As a diehard fan of reality television I am also cognizant of the ‘real’ to ‘staged’ ratio. These shows put people of differing backgrounds in unlikely situations and then let them have it. Fingers crossed that conflict arises and viewership goes up. It’s a tale as old as time, or at least as old as the first season of The Real World.
Normally—like 80% of the time—I find myself duly intrigued and uncomfortable by these outward displays of dislike between characters. I remember the day Theresa Guidice flipped that table over with a rallying cry of PROSTITUTION WHORE. I also remember popping popcorn because shit was about to get good. Let’s be honest: conflict is the part of reality television we all crave, and then seeing how the characters navigate the conflict gives us—the viewers—the cringe-worthy moments that make our own lives look far more pristine.
Arguing, disagreement, general dislike towards another person because personalities just don’t mesh—those are all parts of life, and reality television just magnifies what is, for many of us, a daily occurrence. And I was fine with giggling during a fight because of the silliness of watching adults go at it for some asinine reason. That is, until last night when I found myself watching a television show and feeling unease. No, that wasn’t it. It was anger and disgust and sadness that this is what goes for entertainment for so many folks.
The show in question was Basketball Wives. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it, but it’s a show that follows a group of women who have been (definitely past tense which begs the question as to why the show is called Basketball Wives and not I Used to Date a Basketball Player. Whatevs) in relationships with former or current basketball players. One of the stars of the show and the executive producer is Shaunie O’Neal, the ex-wife of Shaquille O’Neal. The show is currently in its fourth season. Two seasons ago they added Tami Roman to the mix.
Tami Roman has long been involved in the reality TV scene. She is infamous for getting her jaw wired shut in order to lose weight and having an abortion during her season of The Real World. In one episode she gets into a fight with a male castmate and he ends up getting the boot. This was in 1993. Since then, she had a marriage to NBA star Kenny Anderson and with him had two children. Now she’s on Basketball Wives.
Tami has made her name on this show and on others prior for being “The Bitch”. The mean girl for whom it has to be her way or the highway. The person for others to be terrified of. What she has turned into is a bully in her late 30s, only interested in flaunting her power and attitude for the cameras. On Monday evening’s episode, she went so far as to steal another cast member’s purse (which included her passport), then went through that woman’s phone and told this other adult woman that she wouldn’t hit her—for now—because she looked so pitiful. Meanwhile, the other ladies —including executive producer Shaunie O’Neal—sat there and let the situation escalate because Kesha had once said something about Tami. Tami’s excuse? In the world she comes from, people are allowed to make threats of bodily harm towards others if someone feels disrespected.
I am rarely angry when watching this type of crap. I know what’s real and what isn’t. However, maybe because of the recent spotlight on bullying in our schools and the fact that certain Presidential nominees cannot remember being the bully, watching Kesha genuinely terrified, having to beg for her effing passport back, put me over the edge. Why was any of this necessary? Why did Shaunie not do anything? Why not say, “You know what Tami? You’ve had too much to drink and you need to walk it off.” They said nothing. They sat there and allowed Tami to bully Kesha for the entertainment value of it all. A show doesn’t get 4.2 million viewers by stopping a fight.
This woman, Tami Roman, isn’t the only one in reality television to make a career of being a bully in every sense of the word. Roman is most certainly not the only person to be rewarded for her bad behavior. But one has to draw the line somewhere. A network has the responsibility to provide watchable shows, but they also have a responsibility to be aware of the behavior they are essentially consenting to (at least tacitly). And yet so many networks will sit idly by while women tear out weaves and make threats because it brings in the money.
As I said earlier, I am normally the first one to giggle at the absurdity, but at some point enough has to be enough. There has to be a breaking point. Because this shit? The real harm that could have been done to a woman in the name entertainment? I’m so not into it and I cannot support it.