Reality TV's 'Flavor' Leaves Bad Taste

Commentator Jimi Izrael looks at the show Flavor of Love, starring Flavor Flav, a former member of hip hop's Public Enemy. Izrael says the show is an example of reality show stars selling their souls for a shot at fame.

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Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Columnist, AOL Black Voices): What is love?

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Jimi Izrael's got a question on his mind, and of all the places he could turn for guidance, he is not taking his cues from reality shows, especially one starring the hype man of hip-hop's Public Enemy.

Mr. IZRAEL: Don't ask Flavor Flav, star of Flavor of Love. If you've never seen it, just close your eyes and imagine Stepin Fetchit in silk pajamas chasing bunny rejects around the Playboy mansion. How's that for visual?

When I watched the show for the first time back in the day, I kept reaching to turn the channel, but I was drawn in by the one nagging question: Is this for real?

Would 20 ordinary women would really be fighting each other, spitting on each other and losing control of their bowels, for a chance to be with a grown man who walks around with a clock around his neck, screaming, yeah, boy?

Hmm. Well, all these years, I've been walking around clockless, with my hat turned around the right way, speaking standard English. Maybe I had it all wrong. I don't know. Why would any woman put herself in a stable for a 48-year-old man with a Viking hat on to choose from?

And then it hit me. The Flavor of Love is the product of the new feminism. Women burned bras and changed their names to Ms. so the Flavorettes could choose to sell their souls for a shot of reality show fame.

The women chose as contestants say they sincerely want a chance to share a life with Flavor Flav. But they mostly turned out to be hootchies, looking to parlay their screen time into payday. I think these young ladies saw how easy it was for Omarosa Stallworth to turn her stereotypical angry black woman schtick into a career and said to themselves, hey, I'm crazy, too. It's time to get paid.

I guess the word on the street is, there's no point in going to college or having a talent or learning to act, when you can get on TV, get drunk, drop a few F-bombs and become a star. Sure, your family and friends will be embarrassed to be seen with you in public, but they'll get over it. The truth is that the worst thing that will happen is you'll become a pseudo-celebrity paid to host club parties, dance in rap videos, or take your clothes off for your very own members-only Web site.

It's not ditch-digging, but it's honest work nonetheless. Reality shows have become the new game for female hustlers, an easy way for strippers and stripper wannabes to increase their marketability. Nothing wrong with that, per se. It will be easy to dismiss these women as opportunists, but I think their agenda is far more complex than that.

These women are at the vanguard of the movement that dismisses conventional ideas about female empowerment. They are not beholden to Gloria Steinem's politics or Oprah Winfrey's dogma. Women fought for the right to be treated as equals and to own their bodies. They fought for choices. We may not like it, but the Flavorettes are choosing to wield the power their bodies in any way they want. I guess you've come a long way, baby.

Now, if they could only choose to preserve their dignity.

(Soundbite of song "Fight the Power")

CHIDEYA: Jimi Izrael is a columnist for the Web site AOL Black Voices.

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