The Root: VH1’s Blackness Without the Burden


In a recent post for The Root I write about how VH1 has managed to get away with the kind of mess people would have blown up BET for. Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? I don’t know. But it sure is an ironic thing.

VH1, now known more for Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta than its beginnings as a sort of MTV for old people, was initially an unexpected rival. VH1 has gone through a few incarnations, while BET has always been BET: Black Entertainment Television. Yet it’s VH1 that is home to one of the highest-rated reality shows on cable, the aforementioned Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, and is now the No. 1 network in African-American households, followed by BET and OWN.

VH1—which, like BET, is owned by Viacom—started producing more and more African-American reality shows and original programming in the mid-2000s, beginning with the offensive and outrageous car wreck Flavor of Love in 2006. Since then VH1 has been home to several African-American-led reality shows, including Basketball Wives, T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle, LaLa’s Full Court Life, Marrying the Game, Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood and Atlanta Exes. The network also started producing dramas with African-American stars, starting with the Queen Latifah-produced Single Ladies and continuing with last summer’s cheerleader drama Hit the Floor.

Although BET has produced reality shows, none has ever caught fire like the over-the-top antics of a Mona Scott-Young production or a table-hopping Basketball Wives fight. I wonder, is there a reason for that, and does it have to do with what black audiences expect of BET versus what they will accept from VH1?

Read the full post here.

One thought on “The Root: VH1’s Blackness Without the Burden

  1. Danielle – you always know what to say! That was good article for the Root. It makes you think – why is it ok for these other networks to show black people being crazy but not ok for BET to show us being just as crazy?

    Nutters!! Irony for sure.



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