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It’s a gamble to bring a meme to screen. The self-aware Grumpy Cat movie pulled it off, but the quickly canceled $h*! My Dad Says did not. VH1’s new eight episode, hourlong style series Bye Felicia may belong in the latter camp, but for reasons it could have easily avoided. Audiences love makeover shows; networks have been built off of their appeal. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Bye Felicia focuses on Atlanta-based life coaches Deborah Hawkes and Missy Young, as they seek to help the young white women of Los Angeles reconsider their terrible fashion choices and questionable manners. The origin of the phrase “bye Felicia,” which has had a resurgence of late, came from an offhanded remark made by Ice Cube in the movie Friday, and is generally used as slang for a dismissal. Yet, isn’t that the very opposite of what Hawkes and Young are trying to do in their show?
The breezily applied and nonsensical title is the perfect example of the show’s dependence on quips (“We are booty-ologists;” “If it don’t fit, you must acquit”) and armchair psychology (“Your titties are covering up your heart”). But whereas these aspects potentially can be overlooked (thanks to the powerful appeal of the makeover show), one issue that cannot be brushed under the rug is the show’s perpetuation of racial stereotypes.
Hawkes’ and Young’s services (imported from Atlanta to L.A., as if to ensure that the “sassy black girlfriend” stereotype is definitely Southern-fried, for authenticity) are only aimed at “white girls.” Why only white, and why only girls? The show has found some of the oddest women of L.A. to focus on, of course, like the surgically enhanced 27-year-old Kip, who says, “I have all of the assets of Kim Kardashian, but no one takes me seriously like her.” “You gotta work, not twerk!” Hawkes replies to the camera. There’s also knife-wielding stuntwoman Talyn, who grouchily admits, “I walk up to people to say hello by punching them, and that’s not like, accepted, so.…” “The only stunts I perform are for diamonds!” Hawkes says to the camera back in the studio. It feels like a lampoon of a show like this, not an actual show.
There’s no shortage of quips and tips: “She brought the ass, but we added the class,” Hawkes and Young claim about Kip. The eventual wardrobe and personality makeover is dramatic, as is Talyn’s (although the show skips over the reasons behind the choice for Talyn’s new hair color and look, which should be the very crux of such a series). But whether or not the fast changes stick is irrelevant. What sticks about Bye Felicia is that while the most cited clip will be of Ice Cube in Friday, a more accurate one would be any Gone With the Wind scene where Mammy is scolding Scarlett for her dress or manners. And that is a huge problem that is long overdue for a makeover.
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