I understand why people are so consumed with rappers and their personal lives. The masses want to know if the luxury lifestyle displayed in many videos is really something these guys do or just another facade on a mostly show business routine. But the new program that Oxygen has picked up for 2013 is already giving people pause.
The one-hour special, which may grow into a series, is called “All My Babies’ Mamas” (working title) and stars Shawty Lo, who has 11 children by 10 women. The pilot presents itself as a Brady Bunch meet the hood kind of situation, complete with condescending helpers, such as an on-screen definition of “Wanna-Be-Bougie.” It’s an adjective meaning, in their words, “aspiring to be higher class than one is,” if you’re wondering.
The women of the show are described with painfully insulting labels like “the jealous baby mama” or the “baby mama from hell.” The aforementioned “Wanna-Be-Bougie” baby mama is labeled as such because she doesn’t appreciate the nomenclature. “I just don’t like the term baby mama,” Sujuan says. “I think it’s degrading.”
There are a whole host of issues with this show. But in a strange way, even in just watching the pilot, it felt far more authentic than any of these other shows about what artists do when they’re at home.
“Love & Hip-Hop” is basically a stylized soap opera. T.I. & Tiny’s “The Family Hustle” is not bad, but it’s weird to watch when he’s currently got songs out in which he raps about girls in the club. And “Marrying the Game” is just ridiculous.
Coincidentally, Shawty Lo, real name Carlos Walker, and T.I. are neighbors in Atlanta.
But if you can get past all the ridiculous shaming tactics of the original producers, DiGa Vision, this show actually has some promise. I say that as a man whose father has four kids by three women. I’ve never had any shame about it, no one has, but just that phrase alone (X women, Y kids) often throws people off, forcing some to immediately think: dysfunction. Not always the case. My family is tremendous.
And while 11 children by 10 women is certainly nothing close to my experience, there is something to be said for the fact that any of Walker’s family have stayed together in any sense at all.
Walker is a man that clearly has a desire for attention but also hasn’t (as far as we know) completely abandoned any of his children. Not that he deserves a medal for that, but let’s be real. No matter who you are, in what walk of life, staying involved in the lives of 11 offspring is a tough job.
The major turnoff to this show, unfortunately, may very well lie in Walker’s bed. His current girlfriend is a woman that is the same age as a couple of his daughters, and that tension is clearly a major part of the program’s storyline.
In their news release, Oxygen says the show will “will give fans an intimate look at unconventional families with larger than life personalities and real emotional stakes,” according to Cori Abraham, senior vice president of development at Oxygen. “‘All My Babies’ Mamas’ will be filled with outrageous and authentic over-the-top moments that our young, diverse female audience can tweet and gossip about.”
If that sounds like code for “look at the crazy folks and laugh at them,” you could be right. But I think a lot more people will connect to the program because, in fact, it’s not really that outrageous at all. Everyone’s family situation is different. And no matter how you describe it or what it seems like to other people, yours is still a very immediate reality.
During the pilot, Andrea, one of the mothers, acknowledges the apparently inherent comedic value of the situation, but explains why they even bother. “This big crazy family works because of Carlos,” she says. “The love we have for Carlos and the kids, too.”
Oxygen will do a lot better with this program if, when it does hit the airwaves, it’s more than just an extension of a “Maury” episode behind closed doors. With that many young people involved as characters, for once, we might get a show that provides a look at a circumstance that we can all relate to: a family that works with what they’ve got to get better.
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