Black Greek organizations fight back against reality TV show

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Mona Scott-Young has the Midas Touch, or the Kiss of Death depending on which way you look at her success in the realm of reality television. Her Monami Entertainment company has produced one of VH1’s most popular reality series “Love and Hip Hop,” which has had seasons in both New York and Atlanta.

“Love and Hip Hop” has spawned spinoffs starring rapper Jim Jones and his longtime girlfriend Chrissy Lampkins.

Recently, a trailer for another Scott-Young production titled “Sorority Sisters” made waves across blog sites. The series stars members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho sororities, which are a part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council also known as the Divine Nine.

The trailer which was reportedly shot in 2011 has since been removed from the Internet.

Before its removal, the clip sparked just enough controversy to start an online petition on MoveOn.org. The End: Mona Scott-Young’s “Sorority Sisters” Show petition, started by Reynoir Lewis has already garnered over 20,000 signatures, just a little under 5,000 shy of their goal.

Rasheda Randle, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., who saw the trailer before it was taken down, said she was upset with the content. “When I saw the trailer I was disappointed. People already have their perceptions about what we do in our organizations and what we’re about,” said Randle. “I don’t think the direction the show took did a very good job of shining a positive light on us.”

The short clip, which consisted of rough cuts of confessional interviews from the show’s stars and some b-roll footage, was unfortunately just what one would expect of a docu-series featuring young Black women.

Members of various organizations took time to explain why their chosen affiliation was better than the others while also discussing the stereotypes surrounding each group. In one clip, a cast member proudly proclaimed that “people don’t have a realistic view of what Greek life is.”

Kristie Baker, who is also a member of AKA, shared that she doesn’t believe this show would do anything to enhance the public’s view of Greek life.

“You have to think about the purpose of these shows. They are purely for entertainment purposes only. And people love to see drama unfold because it’s entertaining,” said Baker. “In any event, we as viewers have the power to control what we see and what we deem as entertaining by simply turning the channel. If I don’t like it, then I don’t have to watch it.”

Regardless of its many criticisms, millions of Americans continue to tune in and watch reality television in record numbers. “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and the “Love and Hip Hop” franchise pulled in more than 3 million viewers weekly during their runs in early 2014.

A report done by Psychology Today revealed that viewers primarily watch out of a need to fulfill voyeuristic needs while experiencing a form of reality based on living vicariously through their favorite characters.

In another study published in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, researchers found that constantly consuming this form of entertainment has caused viewers to become more aggressive and angry.

Sarah Coyne, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University, co-authored the study. She said that verbally abusive language and aggressive acts are very common in reality television. During their review of 120 hours of programming, they found an average of 52 acts of aggression an hour on reality TV, compared with 33 an hour for the non-reality programming. “It’s producing this culture of being mean to each other,” said Coyne.

Randle, who works in the media industry, shared that she understands on some level what Scott-Young was attempting to accomplish, but she thinks that a show like “Sorority Sisters” could pose a real threat in the form of decreased membership and loss of corporate partnerships for Divine Nine organizations.

Randle said, “I understand what Mona Scott was doing as far as trying to create a buzz – she wants to try and stay within the realm that she’s already set for herself so I can kind of see where she was going with it. However, I just don’t think it was executed properly. I don’t fault her for trying to make money, just don’t do it at the expense of my organization.”

Despite the current petition and the “Sorority Sisters” camera crew being banned from shooting at the 10th annual Atlanta Greek Picnic, it appears that the show will continue production.

 

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