouse with a copy of “The Kite Runner” and The New York Times and nerd mack for days over some chai tea and the latest Norah Jones, Jack Johnson or Dave Matthews Band CD.

They can just pretend the NASCAR, Toby Keith, hockey moms with monster trucks rallies, troglodyte-cum-philistine crowd doesn’t exist. They can stick their fingers in their ears and go “la-la-la” when someone tries to tell them the earth is only 6,000 years old.

Us black people, we’re a minority — we need each other. To get folks voted into office. To get all sorts of things done. There’s not as many of us in general, so there are even less nerdy, buppie, boho, bougie, snobby people running around. And heaven forbid anyone having a different opinion. Sacre bleu!

Even if you know some other college educated, chai tea sipping Negroes to kick it with, chances are if you are interested in worshiping Jesus or going to any event featuring some kind of athletics, barbecue, dancing, soul or hip hop music you are going to have to deal with some folks who may think you’re a pompous, know-it-all who doesn’t know a damn thing about what’s hot in the streets.

The only way to (almost) completely circumvent this unpleasantness is to immerse yourself fully in the alabaster diaspora of White Liberal Guilt Land, aka “Trendy-Part-of-the-City, USA,” being the “token” black guy/gal at the sushi bar or yoga studio or coffeehouse.

And this is why educated black people hate BET so much. Because we have this fantasy that if BET were either A) cleaned up or B) taken off the air, maybe we could get the entire race “off the pole.” It seems silly that if most black people are middle class why is there still a need to push this fetishization of urban crime and poverty onto our kids?

Oh yeah. That fetish makes money. Lots of money. Especially when sold to the non-black people who can’t get enough of it. The market has decided which part of blackness it wanted and it wanted to see less Wynton Marsalis. More Soulja Boy.

That said, Hudlin plans to return to his roots as a film producer. All I ask is that he be more responsible with that power than Tracey Edmonds.

21 thoughts on “BET Shrugged: Hudlin Is Gone, But Crap Remains

  1. My first comment at your blog. Love your politics and your writing. My Aunt Bess caught me watching BET, shook her head, pointed to the tv screen and said, “It’s a sin and a shame.” Blessings.

  2. Well said, Danielle. I haven’t really watched BET in all the years it’s been on. I’m not an Uncle Tom or anything. I just don’t like the programming. Most of the things I like to watch are both educational and entertaining. BET doesn’t meet my standards. Tonight, for instance, it’s airing “The Mack,” a raunchy blaxploitation movie that I saw as a kid at the drive-in in 1973 (So sorry Richard Pryor’s in it). This was the height of cinematic art to every black kid in America back then. That’s all we talked about. Decades later, Mack is embarassing trash to me and it’s no wonder it never appeared on any other network before. Leave it to BET to broadcast it. The station probably paid peanuts to buy the rights to show it and will rake in millions in profits. That’s a real easy way to make a fast buck.

  3. It’s always bad to see a local reach the national stage and embarrass the Hell out of us… the Black Culture, etc.I can recall when the Hudlins first started out… they had so much promise. Unfortunately it was short lived.We need more Miles Davis’s, more Angela Winbush’s, more Dick Gregory’s, more Bobby McFarren Sr’s, more Maya Angelou’s, Josephine Bakers, Albert King’s, and Donny Hathaway’s…. and fewer Hudlin’s and Nelly’s.

  4. God – BET. I remember back in college the level of outrage that our cable system didn’t carry BET in a University town with a bit (just a bit) of teh diversity. We petitioned, and petitioned and picketed the local cable office until we got it. Now the memory is just another folly of youth moment to look back at (like the horrible asymmetrical bob with the shocking pink streak wannabe hairstyle) and hang my head in shame. Shame I say.

  5. Once again you are dead on. (and very funny)Yes there is a very strong strain of anti-intellectualism running through America (hello look at the Palin pick).Hollywood is all about money plain and simple. So when black film/TV shows that are well written and acted start making money, we’ll see more of them. Until then it’s going to be mostly crap 24/7.

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  7. Yes, I mentioned this on my blog last week about anti-intellectualism being an American problem. You can’t be too thin or too rich but you can be too smart. Americans want you to be smart enough to get a job so you dont need welfare but any more is not okay.

  8. Madame Snob,My response will be what I've been chanting silently and sometimes aloud recently.I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE; BUT i hate niggas!!!and BET is damn sure one of the reasons, why! DAMN, US black america for letting RICH WHITE PEOPLE be the master of what is "black entertainment" be on the look out for Master P's New Channel called something like "Real Black Entertainment"(no, seriously) and how does TV One rate? & HOW can we make it more accessible I dont got!yes, I Know SATTELITE SUCKS!!!

