Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Sorry, But I'm (Somewhat) With BET On This One

With all the issues confronting black America (the achievement gap, crime, murder, and yes, literacy), I can't believe that CNN actually dedicated 15 minutes of time to something so trivial as a satirical cartoon. Hmmm, I guess the Jena Six, the epidemic of black murders this summer, or actually locating Stepha Henry are just not interesting enough subjects.

The whole Read A Book satire has been out there for months, and apparently, BET decided to pick the video up and start airing it during their afternoon programming targeted to kids (ie: the 5ive, 106th and Park). This, in and of itself is wrong, since most kids watching this clip will probably miss the point entirely. Perhaps BET thought that airing the video would impress parents to cut off the TV themselves and encourage their kids to read more. Maybe it was guilt. Maybe it was a lazy attempt to get critics of their "all booty all the time" programming off their backs. Either way, no representative for BET is featured in this piece, so your guess is as good as mine. It does seem a wee bit odd that BET is essentially showing a video that pokes fun at the very images it is most responsible for presenting to the world, no? That's like PETA hosting dogfights. Strange indeed.

The cartoonists here should be applauded for trying to present a different take on the same ole' "booty booty booty rockin' everywhere" version of music videos. They seem to be reasonably well educated and well meaning gentlemen. But BET is in the business of marketing to tweens. I recently read that many radio program directors won't even consider a song for addition to station playlists unless it has a melody that a 5 year old can mimic. That probably explains this whole phenomenon of ringtone rap, a lowest common denominator version of music isn't helping us as a people in the least bit.

The other day, I watched, with equal parts amazement and horror, as my 10 year old nephew did song after song and dance after dance of "Ay Bay Bay", "Soulja Boy", "Lip Gloss", "Pop Lock and Drop It", and "Chicken Noodle Soup". He's an honor student from a solid two parent household, but I can't help but wonder how hour, upon hour of ingesting this stuff is going to eventually effect him.

In my opinion (cause that's what you're here for), the creators threw parents a bone with "Read a Book". Correctly used, this satire could be the ultimate teachable moment. It ain't their fault that the message isn't getting across. That's where parenting itself comes into play.

Peep the videos and judge for yourself.

Part 1: CNN Investigates

I wonder if the parents in this "focus group" bother monitoring their kids' intake of BET. Why such a stink over such satire when far more offensive (and pointless) videos are airing everyday? Maybe this was some creative editing, since these folks seem on the up and up, but I wonder if the whole concept of "just don't let your kids watch BET unsupervised" ever occurred to these folks.

Part 2: The Creators Strike Back

For the record, I mostly agree with what Paul Porter is saying here. There's not really anything wrong with the cartoon itself, it's when it's played. This is indeed satire, intended to embarrass and shame adults into cutting off the radio and actually picking up a book. BET is indeed completely wrong for playing the video during 106th and Park, since it's core audience (middle schoolers) can't rightly distinguish the difference between satire and reality.

The "Read A Book" video in it's entirety [R-Rated language].

Note: if you're confused by my comments above, join the crowd. Point blank, I don't really know how to feel about this one.

Still, I couldn't help but notice that this whole three-ring circus just happened to be lead by CNN's most prominent black anchor (the completely clueless Tony Harris). I guess the notorious code switcher herself, Soledad O'Brien wasn't available. Still, divide and conquer still rules the day. And the ratings.

Max Robinson is crying inside.

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