In late December, a sizzle reel video for a show called All My Babies' Mamas — starring rapper Shawty Lo — started making the rounds, and the buzz was that the program would air on the Oxygen network. The series promised to reveal, in the words of Shawty Lo himself, "How did a guy like me end up with 10 baby mamas and 11 kids?" Now, after over 40,000 people signed a petition demanding that the show never air, rumor has it Oxygen has decided to cancel it.
There's been no official word from the network, but over at the Daily Beast, Allison Samuels writes, "Though the network denies it, Oxygen is expected to announce that All My Babies' Mamas won't ever see the light of day, according to my sources — and that's a good thing." Samuels, who is a critic of reality TV of all kinds, finds the idea of All My Babies especially upsetting:
…The network never took into account the effect of its programming on audiences outside its core demographic. That is, people who only see minorities when they appear on their television sets. Regardless of the fact that the first black president is sitting in the White House, most of those viewers, lacking any evidence or experience to the contrary, are going to accept whatever they see on TV as the gospel truth.
In addition, she correctly points out that believes that there is a great imbalance when it comes to how minorities are portrayed:
Instead of scripted television shows featuring minorities in well-written, creative, and thought-provoking storylines, Hollywood decided that our stories were best told in the most extreme, dysfunctional, and, often, the most fabricated ways. From Basketball Wives to Bad Girls to the The Real Housewives of Atlanta, people of color-black women in particular-are routinely portrayed as violent, hot-headed loudmouths with absolutely no regard or respect for themselves or anyone else.
…For every Honey Boo Boo or Jersey Shore, there are shows offering white counter-examples-Homeland, The Good Wife, Mad Men, and on and on-to keep circumstances and people in perspective. When it comes to African-American shows, it's only in the last year that networks have begun to air projects such as Scandal and Deception that feature black actors in well-developed and well-balanced roles.
In an interview conducted last week, Shawty Lo claimed he could not talk about the show, but felt comfortable speaking about his family, saying, "You can hate all you want to, I didn't ask for it. It just happened. Now that it happened, I'm supposed to turn my back against it? "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." Shawty Lo revealed that (surprise, surprise) he had a rough start in life: His mother was on drugs when he was a child; his father was not around; his grandmother raised him but died of cancer when he was 17. That's when he turned to dealing drugs, and he claims he was a millionaire by age 21. (He says he doesn't want to talk about that lifestyle, because he has since turned a negative into a positive.) Oh, and Mr. Lo explains his prolific procreation thusly:
"Once you feel like a girl was your girlfriend or whatever, the rubber probably came off," he said candidly. "They wouldn't have an abortion. They used to take the money and run with it, and they'd have a baby by the most popular guy in the street, and that's how I had all them kids."
Ummm, the rubber "probably" came off? It's her responsibility to get an abortion? Come on, man.
But Shawty Lo also defends himself by pointing out: "A lot of fathers don't take care of one; I gotta deal with 11. I gotta deal with nine girls and two boys. Even if you ain't got the money, you gotta be a father to your child. You need to be in your child's life, 'cause that means a lot to them."
And for a moment, you wonder… would it have been a good idea for All My Babies' Mamas to air? Isn't there a lesson to be learned from Shawty Lo? In the right hands, isn't his story — of an untraditional family structure, of creating a family where he had none, of how not to use birth control — educational, in a way? A cautionary tale?
On the other hand, the latest headline on Shawty Lo is that he may have gotten another woman pregnant. So, maybe not.
Sources: Oxygen to Cancel New Show ‘All My Babies' Mamas,' Starring Shawty Lo [Daily Beast]
Exclusive: Shawty Lo Says He's 'Providing' For All His Babies' Mamas [MTV]
No Days Off: Shawty Lo Gets Another Woman Pregnant? [Hip Hop Wired]