Grand Rising and Happy Wednesdaying everybody!
I'm sitting in my bed trying to work on my next book manuscript and my daughter Mo comes into my room, grabs my remote control and changed the television channel.
Disrespectful, I know. But I allow it.
I don't know how it feels to have three younger brothers because my brother is older than I am and it was just the 2 of us growing up. But as a woman with three young sons, I can only imagine her pain level. I love all my kids but sometimes my sons are hella annoying.
But I digress...
Mo grabbed by remote control, activated the Netflix app on the TV and cued up The Parkers. I don't know if you keep up with the streaming service's new released like I do, but September and October have been very big for throwback Black TV shows. So far, I have binged Moesha, Girlfriends and Sister Sister, and I am looking forward to watching One on One and Half and Half.
The teenager in me has been living her best life.
I grew up watching brand new episodes of all of these shows, but they definitely seem a bit lame now that I am a full, grown woman. When I was a teenager, Moesha seemed so goals worthy but after watching it now, she was a spoiled, entitled young woman. However, re-watching the spin-off of Brandy's starring role, The Parkers, I had completely different feelings:
In case you are either exceptionally young or more advanced in age than I am and have never seen it, let me pause my commentary to give you a few facts about the show:
The Parkers was a sitcom that aired on the open air television station UPN from 1995 to 2004, starring Countess Vaughn as Kim and comedienne Mo'Nique as Kim's mother Nikki. The premise is, Kim graduates from high school and goes to a community college, only to find out that her mother, who put her own life on hold to raise her daughter, has enrolled in the very same school to finish her education as well.
While Nikki obviously doesn't fit in with the younger students, she sees a history professor, Stanley Oglevee, and immediately falls head-over-heels in love with him. At first he is polite in his curving Miss Parker, but quickly begins to openly show her distaste for her in some of the most disrespectful ways.
This is where my attitude begins.
Don't get me wrong; I enjoy laughs as much as the next person. I am one of those people that can laugh in some of the hardest situations because I can find humor in almost anything. And, I also realize that this is fictional. It was written to be funny. But the writing was so blatantly disrespectful that I actually cringed at some of the situations.
Most of the jokes aimed at Miss Parker had everything to do with her being a plus-sized woman. Not only did she thirstily chase after a man that made the biggest deals about not wanting her, but the slapstick comedy that they used for laughs was just a bad decision.
For example, in one of the episodes, Nikki and her daughter lived in the same complex as Professor Oglevee, only a floor above him. Nikki turned on her music and started dancing, and the professor thought that there was an earthquake. the camera was shaking and things were falling over, only because she's fat.
And its not just the fat jokes that got me. But the fact that Nikki was so obsessed over a man that verbal told her she disgusted him, disgusted me. The character would break into his apartment, fight his dates and girlfriends, steal his mail and stalk him. She had secret keys to his home and car, kept up with his schedule, did his laundry, cooked him food... Constantly shooting her shot and constantly being shot down.
And the icing on the cake? He wasn't even cute and he was lame as hell.
I would be lying if I said that this representation of being fat didn't influence my thoughts. Was I supposed to chase men like this? Was I suppose to not take no for an answer? Was I supposed to just take whatever people gave me because I was fat, since being fat meant that I didn't deserve to be loved, cherished, appreciated and respected in my relationships?
Seems like the answer to all of those questions would be no, but you would be surprised what can shape the minds and hearts of young people.
In 1995 when the show debuted, I was a freshman in high school. Already bigger than most of my classmates, already had extremely low self-esteem and already insecure about my weight. I didn't want to be loud and draw attention to myself. I wanted to be as quiet and as unseen as possible so that I wouldn't be made fun of. I didn't want to be rejected. I didn't want to be laughed at. I just wanted to be loved the way I was, but what I saw every week on television was that being accepted for myself was not possible. So to see this grown woman being roasted on national television hit me differently then. My 15 year old mind said:
This is how people see me. This is what I deserve. This is how I should expect to be treated.
But watching it with my 13 year old daughter now makes me want to throw the whole television away.
Why was this supposed to be entertaining? Why is manipulation and verbal abuse comical? And why are plus-sized women the object of constant ridicule?
The truth of the matter is, this is not new. Fat shaming has been "funny" since JJ called Bookman "Buffalo But" every chance he got. Moesha, Niecy and Hakeem roasted Kim for being "the fat friend" when, in reality, she wasn't fat at all. Just bigger than skinny. And even in modern times, Kelli on HBO's Insecure is the loud-mouthed fat friend only available for cheap laughs and overly-sexual behavior.
Are we supposed to be desperate because we choose to exercise our right to accept and love ourselves for who we are?
Because, just in case you didn't know, you have the right to love yourself today, exactly the way that you are without changing one thing about yourself.
Now, you could argue that a person's self-worth shouldn't be based on outside influences, and that it's up to the individual to determine how to feel about themselves.
But ask yourself what influenced your mental growth and development as a teenager? Why do you feel the way you feel about yourself and other things, for that matter? Your parents? Your family? Your friends? The books you read? The music you listen to???
As a Black woman that has been tasked with raising Black women, I find myself cringing at the antics of Nikki Parker. No wonder Mo'Nique speaks so strongly about being disrespected in the entertainment business today. No wonder she speaks so aggressively about knowing her worth and not taking less than she deserves. Everyone should understand.
SHE HAS BEEN DISRESPECTED THIS WHOLE TIME!!!
We need to protect our girls and build them up. We need to instill in them that everyone is different and everyone is valuable. We should be exhibiting self-love and self-respect in our young Black women, because the world is showing them that it is common and acceptable to disrespect them. And that is not cool.
Fat shaming is alive and a real-life situation. And I am past tired of it.
We need to do better, good people...