Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ultimate Merger Or Ultimate Stereotype??

    Surely you've heard of TVOne's semi-popular new reality TV/dating show titled "Donald Trump Presents: The Ultimate Merger" featuring reality television star Omarosa Manigault Stallworth. Set in Las Vegas, over a dozen men live together and compete in a series exaggerated challenges to win the heart of Omarosa. In spite of having the basic ingredients for debauchery (my fav) on reality TV, popular star, judgemental panel, guaranteed hook-ups, arguments, and clips for E!'s the Soup, there are eerily wrong points about the show that prevent me from watching consistently or becoming a fan.

The Shows Star: Omarosa - This beautiful Black woman popped on the pop culture scene six years ago as the "evil" contestant on Donald Trump's "Apprentice," where she bullied her way to infamy. Playing on the angry Black woman stereotype and voted TVGuide's worst villain ever, she reprised her role over the years on other reality shows while maintaining a relationship with her Svengali, Donald Trump. "Ultimate Merger" finds Omarosa, an accomplished woman in her own right (Howard University Alum) occupying the "Single/Picky Black Woman Looking For A Husband" role made ever-popular by TV programs, bloggers, and the Washington Post.  Seemingly perfect timing would pit Omarosa's show with the plot dismissing Black men who can never measure up to a Black woman's needs. All on a "Black" television network. Genius marketing or conspiracy theory tirelessly at work.

"Donald Trump Presents"- Most reality shows (especially on a C-List network like TVOne) require substantial financial backing and sponsorship to secure airtime, so Omarosa has a friend and supporter in owner (oops) producer, Donald Trump. There is something unsettling yet familiar about their perceived relationship that strikes me a bit racist in the least. Perhaps the fact that Omarosa initially auditioned to gain Trump's approval, and on "Ultimate Merger" contestants must be approved by Trump as well. Omarosa appears to capitalize on Trump's blatant attraction to her physical and feminine wilds (Trump LOVES him some Omarosa), occupying her stereotypical role for a payoff. Almost like the chattel slavery relationships of slave master and female slave, or wealthy white man sponsoring the Black female (Bush & Condi even. I kid.). I liken the similarities to the slavery-era popularity of placage.
    Also, freeborn light-skinned Black women sometimes became the willing concubines of wealthy White southerners. This system, called placage, involved a formal arrangement for the White suitor/customer to financially support the Black woman and her children in exchange for her long-term sexual services. The White men often met the Black women at "Quadroon Balls," a genteel sex market.                                                                                                                                                                  -Dr. David Pilgrim, 2002

    Now, in no way am I saying that Omarosa and Trump are having sexual relations, nor that she a slave, but I found some of the basic characteristics of their relationship similar to those defined as placage witnessed during the days of old. We've come but so far...

Religious Hypocrisy- A small slant on the dating show is the weekly guidance from Pastor Jamal Bryant from the Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, MD who sits on the panel as Omarosa's "Spiritual Advisor." To her credit, Omarosa is currently enrolled and pursuing her Doctorate in Divinity, and I've read online that she's an avid church-attendee. I understand where the producers were going. However, participating in a reality show that sets the demands for men to superficially court you with the false hope (who ever lasts or goes through with the romance?!)  of marriage, seems to send a mixed message. Also, the close-ups of Omarosa's breasts, hot tub scenes, and questions about sexual satisfaction (Can the Brotha put a ring on it?!) seem to contradict Christian teachings, or at least what I thought I knew. I'm just saying...where's the God in that?

    Reality shows are aimed to get ratings by any means necessary. The show was picked up for eight episodes, yet I'm doubtful it will get another season. I support a Black woman's hustle, her ability to sustain what most would call a short run, and to consistently brand in spite of naysayers. Omarosa possesses those characteristics and surely has a fan base that doesn't read deeply into the "Ultimate Merger" messaging as I do. Hence, I'm not employed at TvOne.



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