  9. I couldn’t agree with you more about this “fetish” of violence that is being thrust upon young black people. My husband and I were just discussing this exact topic two days ago. My entire family being born and raised in small towns (Iowa/Nebraska) I knew and still know nothing of urban violence, issues, and drama. My first and only time I’ve seen a gun involved a shotgun and a rattlesnake that was right above my head on a roof. This happened when I was visiting some extended family in Tennessee at age 10. My husband actually knows more about it than I do and he’s not black. I’ve never been a fan of BET for all of the reasons you state. I just don’t understand what the fascination is with “street” things and never will. My 58 year old black mother always tells me that when she was young being “street” was a very, very negative thing and something that no one’s family was pleased or proud of in any way. Education was a big deal and staying out of trouble was very important. What has happened now though? This is something I’ve been wondering about?

  10. Well said. There’s little positive about BET being owned by VIACOM. In fact, I’m mad at Bob Johnson for not attempting to harness the Black Star Power when he sold it. Thats another post for another day though.All I know is that BET is the pits.

  11. I did not like it when Bob Johnson sold BET to Viacom; Why do some black execs in the entertainment industry sell their companies to these “White Execs” (No offense)??? We need to OWN our stuff and stop giving it away for “free”.I am a young black entrepreneur and what I own is mine.By the way, I am an educated black person,and I do not hate BET,but I do agree they need to clean up their channel and improve on their programming.

  12. Yea, I’m 22 and I stopped watching BET my freshman year of college. After awhile, the programs became mind numbing. It’s just the same themes over and over again. If a booty aien’t bouncin’ across my TV screen then it’s a brotha getting shot by another brotha. But its impossible to change this type of programming unless ALL of Black America boycotted BET! And I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen anytime soon. We can’t blame the chairmans or executives because they have to make their money too. If they were trying to make a political statement or change the world then I pretty sure they would of picked a different job.

  13. I remember when BET was available in my area and being so excited with the prospect of seeing "us" on tv. I enjoyed Bev Smith's talk show and the Sunday news roundtable was must see political tv (miss you much, George Curry!). Now BET is just an embarrassment watched primarily by black teens and whites wanting to effect some urban hipness. Bob Johnson has tried to have it both ways – in the beginning, asserting his commitment to uplifting blacks and excusing himself as a businessman first and foremost when criticized for BET dreck.A News & Notes roundtable commentator related an observation his barber once made – the eternal struggle of black people is how to divest themselves of the nigger. Somewhere along the line we decided the life of the uneducated, hustling, ebonics spouting thug is the authentic black existence. Those not fitting the model are denounced as "bourgie", "siddity", "white-acting", and "not real". Frederick, Booker, WEB, Ida, et. al. did struggle, fight, and die in vain so we could revere underachieving.Bourgietopia

  14. I don’t hate BET. I’m just disappointed in it. It’s programming isn’t very good when there are plenty of talented black creative types out here in La-La land who are aching for increased exposure and greater opportunities. Really, though, I don’t think of it any differently than MTV or whatever other cable channel I don’t watch.The shit on VH1, though… now that’s something we should be talking about.

  15. In the 1840s youths might be accused of acting too Irish! Is the white guy next to you Irish, German, British, Russian, maybe of French descent?It does not matter anymore in “white” culture, because in general there is no “white” culture. Unless you count everything that is not “black” culture as “white”. There is maybe American, maybe “Western” culture, but not “white”. (Unless you are some silly backasswards white-power freak.) I think many young blacks believe there is a white culture and they have to fight it. If they do too well in school or wear their pants above their underwear then they will be too white.As a college-educated parent, little worries me more than my own young black boys and daughter having to fight what is *perceived* as black culture by the youth they will meet in middle and high school.Families should be proud and celebrate their heritage, not their race or the color of their skin! This stuff flat out makes me angry. Loved this post, confused by some comments.

  16. The whole notion of anti-intellectualism in this country is ridiculous. Anti-intellectualism drives not only whites, but blacks to say that Barack Obama is an “elitist” b/c he pulled himself up by his own boot straps to attend two of the nation’s most revered schools. Since when did it become passe to look to ideals other than video hoes, rap, and gangsters?! It makes you wonder if this is code for “Blacks needing to stay in their place.” preached by both Whites and Blacks alike. I long ago stopped watching BET when Video Soul and Teen Summit went off air. The channel does absolutely nothing to uplift the race and some shows are comparable to some of the worst displays of coonery I’ve ever seen. By BLACK people!! Disgusting. Well done, Snob. Keep entries like this coming!

  17. I agree anti-intellectualism is a pandemic IN THE AMERICAN CULTURE. Black people are more susceptible because they are at the bottom economically and have less access to a good education.Don’t get me wrong, that is not to say that the violence, misogyny and anti-intellectualism on BET is good or acceptable. I’m just saying that the problem is with American priorities. It should be education, not militarism. More money should be put into education and less on building up and maintaining American military strength.Militarism should not be the chief export of the US of A, but it is. The political climate in America must change. The “mindset that got us into Iraq” must change.AMERICANS need to “open their minds” and become citizens of the world and respect other cultures and the sovereignty of other nations. How can you pick a fight with people whose language you don’t speak, whose culture you don’t understand and expect to know what they need or want? That’s the AMERICAN MINDSET.American priorities in general need to change to get to a place where engaging in mindless entertainment is balanced with other healthy influences.

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