Sunday, January 06, 2013

Shawty Lo’ and all his babies’ mamas

Until about one week ago I had never heard of Shawty Lo’. I now know he is an Atlanta based rapper born with the name Carlos Walker. News about him is difficult to avoid. 

You see, Shawty is the father of 11 children whom he produced with 10 different women. Not cool, for about 10 or 11 different reasons, but it does happen. I don’t think I was alone in being blissfully unaware of Walker’s existence, but he is now a household name because he will be the star of an upcoming reality show, All My Babies’ Mamas, which will be shown on the Oxygen network.

Black America has not been so unified in expressing disgust, outrage, hatred and anxiety in quite some time. There is an online petition demanding that Shawty, his babies, and their mamas not appear on our televisions.

It isn’t hard to understand why black people are so uncomfortable about the prospect of Shawty and his family appearing on television. What could be more stereotypical than a black man who has children with 10 different women?

Yet I have to admit feeling that some of the outrage is excessive in this age of reality television. There are reality series about redneck rocket scientists, redneck loggers, and rednecks who fish with their hands. Then we have crazed parents dressing their pre-school daughters in padded bras and wigs  in order to win beauty pageants. The entire state of Alaska is now a source of fascination with gold prospectors, state troopers, and the coast guard on the small screen. Pawn shops, storage facilities, the Amish, ghost hunters, ice road truckers, bigfoot hunters, hoarders, pregnant teens, addicts and polygamist families (not just Shorty’s) are also on the list of  reality fare.

I think the anti-Shawty brigade is really afraid that they will succumb to the inclination to rubberneck and will end up watching the rapper and his babies and their mamas. We all fume when someone else slows down to view the wreck by the side of the road, but who resists the temptation to glance at the mayhem themselves?

If Shawty makes it onto the air, most black people horrified by this news will end up watching some part of what outrages them so much. They may watch just a few minutes, or just one episode, or will watch only because a friend calls and tells them to, but Shawty will not be shunned.

Without having watched even one episode of Sister Wives I know that a mormon fundamentalist named Cody had three wives and then took a fourth wife who had been married before and already had two children. I know this just from the commercials I can’t avoid when I’m watching something else.

So I and millions of other people who are either judgmental towards or indifferent to Shawty will still know about his life. That is the real fear. There is no escape in this age of media over saturation.

The Shawty haters will still see the commercials, have friends or family who post facebook news about him or be told that there is a viral video about one or other mama or baby. Shawty will be ever present in our lives whether we want him to be or not.

If people are going to spend time and energy thinking about Shawty Lo’ it should be used to discuss how we are inundated by media and how that effects us all. Why do these corporations play such a big role in our lives and how can we avoid their ever growing influence?

Don’t fear Shawty, fear the corporation and the fact that they have put him front and center. No one else will have 11 kids with 10 different women unless they were inclined to do so in the first place. We will be no worse off if he has a television show and white people who see him as affirming their negative opinions of all black people will be racist whether Shawty is on television or not.

So bring it on Oxygen. Why should rednecks make all the reality cash? Someone with 11 kids definitely needs to make money.