No, Television Does Not Need Black ‘Fairy Godmothers’ Trying to Fix White Women

'Girlfriend Intervention' (Courtesy: Lifetime)
‘Girlfriend Intervention’ (Courtesy: Lifetime)

by Phoebe Robinson

The tagline of Lifetime’s makeover reality show Girlfriend Intervention is that ‘Inside every white woman is a strong black woman waiting to bust out.’

I had no idea that I was supposed to be a fairy black mother who fluttered, excuse me, neck rolled into the lives of plain Jane white women, broke them down like improper fractions, and then built them back up by dressing them in all the colors found inside a Lite-Brite container because, as one of the stars of the makeover reality TV show Girlfriend Intervention says, “Black women aren’t afraid of color.”

That’s right, when black women see a neon color late at night, they get their Ray Parker on and go, “I ain’t ‘fraid of no green,” and then smack their lips together three times to teleport to the nearest incense and oil shop. Yes, I’m being flippant here, but it’s not without reason.

The powers that be at Lifetime wanted to get African-Americans to tune into their network since having programming mostly filled with white women in peril tripping over tree branches that the rat from Ratatouille would simply step over was not getting the job done. So the network created a makeover show in the vein of Bravo’s series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

On Girlfriend Intervention, four black women—interior decorator Nikki Chu, fashion guru Tiffiny Dixon, beauty maven Tracy Balan, and soul coach Tanisha Thomas of Bad Girls Club notoriety—travel the country to help clueless white women come alive or as the cringeworthy tag line puts it, “Inside every white woman is a strong black woman waiting to bust out.” And what pray tell is a “strong black woman?”

According to the GI quartet, who speak as though black women are a monolith, in addition to the unafraid of color thing, there’s looking fabulous despite one’s life being in utter shambles, not missing a red carpet event due to lack of confidence after gaining weight, and in regards to Joanie, the former dancer and middle-aged mother wearing frumpy clothing in public, Tiffiny proclaims, “No self-respecting sister would ever be caught hiding.”

Hmm, I can think of one self-respecting sister who would hide. Harriet Tubman. Hiding was kind of her jam. In all seriousness, these absurd bon mots are tossed around by the cast as if they were fact when not only are they fictional, but they do nothing other than reinforce harmful stereotypes that persist today. Ahem, Alessandra Stanley’s ludicrous New York Times article about Shonda Rhimes and being an “angry black woman.”

Just like anyone else, black women are multi-layered, complex, different, and most importantly, they are not relational. They are beings unto themselves and do not merely exist to help white women find themselves, fix their lives and then disappear. Or as I like to call it, The Legend of Bagger Vance effect.

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SOURCE: The Daily Beast