The Trouble With BET
(image via lemoyne.edu)
Aaron McGruder's pitch-perfect criticism of BET under conscience-less businessman Bob Johnson was devastatingly accurate. McGruder was a lone voice in a hostile media envionment telling us that the Emperor had no clothes. Worse: The Emperor was representing the lowest common denominator, lining his pockets, and leaving future generations to foot the social bill. No one wanted to be critical about the booty-video-and-oily-televangelist network because, well, Johnson was the first African-American billionaire.
He was immune to criticism. Criticizing Bob Johnson was like criticizing the Pope. What about the young men and women that look up to him, and strive to be like him?
Precisely our point (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment).
Many tried to pretend they hadn't heard what McGruder was saying on every media outlet available to him in the late 90s. Even among fellow travellers in the media -- the most critical people in the world -- there was a deafening silence as more and more younger, post-Civil Rights era voices began questioning the god-awfulness of BET's programming. And then, of course, with expert-timing, billionaire timing, Johnson unloaded his shit on Viacom.
What was Bob Johnson doing with all that money, because he certainly wasn't putting it in on the talent or production-value side of things.
Those days are behind us. Kind of. What has BET made of itself? From Chloe Hilliard of the Village Voice, on the "Hot Ghetto Mess" mess:
"In BET's case, we get Murphy telling us that his show is a 'guide how not to act.' But we know that's crap. Like the website the show is based on, hotghettomess.com, we're drawn to it because there's nothing like a video of a hooker cold-cocking her pimp. You just don't see that every day.
"We Got to Do Better is one of five new shows that debuted this summer as part of another major transformation for the 27-year-old Black Entertainment Television. The last came in 2000, when the network was purchased by media giant Viacom and moved its studios from Washington, D.C., to New York. But hopes that the move would mean more investment and better production values faded as the channel devoted more time than ever to ass-shaking music videos."
Sad, but true. (VV)