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An Oxygen reality show starring a rapper who has fathered nearly a dozen children with 10 different women is getting a preemptive “thumbs down” from ColorOfChange.org.
The civil rights group says All My Babies Mamas perpetrates harmful stereotypes about African American families, and hopes its online petition will help convince Oxygen Media and the show’s advertisers to pull support from the project.
All My Babies Mamas, a one-hour special in development at Oxygen, would center on Shawty Lo, a 36-year-old rapper and father of 11, whose 19-year-old girlfriend is the same age as his oldest daughter. In footage that has surfaced online, Lo has trouble recalling the names of all of his kids.
ColorOfChange’s petition says the show promotes “inaccurate, dehumanizing and harmful perceptions of Black families.”
“We want to help the media understand this is not just entertainment. This is not just about profit. This is about people’s lives,” ColorOfChange executive director Rashad Robinson tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Robinson cites studies that have found negative media portrayals of African Americans can lead to worse outcomes for members of their community in school, during hospital visits and in the courtroom.
Oxygen denies claims that All My Babies Mamas would perpetrate negative stereotypes.
“Oxygen’s one-hour special in development is not meant to be a stereotypical representation of everyday life for any one demographic or cross section of society,” the network said in a statement. “It is a look at one unique family and their complicated, intertwined life. Oxygen Media’s diverse team of creative executives will continue developing the show with this point of view.”
A rep for the network said no footage for the show has been shot yet and the cast has not been finalized.
Lo, whose given name is Carlos Walker, also has defended the show, telling MTV last week he provides for his children and is on good terms with all but one of their mothers.
“If I wasn’t taking care of my kids then you would really dog me out, but I’m taking care of my kids, providing for my family,” he said.
ColorOfChange expects its petition will grow to 50,000 signatures by the end of the week, at which point it will present the petition to Oxygen and the show’s potential advertisers.
“We want to be very clear to these corporations that they can’t come for our money by day and support programming that dehumanizes us by night,” Robinson says.
Previously, ColorOfChange led a campaign that asked corporations to stop funding the right-wing policy group ALEC. High-profile companies including Coca-Cola and Kraft ended up pulling out. In 2009, the group also began pressuring advertisers to stop supporting Glenn Beck’s now defunct Fox News Channel program.
In some respects, the charges against Mamas echo those hurled at TLC’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Critics complained Honey Boo Boo’s depiction of a rural Georgia family was exploitative and harmful to the national conversation about class and poverty.
Robinson says there are many TV shows — including Honey Boo Boo – that present troubling stereotypes. But in his view, Babies Mamas has the potential to do more harm than a show like Honey Boo Boo, because there is “such a wide array” of portrayals of white Americans on TV, that one show is not seen as representing the entire culture.
“It may be very problematic to white folks who live in that region of the country, but it doesn’t impact the full view of white Americans,” he says. “There is a wide range of reality programming we could point a finger at. But we are sending a larger message that the community is tired of the onslaught of this type of program, with the idea that [Babies Mamas] is the ‘reality’ for black folks,” Robinson says.
In addition to the ColorOfChange action, All My Babies Mamas has inspired a a rebuke from The Parents Television Council, which is backing a petition posted on Change.org created by New York-based writer Sabrina Lamb.
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