Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or haven’t turned to VH1 in the last year or so, you know a girl Flava Flav nicknamed “New York” on season 1 of “Flava of Love”. Love her, or love to hate her, millions of Americans tuned in each week to see New York, AKA Tiffany Pollard cry, scream, and fight for the love of Flava Flav. Alas, this fairytale was not meant to be, as Flav dumper her not once, but twice on national TV. VH1 then gave New York her own show “I Love New York”, complete with a throng of guys eager to win her love. Season 1 ended with New York picking “Tango” and him proposing to her. It seemed that this modern day princess had finally found her prince charming. That was, until the reunion special.
After the show finished taping, Tango watched it as it aired and was able to see all of the things that New York had said to the cameras about him and even his mother that he never knew. Their reunion ended with a screaming match complete with lots of beeps from the VH1 sensors and Tango calling off the engagement. Thus New York was dumped…again…on national TV. Now in Season 2 of “I Love New York”, she is looking for love again from a whole new batch of men. They range from attractive and successful, to ugly and broke, but in one of these men, New York hopes to find the man of her dreams.
Season one was wildly popular and season 2 proves to be even more so, but one may ask why? Why do millions tune in every week to watch this train wreck? This show plays on many stereotypes that have been around for years. New York is loud, opinionated, bossy, complains a lot, rude, and says whatever comes to her mind. This “type” of character is not new to television. One could call to mind a comparison between New York’s character and Thelma from “Good Times”. Both are “feisty” and opinionated, though New York is a more extreme example of this. What else do they have in common? Both of these women are what you call a “Sapphire” in minstrel shows. In these shows, this woman’s character was in short a “ball buster”.
The comparisons between the characters on “I Love New York” and minstrel show characters don’t end there. Though the “mammy” figure of minstrel shows was usually very dark, fat, and emasculating of males in her own family and race, she also ran the household. This was the opposite of white families, where the man was supposed to be the strong one and head of the house. The only difference between this character and New York’s mother “Sister Patterson” is that she’s not fat. As we saw on previous episodes of “Flava of Love 1 and 2” and “I Love New York”, Sister Patterson definitely wears the pants in the family and her husband can do nothing more than sit silently and hang on for the ride.
Another thing about New York is that she not only embodies one of these minstrel show stereotypes, but she is an example of two. On shows like “Amos and Andy” the “anti-mammy” figure was called a “Jezebel”. A jezebel was a woman who was hypersexual, usually dressed in revealing outfits, and was always “on the prowl” for a new man. This is basically the basis for the show, because New York will be getting very intimate with multiple men every week while trying to “get to know them”. Sometimes this may happen with more than one man at a time. This perpetuates the stereotype that black women are addicted to sex, love to dress like sluts and have no capacity to be faithful.
So with all of that being said, why would any self respecting person watch this show? It’s simple. It’s human nature to be curious and want to watch others. Just think about a car crash that’s on the side of the road as you drive by. Everybody will slow down, if but for a second to watch and see what happened. Also, as shows such as Jerry Springer and Maury prove, we love to watch people make fools of themselves on TV. TV networks know this and as long as there are people willing to degrade themselves on TV, they will film it because it means big ratings. So whether you love New York and tune in to see if she really will find love or you hate her and just want to see what she’ll do next, the sad truth is that many of us aren’t watching to laugh with this poor girl, we simply want to laugh at her. I’m sure that Tiffany is in no way dumb, and realizes this, and is using these shows simply for the fame and wealth is brings. If she is, then I say more power to her, but if not then she may need to take a long hard look in the mirror and think about the message she’s sending about black women.