VH1’s Love & Hip Hop returns to television Monday November 14 for the show’s second season. Filled with catfights, loud public arguments, and the frequent defense of questionable relationships, audiences, inclusive of Black women, can’t get enough. VH1 describes this season’s draw as “following the lives of six vibrant women, each with a link to the exciting, glamorous, and high-stress world of hip hop,” yet behaviors witnessed by the leads mimic sexual scripts popularized during chattel slavery. Realizing that little is new under the sun, and considering the show’s producers cast women to depict “reality,” the depictions presented are often basic characteristics of sexuality that have entertained patriarchal societies for centuries.
“Sexual scripts,” or widely stigmatized aspects of sexuality of Black women in media images, have been capitalized on for centuries. Each of the lead characters on Love & Hip Hop embodies aspects of at least one of the old, original scripts.
Chrissy Lampkin, listed as the “longtime girlfriend to Jim Jones,” is still waiting for Jim to marry her, though few can forget her public proposal last season, or constant need to defend her “man.” Her emasculating persona is a modernized spin on the Matriarch script.
Olivia Longott, and Somaya Reece are modern blends of two sexual scripts as they are both pursuing their talents and dreams in a male-dominated industry. Olivia, the struggling singer romantically linked in blogs to professional athletes and rappers, is the modern blend on the foul-mouthed Sapphire and hyper sexualized Jezebel. Somaya, described as the “bombshell with killer curves,” a hybrid of the Jezebel and materialistic Welfare Queen scripts.
Emily Bustamante, the girlfriend of rapper Fabolous seen as the passive and loyal mother even to a fault, is a modern spin on the Mammy script.
Season two newcomers Kimberly “Kimbella” Vanderhee is known in previews as a “sexy distraction” and Yandy Smith, recognized as the powerful backbone of the “Dipset” rap crew, serve as the Jezebel and Sapphire scripts that may antagonize the older/other scripts.
Audiences have come to expect and even enjoy viewing stereotypical behavior from “reality” stars, but the way Black women are pigeonholed and promoted is eerily similar to the way Black women were categorized and marketed during chattel slavery periods in order to entice white audiences and wealthy men. VH1 made the decision to extend Love & Hip Hop episodes to an hour this season, a move that brings producers, show backers and advertisers more revenue.
While these observations and parallels are not factual, the coincidence should not be taken lightly. After all, millions tune in to the show every week, and millions anticipate the ratchet behavior and knock-down-drag-out fights that will surely boost ratings. Add to that the fact that advertisers know what behavior sells, and producers consider advertisers when making casting decisions.
Do you think the women of Love & Hip Hop fits into these archetypes? Will you be watching?